Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More like the "Goodbye, Break" Café...*cough*

I find the Golden Bear Café to be a most amazing place. Well, not for the food, of course…and, um, not really for the service either. The cleanliness of the outside tables is also pretty sub-par. No, what fascinates me about the GBC is how two minutes can completely alter how much free time during your lunch break.

Before I go any further, a small prelude…

Most people usually plan their schedules so that there is a one-hour (or at least a half-hour) break somewhere betwixt 11am and 2pm. During this time, they go off to have their lunch. The most popular place to eat on Campus, for my non-Berkeleyan readers, is the Golden Bear Café (GBC), simply because of it’s variety of foods and central positioning on campus. And let me tell you, it gets absurdly crowded sometimes. I’ve probably been in that building more than a dozen times where there were over a hundred people bustling (or, considering the cramped space, shuffling) around – a fire safety inspector’s nightmare.

In any event, my Monday/Wednesday feeding hour is 11am-12pm. Luckily, because my class immediately preceding this hour is Economics 1, held in the strategically-placed Wheeler Auditorium, I am able to make a beeline for the GBC. This is usually how it goes (and always should go):

10:59am – I’m slipping my notebook into my backpack.
11:00am Prof. Olney: “See you next time!” I stand, hurl my backpack onto my shoulders, and juke and jive my way through the multitude of people.
11:02am – I step into the GBC with my sights set on the Grill area.
11:03am – “Chicken strips and fries, please.” Not bothering to write down the order, they immediately serve my food. I notice a line forming up behind me.
11:04am – I get into the register line on the second to my right (not only is it the least used by the patrons, but there’s a fast old lady at the helm of the register).
11:06am – My card gets swiped. “Thank you.” I get my napkins and condiments.
11:08am – I sit in my usual seat in the corner of the patio (unoccupied, of course), relax, and enjoy a leisurely meal, either reading a nearby copy of the paper or simply watching the clouds and students drift by.
11:25am – Finally leave the area with a full 35 minutes to read, go grocery shopping, stop over at EB Games, or do anything I want.

So, that’s a normal day. But today was a little different. You see, today my Econ lecture lasted 2 minutes longer because the professor wanted to make sure we understood the correlation between wages and leisure time. Now let’s look at how things progressed in this anomalous situation:

10:59am – I’m slipping my notebook into my backpack.
11:00am Prof. Olney: “Before you leave, I just want to go over these last two slides.” I groan and take the notebook back out.
11:02amProf. Olney: “See you for the midterm!” I stand, hurl my backpack onto my shoulders, and juke and jive my way through the multitude of people.
11:03am – As I’m making my way to the GBC, I notice the clumps of people in front of me, trying to reach the same destination. I try to pass them up, but they create a barrier of slow moving citizens.
11:05am – I step into the GBC and squeeze pass several people to see that there’s a line for the Grill a dozen people long. I patiently stand in it.
11:09am – Still a few people from the front of the line, I see that instead of using two workers to accomplish the task (one to take the order and one to fill them), a solitary (and rude) worker is taking three orders, stopping, filling those orders, stopping, taking three orders, lather, rinse, repeat. “Hey, you chatting in the back; you’re doing a hell of a job!” (<=Not actually said.) 11:13am – “Chicken strips and fries, please.” She writes down the order and gives me a little stub. I step to the side, gathering a few packets of ranch dip.
11:15am – “Number 16!” I take my food and shoulder my way through a veritable mosh-pit of starving students. I stand in my normal line, even though it has quadrupled in size.
11:23am – My card gets swiped. “Thank you.” I grab some napkins and condiments.
11:25am – My usual seat has been usurped by a group of people smoking those especially nasty dark cigarettes. I search for a suitable replacement. My only viable option is across from some chick I’ve never met. “Is this seat taken?” “Um, no.” She says uncomfortably. As I sit, I notice a condom placed awkwardly betwixt us (this being “National Condom Day” in addition to Valentines Day). I open my to-go box so that the lid conceals the condom and begin eating.
11:40am – I finish a bit quicker than normal and begin doing all the things I would normally do, but realize that I only have 20 minutes in which to do them.

That is what I find amazing about the GBC. How such a small delay in your getting there can make such a large difference in how much time you spend there. My class was 2 minutes late in getting out, and it cost me 15 minutes of my day.

Where did the other 13 minutes go?

I guess we’ll never know for sure, but my working theory is that there is some sort of undead creature – a vampiric zombie of sorts – living in the attic of the GBC, whose only means of cheating death is by sucking up the youth of college students via time wasted while waiting in line. I call him Belthor. And he’s the reason I slip my notebook into my backpack at 10:59am.

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