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.
As I bounced up to the cashier at Usdan the other day in anticipation of a plate of cold bell peppers and sliced cucumbers, I noticed there was a severe overflow of paper adjacent to the computers. As I looked closer, I realized that the surfeit of paper was a heap of receipts that students had neglected to rip off from the printer and take into the dining hall. I proceeded to give the cashier my WesID, but then I had a predicament on my hands. Should I take my own receipt and leave the other students’ receipts lying on the table? Or should I be a good samaritan, pick up the hundreds of small sheets of paper and relocate them to the recycling bin? Or maybe I could contribute to the massive problem myself by pretending I didn’t notice that the machine just printed yet another receipt, leaving my receipt there for the next student to ponder? It was truly a dilemma.
If you were wondering about the conclusion, I ended up taking my own receipt and leaving the rest of the miniature sheets of paper by the wayside. If I wasn’t in such a rush to get to the salad bar, maybe I would’ve taken the opportunity to help out and grabbed the excess paper. There’s always next time.
I’m sitting outside of Usdan on one of those benches that are nailed to the concrete ground. The food co-op bustles nearby…right next to me, in fact. I rifle through my purple backpack and pull out my brand-new journal, which features Gustav Klimt’s “Tree of Life” on the cover and binding. I make a few simple observations:
The 5 p.m. sun warms my skin.
A soft breeze cools my back.
The air smells of freshly baked bread and something savory I can’t quite identify.
People smile and chat. I enjoy the hum of voices. The rhythmic ra-ta-ta of drums courses through a boom box. I can’t actually see where the music is coming from. Maybe it’s from someone’s portable speaker. But I like to think it’s a boombox… It kind of matches the mood: nostalgic, yet pulsing and energized.
I almost feel like a child again, when my dad used to read me Puerto Rican children’s books before bed: I didn’t understand the Spanish, but the rich, smooth sounds provided an indescribable comfort to my four-year-old self.
A burst of laughter suddenly jingles in my ears, and I look up. The owner of the laugh cradles an open carton of eggs in her arms. She smiles big at her friend, who cautions her,
“Careful with those eggs!”
“Don’t worry, I got it.”
Don’t worry, I got it.
I smile to myself.
Groups of people sit scattered across the lush green grass on Foss Hill, like chess pieces in an unfinished match. It is now 5:20 p.m., only 15 minutes since I started writing. 5:20 on a Wednesday, though the warmth of the sun’s rays and the ambient hum of voices mingling in the air almost trick me into thinking it’s Friday.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s all in my head, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the employees of Pi Café hate me. I would hate me too, if I were them. Because I am THAT customer. The customer who makes everything less efficient, who interrupts the order of things, who causes a daily inconvenience that is too trivial to really care about, but also too annoying not to.
In my defense, it all began with my conscience. I started carrying a mason jar to Pi, instead of opting for the plastic cups that I have been using for the same number of years I’ve been calling myself environmentally conscious, because I felt bad about my hypocrisy (and also their cups tend to leak). Twice a day, every day, for about a month, I have gone into Pi. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon, I order a double shot over ice, no-pastries-thank-you-very-much, and hand them my empty glass. And twice a day, every day, I stroll past the assorted snacks, loiter near the drinks counter, maybe answer some texts, maybe nod my head to whatever Alexa happens to be crooning, and I wait. Soon enough, however, I always realize that I have left the lid to my jar at the register counter. Sometimes, the barista will try to get my attention, or sometimes the tap on the shoulder comes from a student, lid-in-hand, kindly making up for my own scattered antics, or sometimes I will remember all on my own. In these moments, I try my best to tactfully swim upstream, or reach through the line, or muster an apology as I grab the lid with raised eyebrows and shrugged shoulders (“what are you gonna do!?”), or politely alert someone to my blunder so that I might sneak past.
While this may only constitute a minor hiccup in the fabric of coffee shop ecology, it is one that I struggle to set straight. But to all the employees of Pi: I promise to try my best! Or maybe I’ll just start using plastic cups again.