One thing you may come to know about me is that I’m a huge proponent of breakfast. By the second week of the semester, the number of students capable of dragging themselves out of bed and down the hill to Sharples every morning has waned significantly, creating the perfectly calm atmosphere in which the rest of us can have our coffee or Phoenixes or Firehouse donuts while mentally preparing for the day ahead. I have some teammates who always go for the crossword, but I prefer class readings or just listening to the morning banter of my breakfast crew. I may have some qualms with Antipasto bar or Puppy Club bar, but you’ll never hear me say anything bad about Sharples breakfast.
I tend to vary between Lucky Charms and donuts, bananas and grapefruit, and adjust my coffee-to-creamer ratio depending on how much caffeine I’m in need of. However, there is one aspect of my breakfast routine that I never change: two eggs, over-medium.
These are expertly prepared by Mutabar, the lovely and incredibly efficient woman in charge of eggs-to-order every morning. Sometimes while I’m waiting for my eggs, I’ll listen to her talk to other students. I learned she has a daughter whom she sometimes helps with math homework, and that she knows the area well, because she once directed a freshman to CVS for some Claritin. And I know she can remember and keep track of up to 10 different egg orders, which to me is a miracle.
One day at breakfast, just like any other, I walked up to the grill to order my usual. However, before I could say anything, Mutabar made eye contact with me and asked “two medium?”
I don’t know if I was having a bad day before that, but in that moment, those two words may have meant more to me than any time I’ve heard the three words that get such a good reputation. Maybe Cute Boy doesn’t always text me back, and I don’t always find someone to sit with in the middle of the lunch rush, and I don’t always have the bravery or the insight that would allow me to speak up in class. But at least Mutabar remembers my egg order. And that was enough to make me feel anything but alone.
One common selling point of small, liberal arts schools is the idea that everyone knows your name. I can’t say that even at a school with almost 1600 students, I know everyone’s name. But I’m also not sure I would want to. I like feeling as though there are always new people out there to meet, people to ask questions of and learn about and laugh with and become close to, if I’m only willing to put forth some effort. And most of the time, at Swat, I believe this is true.
But there’s a lot that can be said for a familiar face. For the Chem professor I always see around campus, and who remembers my name despite being one of eighty students in his class last semester. For the cool girl I always run into at the Matchbox, to whom I’ve worked up to giving a half-smile. For the EVS worker who complimented me on my makeup one morning. For the Bio tutors who know me as the sophomore with the freshmen-level questions, but are still always excited to answer them. For the guy who became my friend solely because we’re from the same Southern town.
I’m a pretty quiet person. And I think when I’m feeling down, it’s easy to equate quiet with forgettable, and forgettable with completely alone. But I came to a small school so I wouldn’t just fade into the background, and it took Mutabar and two over-medium eggs to remind me that I hadn’t.