I was scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day when a photo from @swatmemes_ came up, which joked “Never Ask A Woman Her Age / A Man His Salary / Sharples What’s For Dinner Tomorrow.” I found this funny because I agreed: you shouldn’t look to find what’s being served the next day on the Dash. When I showed the meme to my friends, however, I didn’t get a similar response. They didn’t seem to understand why it was such an improper thing to ask.
I’ve been at Swarthmore for four years now, in which time I’ve never looked at the full-week Sharples schedule. I have not once wanted to check what the entire weekly meal plan would be, joking that knowing the schedule is “too much power for one man to have.” I’ve gone back and forth between considering this an ironic or non-ironic stance, but after giving it some thought, I would like to propose to you five reasons why, in all sincerity, you should never look at the whole week’s schedule of Sharples.
1. The Daily Ritual
There is something inherently addictive about a schedule of uncertain rewards and risks combined with the promise of food, which I think is an itch that is perfectly scratched by checking the Dash. Whether it’s as you wake up in the morning or after you’ve stayed up past midnight, the little rush of dopamine you get from checking the daily menu is always a pleasant experience. The promise of favorite foods or the disappointment about a weak meal is akin to a controlled slot machine — the fun and fury of which you would never get to experience if you knew what lay the whole week ahead.
It could be said that the same rush could be found through knowing the weekly schedules, but the week in between each hit is not as addictive. While gambling is normally discouraged, this is a rush that can only be enjoyed by Swarthmore students, and we should enjoy and utilize it as best we can.
2. More Easily Understood on a Daily Basis
The weekly meal plan is pretty concise in breaking down what is served when, or so I’ve heard. Technically, you would only have to check the plan once a week to understand what’s coming up. However, I guarantee you that looking at the whole week’s schedule will not result in a perfect memory of what all the meals are, and you’ll subsequently need to keep checking as the week progresses.
This is in contrast to the more streamlined option of checking the meal plan once a day and letting short-term memory do the rest. I can imagine that in a worst-case scenario, someone would need to check the weekly schedule more than they would check the daily schedule to remember the meals. But I’m getting ahead of myself: most people don’t default to the weekly schedule but instead reference it for planning purposes. However, I still think that isn’t a good reason to use the weekly schedule.
3. Spontaneity in Planning
As a Swarthmore student, I’ve learned to be an expert planner. I have a color-coded Google calendar broken down by class with everything planned out weeks in advance. That being said, it’s boring to know exactly how every day is going to go, especially with a repetitive weekly schedule. This can be fixed, however, through the interaction and aforementioned surprise associated with the daily schedule.
Despite incessant classes and meetings, the places one goes on campus during their day mainly depend on pathing to Sharples, Kohlberg, Essie’s, or Sci based on what bar is being served and what individual tastes allow for. This daily planning of fitting in a Sharples run in the one hour between morning and afternoon classes or making the decision to go to Essie’s with friends for dinner are all left to the daily schedule, breaking the weekly monotony.
With knowledge of the entire week’s schedule, while the same planning can be done, it becomes less like navigating the same schedule in a new way and more like welding meals into a workflow. I hardly need to say that that drains the fun out of the meals themselves, but I’ll talk more on that later.
4. Community Bonding
The bars or meal plan of any given day will often become a talking point amongst students at Swarthmore. Many of my friends always call out the nutty goat or wild rice bars for the delectable food. The shared bonding and discussion of those options often make up a large portion of conversation when none other is to be had, and negotiating based on the preferences of everyone in a group is a common experience.
Even if that is often the case, the dialogue of what Sharples bars are good vs. bad or which ones people would want to go to can stimulate conversation which otherwise would have been absent. Sharples meals are a common point of the Swarthmore experience, and thus middle ground can always be found or discussed. The daily updates of which bring about the most conversation as the commentary on bars is given new fuel every day instead of being a debate every week.
On the other hand, nobody wants to be the odd person out who, when the topic is brought up, claims superiority for knowing the schedule ahead of time and planning for it. However, even if the schedule is taken for granted by everyone and read weekly, then there would be no reason to discuss the meals on a daily basis, which would remove another key aspect of Swarthmore’s community that we can all share and relate to.
5. The Fun
Throughout this article, however, I’ve been talking around the main aspect which I believe makes the daily Sharples ritual truly important: the fun!
The regret of learning that you are busy on the day of your favorite meal; the joy when you check your phone at midnight on a rough day and see that the next day will serve some of your favorites; the heated defense when someone attacks your favorite bar over a table at Sharples. These are all the ups and downs that we would miss out on without a daily recommitment to the Sharples menu.
I’ve mainly been talking about the possible improvements to scheduling and how you plan your day, but in reality it’s really about the food and our relationship to it. We are generally limited in options around here, so we stick to the ones we know and play favorites. This ritual has become a cultural affectation of students at Swarthmore and has brought our community together in the way that food always does in communal settings.
The fun is getting to share food preferences while also learning about others’ experiences with that food and others. Being reminded daily of this connection brings us closer to our shared community and gives us all something in common that we otherwise would take for granted at this diverse school.