Left or right? Loud or quiet? Jock or hipster? These are the decisions you have to make when you decide where to sit in the Usdan marketplace. Argus Food staff takes on this issue and tries to settle this age old, and critical, debate.
Quiet? Not Quite
By Jess Zalph
I began my Wesleyan career as most freshmen seem to: not only did I travel in hoards and binge on “How I Met Your Mother,” but I also exclusively ate on “The Loud Side” of Usdan. There was music! All the cool kids were there!
However, like the cleanliness of my room and my infrequent use of caffeine, my behavior at the dining hall changed rapidly. I slowly made the full switch to “The Quiet Side” and haven’t looked back since.
I don’t have anything against The Loud Side. I like music as much as the next WesKid. And really, except for the music, the rooms are fundamentally the same. The loud side even has interesting paintings that I’ve stared at in a stupor on the rare occasions that I’ve eaten breakfast before a 9:00 a.m. class.
It’s the difference in culture that really gets my goat. (Where does that expression come from? If I had a goat I would be pretty happy.) Simply, I’ve found that The Quiet Side is much more conducive to conversation.
Broadly generalizing of course, I’ve found that interactions on the loud side take one of two forms. One dynamic is what I call the “Look at Me.” A large group of people will sit crammed at a long table, and while there will be talking, it’s not exactly conversation—rather, it’s competition. People talk to be seen being heard, and it’s all more about being accepted rather than being connected.
The other dynamic is the “My French Fries and iPhone are More Interesting Than You.” So often, I see people, perhaps unconsciously, use the general cacophony as a device to obscure the reality that nobody is speaking to one another. There is enough sound already that people get lost in their own heads, and so, why bother? I’ve felt this happen to me often enough, even with people to whom I usually love talking. Sometimes this is exactly what I want—to be able to check out and just unwind in my own head, but usually when treating a meal as a social situation, I want it to actually be social.
On the other hand, to me, The Quiet Side has represented the opposite of disconnect. Conversation (yes, even loud raucous conversation) is born from an atmosphere that fosters meeting new people, enjoying the company of old friends, and relaxing luxuriously for one, two, or even three hours at a time.
And if the price we have to pay for this type of lasting connection is that we are farther away from the good desserts and the Ronnybrook chocolate milk, well, then, so be it.
The Best of Both Worlds
Assistant Food Editor
Navigating the options of the Usdan Marketplace can be overwhelming. From vegan Pad Thai to gluten-free granola, I often have trouble deciding which dietary restriction to impose upon myself for a given meal (though I normally lean toward the one with the shortest line). But once I’ve piled everything onto my plate, I’m presented with yet another dilemma faced by every Usdan diner: The Loud Side or The Quiet Side?
Two dining rooms almost identical in appearance could not be more distinct in personality. The stereotypes are common knowledge: The Loud Side attracts the athletes, and its Top-40 hits summon the most devout followers of Miley Cyrus. The Quiet Side serves as a rendezvous point for Wesleyan’s introverted hipster population. After some extensive personal research, I’ve come to the conclusion that neither side is wholly superior to the other, though the time of day determines my preference.
Following an evening of essay writing, a morning of classes, and a trip to Freeman, I’m ready to reconnect with my classmates. At lunchtime, The Loud Side is the ideal place to defeat the midday slump with its upbeat pop music and lively social atmosphere. Though it gets rather congested during peak hours, I love getting to see people whose schedules don’t normally coordinate with mine. The weekday experience succeeds in giving off a weekend vibe, and I’ve found it to be a fantastic way of breaking up my studies.
But once I’ve exhausted myself both mentally and physically by the day’s end, I’m in the mood for a relaxed evening meal. Without the distraction of “Wrecking Ball” blasting over the speakers, I have the opportunity to focus on my food and on my company. Though The Quiet Side lacks the inherent vivacity of The Loud Side, it certainly makes up for it in the quality of my conversations as well as in my attention to my surroundings.
At this point in the school year, most people have designated a particular side of Usdan as their favorite. However, I see the beauty in both. Their external differences balance my internal traits, and both experiences allow me to maintain a sense of personal stability.
And since I’ve gone this far with Miley references, I might as well say that I really do get the best of both worlds.
I remember my first time walking up the stairs in Usdan my freshman year. I looked to my right, then to my left, and noted the existence of two separate seating areas. Throughout the first week or so, I spent my time pretty evenly on both sides, but I learned the difference between the two almost immediately.
I’ve heard the two sides of Usdan be referenced using various dichotomies: right side vs. left side, jock vs. hipster, loud vs. quiet. I personally always sit on The Loud Side, and by always, I mean I’ve sat on The Quiet Side a total of maybe five times since I’ve been at Wesleyan, and I think I have pretty valid reasons for not doing so more often.
Firstly, there are the technicalities. The left side has better resources. There are more cold drink options and a hot water dispenser for tea, both of which the right side lacks. It might sound a little crazy, but I’m even pretty sure that the water on the left side is colder than the water on the right side. The convenience of being right next to the conveyor belt for dirty dishes is prime, as well. While the right side has a similar, but smaller, area it is often closed, forcing people on that side to walk to the other side to dispose of their dishes.
One of the most recognized distinctions between the two sides of Usdan is the music. During dinner on weeknights, upbeat music plays pretty loudly on The Loud Side while The Quiet Side is music-free. The music on the loud side adds a fun aspect to the dining experience as a whole. Granted, The Quiet Side isn’t actually that quiet, but it feels much more somber compared to the loud side, which usually just has a livelier feel to it.
It’s true that being louder doesn’t necessarily mean being better, but I personally feel that in the context of a dining hall where socializing is a big aspect of the experience, high volumes are key. I’m a pretty loud person myself, I love to socialize, and I feel like The Loud Side is much more receptive to that kind of behavior than the quiet side.
Plenty of people enjoy that The Quiet Side is calmer, but I feel out of place in that kind of atmosphere. A quiet dining hall feels like an oxymoron to me. A library should be quiet, but the dining hall should be bustling and facilitate socializing. I love all-you-can-eat, but honestly, I go to Usdan meals for the company and to get to see as many friends as possible during the week, and the left side of Usdan allows me to do that.