4 years * 2 semesters/year * 14 weeks/semester * 17 meals /week = 1,904 meals
Over your Swat career, you will eat almost 2,000 meals in Swarthmore’s one and only dining hall, Sharples. A lot of those meals will be with other people. This is a guide to four of the most common types of social Swat meals, in order of increasing emotional intensity.
For your convenience, I’ve analyzed the best, worst, and average cases of these four different meals.
THE STUDY DATE
Worst Case: You want to spend time with a friend but you both have papers due at midnight. You stake out a table in the quiet room, fill up your mugs with slightly-burnt coffee, and proceed to not talk for the next five hours. You get a C on the paper anyway.
Best Case: You and your friend both have papers due at midnight, and you’re seriously stuck. You stake out your table, stock up on hot chocolate, and ask your friend for help. As you talk through your paper together, you have an insight that inspires both of you. The hours fly by and before your know it your paper is submitted and you are tucked warmly into bed before midnight.
Average Case: You and your friend meet up for a “working lunch” and mostly just talk about trashy TV.
THE WEEKLY DATE
Worst Case: You and your freshman year roommate have been getting weekly meals for three years, but you have no idea if they still actually want to. Every week they come 10 minutes late and spend 20 minutes using the panini press – clearly just an excuse to hang around near the stairs chatting with their real friends.
Best Case: Every week for four years, you and your best friend get a meal or two. You check in with each other, offer support, try on each other’s hats, and make weird creations out of your food. You both have your hands full with classes and extracurriculars, but you would never miss your sacred weekly meal!
Average Case: You decide to get a weekly meal with a good friend but, due to your busy schedules, end up canceling from time to time.
THE “WE SHOULD GET A MEAL SOMETIME” DATE
Worst Case: A few day ago you ran into an old acquaintance and the small talk was getting way too awkward. “We should get a meal and catch up sometime!” you say, trying to end the interaction as soon as possible. “Sure!” they say, with no intention of following through. “Does Saturday brunch work?” They’re hoping it won’t. It does.
At least there are buttermilk biscuits.
Best Case: The person sitting next to you in anthropology class is perfect in every way. One day, the unthinkable happens: THEY approach YOU. “I loved your critique of Bourdieu today in class! I’ve been meaning to ask you…wanna get a meal?” For a second your heart stops. Then it continues beating. You get a meal. And another. And then another. You become perfect best friends and critique Bourdieu together all the time.
Average Case: The person sitting next to you in anthropology is perfect in every way. You work up your courage to ask them for a meal. It’s an interesting conversation and you decide to meet again. But you’re both pretty busy and you never get much closer than meeting up for biweekly meals.
THE “IS THIS A DATE?” DATE
Worst Case: A beautiful quasi-stranger asks if you want to “grab a meal on Friday,” and you spend the next three days stressing about whether it’s supposed to be a date, and do you want it to be? After Facebook stalking them, you decide you do. You change out of your Swat sweatpants (aka Swatpants) into your best business casual. As you await with quivering heart, they send you a text saying they forgot. They took the train to Philly to get dinner in Chinatown…maybe next week!
Best Case: A beautiful quasi-stranger asks if you want to “grab a meal on Friday,” and gosh, yes, you do. They suggest making something together with the communal wok. You giggle as you pick out tofu and green peppers from the veggie bar. As you lean over the appropriate Sharples Cook Book episode, your shoulders brush. You’re in love. They are, too. You finish your Swarthmore degrees effortlessly and elope to a cottage in the mountains.
Average Case: You’re not sure if it’s a date but you want to get to know them anyway. You notice your friends awkwardly steering clear of the table. The other person talks a lot about their pet parrot and all the parrot’s neuroses. You talk a lot about Foucault. You decide to get a second meal together.
As you can see, not every Sharples meal is perfect. But each meal contains the potential for something great: a hilarious food sculpture, a fascinating conversation, a new friend.