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"Same time, same place, same food."
Eating lunch together is probably the single activity that shaped the Prout Table experience. This is very important, so I'll say it again: Eating lunch together is probably the single activity that shaped the Prout Table experience.
I'm not quite sure how I can effectively communicate the significance of eating lunch together. It's almost scary.
Most of Prout Table is pictured above. This is the only picture I know of which shows us in our native habitat. Ever since Aaron scanned it in, it graced the top of the Prout Table Home Page.
Our daily lunch ritual was a lot like a family dinner. Lunch was the one time/place that everyone made a real effort to be there. If you've ever seen a episode of Cheers, you have an idea of what it was like. Every afternoon, beginning at about 11:00am or so, members of Prout Table would start to gather at the tables near the entrance to Prout Cafeteria on the second floor of the Union.
As people began to arrive, the first table would fill up. So, we grab another table and push them together. We called this annexing. At times, our tables became so crowded that we'd have to add a third table. By this time we were usually the loudest group of people in that part of the union. As matter of fact, people down at the other end of the floor (who were usually trying to sleep on couch fragments) even yelled at us to shut-up once in a while. But that never stopped us. If you happened to arrive when a larger group had already amassed, they'd call your name from across the floor. It was our way of greeting people and showing that we cared.
Alright. It's lunch time, we're all crammed around a few ugly, round tables on the second floor of the Union. Oh, yeah. We're usually eating by this time, too. But that's really not important. After all, it was food-op food. 'Nuf said. Well, okay. There were some good things to eat. The cookies were a particular favorite of ours. And the Mac 'n Cheese was pretty good too (after being properly seasoned).
Continuing... You're probably starting to wonder what was so appealing about eating lunch in the cramped space around a couple of round tables. I'll tell you what was so appealing: We were like a family.
Even people who visited us infrequently, those on the outer fringe of Prout Table, noticed what was special about our group. Chris Bernard had some comments about us on his page, and Jeff Wolfe (pictured with Tyler) submitted the following comments:
|One day last year when I came over
for lunch, the following conversation ensued:
This probably was a throw away comment on the part of both of these individuals, however, it reminded me of something I had almost forgotten. It is a far far better thing to do to be yourself than to try to impress others by putting on a show. This may not apply directly to Brandt, but it does to many other people. I used to be easily annoyed by people who dressed weird and acted weird, because I could tell they were putting on a show for the world, and weren't really the person they were pretending to be, but I could never quite quantify the idea without sounding like I just hated people who dressed weird. One of the most important lessons one can learn in life is to be who you are, and be the best you can be and don't put on a face that isn't really yours. Jeremy really made me stop and think with his little throwaway quip.
My grandmother used to say, "Many a truth has been said in jest.'' I suspect that little comment says more about Jeremy Morris than he ever intended. I should think many people could benefit from being that apparently comfortable with one's self.
What does this say about the group as a whole? Well, maybe it says that even someone on the periphery of the group could benefit from hanging around. In light of the cliche "you are who your friends are" maybe it says something about the maturity level of the individuals in the group or the group as a whole. I really don't know. But when you sent this e-mail, this tiny incident really leaped into my mind. I hope this might be useful...
People came to "the table" and brought so much with them. It was a place to talk, to laugh, to play games, to argue and fight, to eat, to hug and encourage, to remember and forget. We'd hear stories of the day. Someone would celebrate getting an "A" on a Psychology test. Sometime we'd have to take psychology surveys administered by our friends who were too lazy to actually look for volunteers.
The list goes on.
So many amusing and memorable things happened over the course of these daily meetings that I had to compile a separate list of them.
We talked about anything and everything. You name it, and we probably talked about it.
These lunches meant a lot to us. In fact, people would sometimes go to semi-extreme measures to ensure that they could be a part of our lunch-time gatherings. It was not uncommon to hear of people scheduling classes around lunch time. We'd actually all sit there with the course schedule books and make sure that our classes fit nicely around that block of time whenever possible.
Other times, we'd get so wound up in talking, playing, whatever... that'd we'd encourage each other to skip class and stay longer. Now don't get me wrong, we didn't try and force people to skip or anything. But if someone would ask, "Should I go to class?" our response was always a resounding "NO!" The safest strategy was to avoid the subject if you didn't want to be talked out of going.
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Updated: April 20th, 1996