It’s 1:05 p.m. on a Tuesday in Sharples. People everywhere are frantically chugging their last bits of juice and stuffing their belongings into bags. Some are even power-perusing the last twenty pages of their readings before their 1:15 p.m. seminars. Soon, people begin forming the line to separate their compost and trash, praying they won’t drop their cup in front of everyone. Before them looms the final challenge of a harrowing Sharples experience: a steely sheet. A cold and unforgiving metal ledge. The last frontier before the dish belt. For those who don’t already have the security of a tray, this is where they must stack their dishes and fall at the mercy of whatever situation they encounter on the stack of spare trays shoved against the wall to the right.
Hopefully, the tray on top is empty, wiped clean, and dry. Then it is easy to leave your dishes on top and to move along on your way free of guilt. It is not always that cut-and-dry, however. If you’re the third or fourth person to stack your dish upon the top tray, you can still feel reasonably good about running to your next class without doing any heavy lifting. But if you’re the fifth person to place your dishes on the top tray, you need to critically self-reflect as you pile yet another set of dirty dishes onto an already-festering mound. You’ve added another layer to the unholy sandwich of ketchup-covered plates, bowls plastered with pieces of spinach, and cups half filled with various murky liquids. What will you do in this unsightly situation? Will you walk away and allow the cycle of dish-stacking to continue? Or will you contribute to the gargantuan load that an upstanding Swattie will eventually have to double down and deadlift onto the dishbelt, if their arms don’t fail them in this moment of intense effort?
Sadly, many choose to add to this continuous weighty buildup. Their actions only increase the stress of the pre-1:15 Sharples evacuation for all — for those who in their rush ignore their conscience, piling up their dishes on the tray and pushing down their guilt, and for the person who will have to hold up the line to move the tray eventually. On the other end of the dish belt, what are the consequences of that piled-high tray for the workers who must peel apart countless sticky layers to load the dishwasher? There are a few Sharples-goers, however, who step up to the plate and ensure that the unloading and dishwashing system can run as smoothly as possible given the circumstances.
In the least drastic situation, it is important to appreciate those who always vigilantly move the tray onto the dish belt when their plate is the fifth to fall upon what could otherwise turn into pileup. There should also be a moment of recognition for those brave souls who, though in a rush, heft trays with plates in the double digits onto those green tracks. But there is also a rare kind of person who, when confronted with an unfathomable number of dishes, thoughtfully splits the dishes into separate piles, loading them onto the belt on multiple trays. Though this method may take more time and effort, it ensures that no one has to lift a super-heavy tray and perhaps creates a more manageable unloading situation on the other side of the belt. These are the unsung heroes of the Sharples 1:15 clearout. If you’re one of these people, take a moment to pat yourself on the back and know that you are appreciated for what may often feel like a thankless service.
And if you’re not one of these champions, it’s not too late. Listen to that voice that whispers however quietly beneath the Sharples din:
“Move the tray.”
By doing so, you will be ensuring the smooth functioning of the Sharples dishbelt and community with your tray-holding hands and a guilt-free heart.