Dec

17

Diana Center Café – A Horror Story

Written by

confusion at every twist and turn
confusion at every twist and turn

confusion at every twist and turn

Junior Bwog Staffer Timmy Wu couldn’t tell Bwog the difference between Hewitt and Diana, so we knew we had to change that. Timmy’s mission was simple: to eat dinner at the Diana Cafe. It quickly escalated into a horror story. 

They say that your first semester at Columbia will be a very steep, exponential learning curve. Indeed, coming to Columbia is confusing – and, as an international student, is depression-inducing and mind-numbing. Just when you thought sentences are formed by words and English has grammar, self-absorbed Columbians and Judith Butler would prove you wrong. The former would pepper their daily conversations with just enough Columbia specific abbreviations to confuse you. The latter just doesn’t make sense. (I actually love you, Butler.)

Yet, thinking to myself that after three months of pretending to understand the things people are talking about when I am actually thinking about a specific kind of food or food in general, I thought that I have mastered the art of negative capability. But I was too naïve. Cultural shock was only sophomoric. Everything came crashing down, reality disintegrated, and the bubble popped that night when I ventured into the uncharted realm that is the Diana Center Café.

The Diana Center Café hosts a great salad bar, an amazing smoothie station with chopped-up berries and tropical fruits waiting for a blast in the blender, thin-crust pizza baked in a modern kiln (!), sandwiches, and other miscellaneous eats. Compared to the sticky and tartarus-esque JJ’s place or the quaint but over-crowded John Jay Dining Hall, it fashions a cleaner, more minimalistic interior. Every option looks delectable under the mild white  hue. I could feel it in the air – the testosterone level is lower. Everyone seems to be happy.

But no – this wasn’t love. This was a perfect illusion.


After forcefully opening Diana’s front door with the incredibly un-ergonomic, double helix shaped handle, I slowly walked up the flight of stairs in fizzing anticipation of the famed thin-crust-pizza-baked-in-a-kiln. I saw a queue protruding out of the café’s entrance; so naturally, I waited in the line like any moral being would. My eyes searched eagerly, for a poster, a sign, a Good Samaritan, but there was none. I felt more confused than when I was in Arabic class. I didn’t think that was possible. I poked my head around and found out that I was in line for the smoothie station. I abandoned the line and went straight to the lady at the counter.

“Hi, how are you? This is my first time here so I am quite confused. What can I get for a swipe?” I asked.

“An entrée and two sides.” She answered impatiently, as though any of this were not all a scheme of social construct.

“An entrée?” I thought to myself, “’Entrée’ in French dining means the dish before the main course. And two sides? Isn’t entrée really just a side though? If entrée were to be half of the main course, why would a side be? One-fourth?” For some mysterious reason, I started doing math. I am not in SEAS, but I am Asian.

I asked again for clarification: “So what can I get for an entrée, and for sides?”

She detected my persistence, so, growing more attentive, she said: “ For entrée, you can either get a pizza or a sandwich. For sides, you can get a salad and french fries or a bottle of water and a fruit or a soup, or a drink.”

“Okay! Thank you!” I responded with feigned enthusiasm to conceal my confusion.

I picked up a pizza and a salad box. As I started filling in the salad box, another lady stepped in, interrupting my predatory mode. “That is an entrée sized salad box,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I lightened up the intonation, voicing innocence.

She snapped back: “Don’t ask me what I mean. That is an entrée sized salad box. But I am going to let you go this time because it isn’t too full.”

“Thank you so much, so what else can I get?” I replied, putain-y confused.

“A drink or a soup over there.” She finished this round.

So, I went over to the drinks station – and guess what? There are three sizes for the cups. I grabbed the smallest one, so that I wouldn’t accidentally take an entrée sized cup. At that moment, I had already given up. I was full of confusion. I swiped my card, stepped outside the cold, and quietly walked back to my dorm.

In my humble abode, I was reminded of the glory of the thin-crust-pizza-baked-in-a-kiln. My cynicism slided off. After gathering up pieces of my integrity shattered by an entrée sized experience in Diani, I opened the pizza box.

It was stone cold. Maybe I don’t belong here after all.

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