There are some things in life that people hate to be caught doing. Playing Andy Gibb records, for example, is definitely a no-no. And picking your nose in public won’t exactly make you the life of the party. Yet, without a doubt, the biggest social taboo around is eating alone in the dining halls. People don’t understand that friends are capable of forgetting lunch dates, or that sometimes you just don’t feel like being sociable. They will readily assume that people who eat alone are inadequate smucks who wear day-glow leisure suits and shop at K-Mart.
But there are ways to eat alone in the dining halls without suffering social embarrassment. Here are ten ways to look like you’re not eating alone when you actually are.
The “Tofu Stand-In” Ploy. The salad bar can be your ally. Using tofu as your foundation, construct a dining hall partner that suites your individual tastes. Give him olive eyes, a carrot nose, and a jello Afro. Beets make perfect earrings this time of year, and let me suggest a lettuce blouse for those quiet Friday dinners. Ask the dining hall lady for specials on three-piece macaroni suits and potato salad evening gowns. They’re all just fabiola.
The “Hello, I Must Be Going” Ploy. This scheme is a specialty for amphetamine addicts. People in general can accept the fact that college students are very busy individuals. So when you get your lunch and beverage, gulp it all down, look at your watch, and yell, “I’ve got a 1:05!” This ploy is especially effective around 12:30, but tapers off in success for 1:30 and on weekends.
The “I’m Reading The Paper” Ploy. This one’s a classic. Take a newspaper with you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Read it from front to back, back to front, then translate it into German. Check for typographical errors and uneven headlines. Become so engrossed in your reading that people will think that you are too intellectual to have a real life. Just make sure that you’re holding the paper right side up. Otherwise, they’ll think that you’re a bat with dyslexia.
The “Boy, I’ve Got Soooo Much Homework” Ploy. See Joe Throat eat dinner. See how he brings his knapsack to all his meals. Watch him Hi-Lite many textbooks and write careful notes. Hear him scream, “God, I hate midterms!” Does anyone notice that Joe Throat eats alone? Joe Throat doesn’t really give a crap.
The “Love Em And Leave Em” Ploy. This one’s really sneaky. Find a large group of people and sit down next to them. Little by little, pick up on what they’re saying. Laugh along when they do. Nod in agreement as they speak. When no one in the group is looking, more your mouth as if you’re saying something to them. That way, people at a distance will think that you’re part of the group, and the people near you will think that they have a hearing problem. Either way, they won’t notice that you’re really eating alone. Then when the group gets up to put away their trays, follow them over, wave goodbye, and then go your separate way. Politically speaking, Jerry Brown’s been using this ploy for years.
The “Harvey’s Getting Coffee” Ploy. Schizophrenics will love this one. The first time you go through the chow line, take an extra tray for your imaginary friend. Get him or her coffee, a plate of Beef Chow Yuk, and a colorful salad. Feed your makebelieve friend and have a wonderful conversation. When people ask who you are talking to, introduce Harvey or Harriet, and then continue your conservation. After you and your friends are done eating, go shake hands with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. The men in white coats will show you were to meet them.
The “Musical Chairs” Ploy. This is a variation on the “Hello I Must Be Going” ploy. After you get your food, change seats every few minutes. That way, people near you won’t even notice that you wear there, never mind even sitting alone. This works particularly well in Dewick and MacPhie (Pub side included), and fairly well at Carmichael. WARNING: Do not try this ploy in Hodgdon! If you change your seats too often there, people will readily notice you, and they will assume that you can’t sit down because you have hemorrhoids.
The “Drastic Diversion” Ploy. This ploy is a quickie for rich kids. Hire a person to do a Belly Gram at one end of the dining hall. Once he or she gets started, quietly eat your meal in the opposite corner. People will be too busy seeing what’s going on to ever notice that you’re eating alone. Other forms of distraction than can be affective are stripteases, singing telegrams, and Margaret Thatcher.
The “Dining Hall Groupie” Ploy. This one best suits the conversationalist. After you get your lunch, got to your favorite dining hall lady and eat your meal with her. Talk to the Roses at either Hodgdon or Carmichael. Ask Lil about life uphill. Say “Hi” to Dot at Curtis. Inquire about Becky at Dewick. And ask all of them why they wear those silly Chef Boyardee hats.
The “Fletcher-In-The-Round” Ploy. Get out your argyle socks, put on your cardigan sweater, borrow a nerd’s brief case, and wear a thin bow tie. Walk into the Fletcher dining hall (known as “the Pound”) and eat dry chicken with black coffee. Gaze into the fluorescent lights and scratch your chin a lot. If you do this convincingly, the undergrads will think that you’re a Fletcher student, and Fletcher students will ask for your bow tie.