Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Burnhams Cafeteria

In a recent post I referenced some of the goings-on in the Burnhams Cafeteria. This was a remarkable place of many first meetings with close friends and unlikely events. For all the time I spent there it seems that there were only two programs ever on the Ernest Burnham side television. The Simpsons and the Price is Right. The Smith Burnham side relentlessly played BET.

Once I was eating there with my freshman roommate Joe and a fellow student with an affliction entered the cafeteria through the cardswipe turnstile. This guy was very friendly. Once in an elevator I asked him what time it was and he pronounced it Beer-thirty. He was afflicted in his mobility. He walked with his elbows out, knees together on tip-toes. His upper body tick-tocked from the waist up to counter his small wheelbase, as it were. He walked past me just as Prince’s “Party like its 1999” started up and I saw Joe’s face go through a peculiar series of emotion. First came surprise, then hilarity, then shame. I knew without looking that poor Mr. Beer-thirty was ticktockwalking to the precise beat of that catchy song. I turned and sure enough there he was, human metronome, getting down, rocking with the boogie without even trying. I have heard that the goal of dancing is to make it look effortless; if that is the case he was the smoothest rocker to groove that day.

Then there’s my sophomore roommate Nick. Nick was a punk. Nick had baggy corduroy shorts. Nick had a chain wallet. Nick was not wearing a belt. Nick exited the chow line with his tray holding a typical heap of chicken strips, and several of the cute miniature cups that they give you to hold soda. Seriously those cups held about as much liquid as the corner of a napkin would. It was while Nick was walking to the condiment island that his dignity decided to depart him. Burdened beyond resistance by that heavy chain Nick’s pants quickly and unceremoniously shoot groundward. By the artifice of bowing his knees outward he arrests their fall at knee level. Nick now crouches spread-legged in his boxer briefs for the entire cafeteria’s enjoyment. (Hey man, nice underwear) The condiment island is beyond reach to set down his tray which requires two hands to hold and balance. He looks about, straining for a plan. But Nick has always been a man of action and so he quickly makes it to the island to set down his tray by means of a series of awkward, ungainly hops, which do nothing pleasant to the view of him due to perturbations of the various, barely-covered, parts of Nick which are most prone to, say, flop.

I was in the Burnhams cafeteria talking and joking with a table full of friends. We were having the biggest time when I thought I heard my name. Nah, it was probably nothing. So I went on eating and talking and joking and I thought I heard it again. I looked around my immediate area. Nothing. So I went to take a bite of Jell-O and I hear: “JON!” The shout was so deafening that the entire cafeteria went quiet and turned to look at the entrance. Joe was standing there, bare-chested, hair wet, clutching a yellow towel around his waist with one hand. He didn’t have his ID so of course the woman at the cardswipe turnstile did her duty by not admitting him, and though he saw his roommate and pointed me out she would not abandon her post to get my attention. You have to admire her work ethic. So everyone was just staring at mostly naked Joe and what did I do? I burst out laughing. He yelled at me again to get up and give him my keys. You see, one of the dangers of Dorm Life is the multifaceted horror of the Community Bathroom. More on that topic in general later, but in specific one of the bad things that can happen to a young collegite is being locked out of his or her room whilst in the shower down the hall.

Feel free to post comments of your own memories of the Burnhams Cafeteria if you have them!


Blogger Joe said...

Thanks for the pleasant memories, Jon.

My roommate Jon and I would set the alarm for 7 am-ish so we could eat breakfast before our 8am Religion 100 class:

"Nah, hit the snooze, man."
"Hit it again."
"Now how much time do we have? It's 7:50? We still have 5 minutest to nap."

Then, the mad dash.

Sigh... The benefit of having a class... that takes place in the building attached to your dorm... I'm so glad I lived on campus for three years. I always scratched my head when I'd see a group of freshmen cancel their dorm contract mid-year and pack everything up so they could have their own apartment off campus. FOOLS!

Awesome freshmen year with my roommate Jon. Even with our own personal contract:


Thanks, Jon.

12:29 PM, December 01, 2005  
Blogger nicolas said...

Hey, I remember that cafeteria lady! She was absolutely no fun, and she always had that darn remote control!

Remember the channel wars?

Nick changes the channel to Batman.
She changes the channel back to some stupid soap opera.
Nick changes the channel back to Batman.
She changes the channel back to the same stupid soap opera, helpfully adding "I was watching that!" in the same tone of voice that Clara Peller used when she inquired where, in fact, the beef was.
Nick changes the channel back to Batman, then stands with his hand over the remote control infrared receiver to prevent further channel surfing.
Nick stands there for twenty minutes until Batman was over, enduring many comments from "Soaps" Annie regarding respect for others.

Repeat ad naseum, day in, day out.

(For those of you reading this, I'd like to point out that she was WORKING, getting paid to sit and swipe cards from students. Apparently, she was also being paid to watch the television, but that just didn't seem right).

Then there was the day that I drank the glass of syrup.

Then there was the "Fat Elvis" period where I ate nothing but bacon for breakfast (note: Bacon for Breakfast would be a good book title).

Then there was the time that I inadvertantly revealed a bit too much of myself while mooning the theatre people-and everyone else in the general vicinity (by which I mean Kalamazoo in general).

I think the best roommate moment I had with Jon was the time that I arrived at home just in time to see Jon bursting from the room exclaiming:

Jon, care to finish the story? :D

7:18 PM, December 01, 2005  
Blogger Joe said...

Kidney Dean...

2:27 PM, December 02, 2005  
Blogger nicolas said...

Kidney Dean...ah, that brings back memories...memories that I paid a therapist good money to adequately repress!

I want my money back.

Jon, there was also the time that my pants fell down while I was walking through the arcade area, to be laughed at by several Asian students a-like-a-so:

"Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

Seriously...just like it always says in the books, each individual "ha" precisely pronounced, enunciated, and spoken. That was funnier than the actual pants falling down. And the loose pants wasn't from the lack of belt or large chain wallet (though these factors didn't help). No, the real problem was my insistence on buying clothes that were marked down by 80%. Take a good look at those racks-normally, the only clothes left are items that are for Rotundus extremis, or very portly. Consequently, finding anything in my size, or anything that was less than size 40 waist for that matter, was an extreme challenge.

Now I'm done-and have you ever thought of recording your stories and sending them into "This American Life" on NPR?

10:48 AM, December 10, 2005  
Blogger madlibpoet said...

yes! send your stories in to "this american life" or at least look at the info for submission at !

i was laughing so hard today i almost cried.

11:47 AM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger Martini said...

I think that these stories are made only the funnier if you know the people in them NOW, but didn't know them THEN! The thought of Nick in his undies balancing a lunch tray had my supervisor staring at me whilst ordering me to stop laughing during work hours.

9:52 AM, December 14, 2005  
Blogger Jonny10 said...

Sorry I got you in trouble at work Martini. Poor Krys has also suffered some weird looks at her workplace too. It's okay though. Sometimes I still crack up when I think about poor Nick out there too. Only it's weirder at my office because I am not reading anything. People tend to think you are crazy or up to something when you erupt in laughter for no apparent reason.

8:22 AM, December 15, 2005  
Blogger beckst3r said...

Was that caf lady named Patch? Certain Eldridge-Fox memories get mixed up with the Burnhams memories. Somewhere in there exists a caf lady named Patch who crocheted and sold her wares to the students. Beautiful hair ties,...that was pretty much it.

I've just begun reading your hilarious blog, but I'm looking for something on Dr. Feelgood....oh and what of the knife incident?

5:57 PM, January 01, 2006  
Blogger Dan "The Man" said...

I never ate the was just a bit too gee-toh for my tastes!

8:08 PM, March 07, 2006  

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