Have you ever spotted an open and suitable table in Harris and, upon approaching it, found it to be covered in refuse? Of course you have. While this question has a unanimous answer, the ensuing options offer more variety: do you abandon the table in search of another, cleaner one? Do you tentatively reach over the mess, pluck a napkin out of the holder and with it, sweep up the collection of crumbs, rice or other hopefully non-liquid items? Do you sigh, sit down, and live amongst the filth?
Though cleaning the table yourself is the most proactive option, there’s no right approach to this problem, because the truth is, it shouldn’t be a problem. We talk a lot about the ignorance that the staggering overall wealth of Conn’s student body generates, but it seems that our institutional efforts toward consciousness are never enough. We recognize that an inability to do laundry or a propensity for gratuitous breakage of property are symptoms of overwhelming privilege, but guess what: so are bad table manners.
When a person walks away from a table, the law of inertia ensures that none of the objects left on that table will go into motion unless interfered with by another agent. This translates to: if you leave waste on a table, another person will have to clean it up. That person will most likely be a dining hall worker who has their own life to be tending, a life whose events are just as important as your overdue paper or sports practice.
I don’t know how to fix this problem, but I do know that we can’t start fixing it without acknowledging it, so I’ll provide two salient examples of dining hall destruction I’ve witnessed.
First, I watched a boy consume a heaping plate of plain penne—or rather, consume about half of it. The other half he threw all over table, leaving, upon clearing his plate, a halo of naked yellow pasta tubes around the space where the plate had been. My question: why bother taking the plate?
Second, I sighted an entire head of lettuce discarded yet mostly intact on a Harris table. What amazed me about this was the fact that Harris does not, in fact, provide entire heads of lettuce. If a person had gone to the trouble of acquiring that complete head, why would they abandon it in public? Did they forget?
In terms of a solution, I have a mere two suggestions to offer. If your dining companion leaves food or trash on the table, tell them to pick it up. If you leave food or trash on the table, don’t.