By Hank Bedingfield
The Rastall’s Sunday Brunch is a bastardized religious congregation.
Neither driven by hunger nor thirst, students from every corner of campus converge on Rastall Dining Hall in rhythmic, synchronized droves. Brunch-bound, they abandon the concrete sidewalks that snake across campus in favor of the quickest possible route, beating down grassy quads and forging trails in their wake.
I can’t help but stare, confused and terrified by their stumbling gaits and empty gazes. They move like a pack of single-minded zombies from some science-fiction, apocalyptic hellscape. Almost always in groups of two or more, the CC students dare not be caught outside alone. I look away, with no shortage of mental exertion, troubled and paranoid — the drugs must be kicking in.
They don’t seek food or drink. If that were the point of the whole event, they’d starve — the food is mundane, bording inedible. Gigantic vats of “eggs” are hastily defrosted and slapped onto a stovetop with the sizzle of industrial machinery. The same goes for bacon, sausage, and the rest — though their conventional names are hardly applicable. The culinary industrial process flips and chops each item with oversized tools and absolute efficiency. Each cog is in incessant motion.
What the students are after is some devolved form of conversation. Some make the trek solely to socialize, planted like clingy sentinels in the doorway of the cafeteria, receiving wave after wave of students — and so-called friends — with an outstretched palm and worn-out one-liners. The only nourishment they seek from the day’s meal is an appreciation, laugh, or, at least, recognition from their equally famished peers. The scene itself is enough for my head to be rattled by the general desperation.
The whole production brings a sense of community largely unseen in the rest of campus life. Everyone needs to eat and everyone needs to socialize — what better opportunity to than brunch?
I join the assembly line of diners, determined to achieve total immersion in spite of my stomach’s nauseous protesting. Pick up plate. Shuffle. Scoop. Shuffle. Take fork and knife. The sight of it all breaks me down and sends a debilitating pain to my head, as if my resistance to such assimilation pissed off a greater manipulative power. It may as well be programmed — but a computer analogy fails to capture the awesome mechanism of it all. Hundreds of students in passionless procession.
All the cooking, preparing, and serving is run by Bon Appetit, a food management conglomerate sprawled across 33 states. Bon Appetit employees are dressed head-to-toe in black, as if to mourn the monstrous production of their toil. I grab my food recklessly, my hands lacking the agility to properly move eggs from spoon to plate without some spillage. I find myself surrounded by feasting swine. The faceless voices that surround and obsess me revel in the weekend’s exploits. To my left, there is the unavoidable, bragardly noise of some hyper-masculine foray. These conversations almost always occur at a volume unfit for any public space, spilling from the mouth of some brute who clearly escaped some government hormonal experiment before proper testing could be completed.
To my right, I hear the terms: lab, deadline, write-up, I haven’t even started. Most likely the babbling of a mentally drained neurology major being slowly crippled by the Block Plan — CC’s unique system that works great for most classes, but is ambitious and downright torturous in scientific fields. This vocabulary is reserved for Sunday on the college campus, and met with sympathetic — yet empty — nods and condolences. Citing their own Collegiate Hierarchy of Needs, the college student cannot concern themselves with the stress of others if they themselves are constantly stressed as well.
The shallow story-telling and baseless obligation of it all fits the mold of some tributary, religious offering. Here, where many students reject the general notion of God, they send pitiful offers, in the form of tired jokes and stories, heaven-bound. How else could you explain such a cultish production?
One fact that rejects any type of religious connection to this meal is the general attire. If not for the cafeteria setting, the dress code for this brunch would suggest I stumbled upon an out-of-work, stay-at-home dad convention. Sweatpants and tank-tops and hoodies: far from Sunday’s best. Not that my dirt-caked Levis or faded denim shirt are much better.
Students reject the decorum and class of a Sunday brunch that you might enjoy in some hipster neighborhood on the fringe of a metropolis. These are humans operating on the most basic level, dragged out of bed with their last ounce of mental force by higher social obligation. This is not the start of the week, as a calendar might suggest, but a symbolic end to the week’s stress and weekend’s self-abuse.
The entire scene on Sunday drained me of any motivation are for the day and I just wanted to leave. Whatever the motives for this congregation, I no longer care.
Fear and loathing finally got me. As I stepped from the buzzing, cluttered noise of that horrid venue, past the conveyor belt of dirty dishes, I felt a primal urge to run, to get away. The best minds of a generation, as Allen Ginsberg would put it, through this cultural and religious phenomenon, suffer the death of individuality. The simple Sunday brunch epitomizes America’s doom. The genius of our nation’s youth rots weekly in cafeterias; perhaps one day, there will be a cure.