stack 2

One fine Tuesday morning, your Bwoggers tried to beat Reading Week boredom with a fortray into John Jay cafeteria. They went to take a surtray of the tray puns they had found etched into trays there. After a few short inquiries, they gained early entrance into the cafeteria—John Jay’s director was equally curious as to what these blue and white etchings would reveal…


What the Bwoggers found confirmed their suspicions: this is an old tradition, and nobody has any idea who started it.


kyser soztray
The earliest tray that can be dated was etched on 3 September 2001: “Mothafuckas act like they forgot about Tray.” Perhaps the history of etchings goes further back, then. Many trays were still in the scullery at the time of surveillance; the record is incomplete, and the truth uncertain. We leave it to you, readers, to seek that truth.


A tray first etched eight days later, with “World Trayde Center 9/11/2001,” shows that Columbia students are disrespectful punks: etched near this touching memorial is the word, “semen.” A student of limited creativity, initialled TD, added “Be-tray-al.” TD, you are not the only one, and you are not the first.

There is a certain immaturity about this art form. Some trays don’t even try: there is, for instance, “Penis.” Some trays seek immaturity: “Statutory traype,” and some seek it inarticulately: “Statuatory traype.” Many authors express a deep-seated sexual repression, and yearn for love and attention:


traydo maso


sexual frust
And they can be crude: one tray cleverly references the nineties’ Wreckx-n-Effect with the inscription, “Rump-trayker,” another musically demands and exclaims in two more inscriptions, “Traype Me,” and “Tray baby!” On one tray, the incomprehensible words, “the buttray,” are made quite comprehensible with the later addition of a “p” at the end.



Here, we would like to observe a moment of silence and, in the finest Bwog tradition, report a ‘bias incident’:


tray for shocc
We appreciate the lasting innocence of the vandal who scratched John Coltrayne’s immortal name into the other side of this unfortunate tray (not pictured).



Some authors’ appeals were more poetic, drawing on Queen with a “Trazy Little Thing Called Love,” and the words of Shakespeare with “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s tray?”

Love and sex are not the only lasting themes in these works of art: there are innumerable references to popular culture, celebrities, the City, French, and politics. One tray blends several categories: an etcher writes, “War protesters are traytors,” and another responds, with an arrow, “Tray idiotic.”
Some manage to do so with pictures:


tray guevara
Pictures may be the future of tray punning. Your Bwoggers also found the NATO seal on a tray inscribed with “North Atlantic Trayty Organization,” and a birthday balloon on a tray that cheerfully offered, “Happy Birthtray!”


And then there is the commentary on John Jay cafeteria, a treasure trove of multifaceted tray gems. Some fixate on the act of eating:



Others focus on media: “Seize the tray,” one tray demands of whichever diner may come across it. “Trays on Campus” is deceptively straightforward. “First tray back” evokes a perverse nostalgia for first-year culinary angst. “John Tray” appears everywhere.


What elitist collegiate institution would be complete without its own meta-commentary? A dialogue of powdered fiberglass runs through John Jay’s most enduring tradition: for every tray that hails the “Traytrix,” “John Trayvolta,” “Wall Street trayder[s],” or “the tray the music died,” there is an egotistical tray, a tray that centers the game upon itself. We are “Vandals in trayning,” one artist declares. Another thinks he’s clever, for a “Tray on words.” In homage to The Shining, a procrastinator gives us:


all work and no tray
Others marvel in their own work, wondering that,



mysterious trays
and lamenting that finding these works of art is like trying to “Find the needle in the traystack.” An engraver says he’s “Sustaining the grand traydition, one tray at a time,” and the most selfish and defiant of all trays declares in a spirit, however, full of undeniable egalitarianism:



trays are belong to us 

John Klopfer and Anna Corke, with special thanks to Mariel Davis and Mark Holden