This set of stories was curated by Sasha Linden-Cohen.
Based on the New York Times’ “Metropolitan Diaries,” the Middletown Diaries will include awkward, funny, novel, or sweet anecdotes, stories or memories that happen at Wesleyan and in Middletown. To submit to the Middletown Diaries, please email email@example.com.
After spending 20 minutes rifling through the women’s slacks, I tightly held my selections in line. My friend and I visit the Goodwill on Washington Street often, and I often find clothes here that make me feel validated. But before I was totally comfortable with gender-queerness, a trip to Goodwill was a balancing act of finding clothes I liked while hiding my gender transgressions from strangers.
Ready to check out, I had taken the pairs of pants I wanted and folded them carefully so as to make it unclear what I was holding. I handed my square stack of polyester and rayon to the cashier, who immediately unraveled it and revealed my scandalous fashion choices.
Out of fear, my eyes darted from the cashier’s manicured fingers to their face. They wore eyeliner, false lashes, and a deep red lipstick. Their coiffed hair fell just above their broad shoulders, next to their Adam’s apple. Our eyes met, and though I have no way of proving it, I know that the cashier’s eyes were communicating something to me.
With only eye contact, the cashier seemed to tell me about their own gender nonconformity. The look I received was one of understanding: “I know what you’re going through because I’ve been there,” they said. But rather than a sympathetic pity, there was a sweet accepting embrace in the cashier’s gaze.
The next day, I ate dinner off campus. As I strutted across main street in my bootcut, pinstripe slacks (newly acquired from Goodwill), I saw a familiar face. The same Goodwill cashier from the other day was walking the other way. As we approached each other, our eyes met again.
They looked at me much in the same way as before. Perhaps that’s how they look at everyone. Or maybe, they recognized me like I recognized them. And then a smile appeared on their lips as they passed me, a smile that seemed intended for a friend, rather than a stranger on the street.
On a recent, particularly warm morning, I stopped by The Marketplace in Usdan for a refreshing drink. As everyone in front of me in line put in the same order—a medium iced coffee, please—the woman at the register delivered the sorrowful news: They could have their coffee and their cup, but unfortunately, The Marketplace was out of straws.
This was discouraging news, yet no cause for alarm. We could manage for a day, sipping iced coffee from warm lids or, for the especially coordinated, go without a lid at all. I wouldn’t have given the straw shortage another thought if it hadn’t been for a similar shortage at the Pi Cafe, where I overheard the woman behind the counter talking to a man who was bringing supplies to the cafe.
“What do you mean, no straws again?” she asked, her voice carrying perhaps further than she realized. The man shrugged indifferently.
“They’re out all over campus, I don’t know what else to tell you.”
As the weather turned and students began to order fewer iced drinks, the lack of straws on campus did not cease. On one of the tables across from The Marketplace counter, someone taped a small sign to inform customers of the dilemma, and in the Pi Cafe, a container full of plastic straws without wrappers was set out.
Just in case you’ve been under a rock or only drink from mugs, it’s important to note there has been quite a lot of straw talk lately. Red & Black cafe has integrated compostable straws this semester, and Starbucks plans to do away with plastic straws by 2020. This is in response to a nationwide movement against plastic straws due to their environmental impact, a movement which then raised some question about ableism and whether banning straws could be discriminatory toward those who need them to ingest food or drink. Wesleyan uses bio-degradable straws, typically from a brand called Eco-Products. On a website called “Webstraunt Store,” a case of 9,600 renewable straws cost $155.99, which comes out to about 1.6 cents a straw. (I am not sure where Wesleyan actually orders their straws from, but other websites have similar prices for bulk orders.)
After further investigation, it seemed that different rumors have been spreading throughout the Wesleyan campus in regards to the sudden disappearance of straws. A student worker at Pi Cafe suspected that Wesleyan was getting rid of straws altogether as part of a sustainability effort. This has been a common theory among the student body, but a worker at The Marketplace suggested an alternative explanation. When I asked her where she thought all the straws had gone, she leaned in, her elbows resting on the counter.
“You know, they’re on back order,” she said. “They haven’t been able to get a hold of any.”
I asked why she thought this was, and she responded that the recent movement may have led to a significant uptick in demand for renewable straws. While this reasoning has not been confirmed by the University, her story checks out. NPR reported on an increase in demand for paper straws in June, and “Webstraunt Store” is sold out of all of their Eco-Products straw variations.
The mystery continues, diary, but at least for now we can take solace in the colder weather, an excuse to trade our straws of iced caffeine for the dependable lids that protect hot drink spillage. Until the straws return to campus, we can also direct our focus to saving the planet, maybe even in ways that extend beyond the ethics of straw usage.
It was finals week. I had been working round the clock. I was starving. I went to down to Main Street to get some food.
As I neared Main Street I reached into my pocket. I wasn’t pleased. There were only a couple of singles. I had forgotten my wallet.
Should I turn back? I was conflicted, worried that I would not be able to find food with such modest means. I decided to continue on. I did not want to waste any more precious time than I already had.
I searched around for the cheapest food store I could find. After wandering the lonely streets block after block, I came across a deli that seemed to be my best option.
I was suddenly surrounded by the strong scent of cured meats. After pulling out the ones in my pocket I looked up.
Sandwiches beyond my fancy under that glass countertop, I knew what I wanted. I could see it now.
I approached the man behind the counter, asking and pointing for that glorious triangular cuban. I asked for hot sauce, extra pickles, and grilled onions. The sandwich had been prepared. I was so close to what I had come for, I was so close to that meal. But then I saw the cashier ring up the price. I was three dollars short.
I relayed this heartbreaking news to the cashier. He responded with a calm shrug and an assurance that I would have my meal. This generous soul had saved me. I returned to my workstation satisfied and full.