It starts quietly, as most wars do.
Two first-years, walking back from their FroSci lecture meet up with one of their Barnard friends by the 116th gates. “Where do you guys want to grab lunch?” she asks. This is some time before midterms of first-year fall, when friends still exist and groups of people still have time to eat a meal together without 3 cancellations and a When2Meet.
“We could go to Ferris.” One of them suggests, fishing for his ID from beneath hundreds of pages of readings he will never complete.
“Oh my God, no!” The other CC student exclaims, looking at him as if he’s been spending too much time in Riverside Park today. “Everyone goes there after FroSci lecture. We won’t be able to breathe, let alone find somewhere to sit.”
Their Barnard friend shrugs. “We could always go to Hewitt. They have better pasta anyway.” Her friends cry out in horror. “What? She has an A again now; y’all need to chill.”
The debate continues. John Jay: the food is disgusting and the chairs are awful. Diana: the Columbia students don’t understand how it works and at this point, they’re too afraid to ask. JJs: going there when you’re not drunk at 2 am on a Thursday robs its overcooked burgers of their power.
As the conversation continues, more people gather around, drawn like moths to a flame to this reminder of conversations they’ve had with their own friends since stepping foot on campus. The cadence is familiar, and a few upperclassmen wonder if perhaps they should stop them before it goes too far. They’ve seen this happen before, but that’s why they ultimately decide to remain silent. It was bound to happen at some point in the semester, so why not now?
The conversation spreads from this point faster than the Freshman Plague that strikes without fail approximately 3 weeks after NSOP. Soon, everyone is interrupting that kid in LitHum who read all the works in the original Latin to discuss this pressing issue. Yes, Diana has very good pizza, but who would know, given how long you have to wait? And who decided a smoothie was going to be an entree? JJs would put subway dirt on a burger in the name of their striking culinary innovations and can you blame them? Something has to keep you occupied if you’re going to be stuck cleaning up the vomit of underage alcoholics 22 hours a day, 7 days a week. HEWITT HAD A B AND THE FOOD IS BAD AND THEY HAD A B GUYS!!!!
The conversation gets heated on all sides and, ultimately, no one is sure who fired the first shot. Later accounts would claim that someone in a #TeamJohnJay shirt shot a half-chewed mint at a Barnard student carrying a Diana salad. Still others would claim that a Hewitt stan threw some extra scrambled eggs at kids screaming ‘Ferris Forever!’ in Butler 209. However, none of these claims have been independently verified, so it seems the true genesis of the violence has been lost to the ceaseless beat of history.
In the end, does it really matter? Does anything?
It devolves into campus-wide violence quickly and no bonds are safe. It’s suitemate against suitemate, frat bro against frat bro. Bwoggers fight alongside Speccies as boiling syrup from the Ferris pancakes is poured from the upper floors of Hamilton Hall. Flaky John Jay pastries melt in puddles of Diana smoothie left over from fierce, freezing battles fought with rock-hard ice cream bars. Even those without an opinion find themselves roped into one side or another as the battle stretches from hours to days. Whenever it seems like one side is gaining a victory, a pipe will burst or someone will projectile vomit on College Walk from an undercooked chicken breast and any advantage they may have eked out is lost.
The soldiers in this five-pronged civil war begin to grow tired, but they find they cannot stop until their side emerges from the fray, the One True Dining Hall. After all, as George R.R. Martin once wrote in his seminal epic (obviously an allegory about life at Columbia University), when you play a game of dining halls, you win or you die, probably choking on stolen Nutella or something.
From the chaos of the fighting, a weary upperclassman climbs on a table on the Sundial (previously used a barricade against a barrage of raw Beyond Burgers from the #JJsFam) and screams, “You all are right and you all are wrong!” Everyone from the residence halls of 110th to the hallowed, apostrophe-less halls of Teachers College stops in their tracks, eager to listen to wise words of this brash, foolish savior. “All of the dining halls are awful. They’re all crowded and the food is either repulsive, repetitive, or you have to wait in a massive line for 20 minutes to get it. I got off the meal plan sophomore year and haven’t looked back. Last night, I ate a vegetable and my life has never been better.”
Slowly, the rabid masses lower their stale Ferris baguettes and greasy pizza slices. Freshmen clamber down from the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine and stop spraying Carolina Tangy on the people they once called their closest friends. As everyone cleans up and slowly begins rebuilding their relationships, our battle-scarred savior returned to us.
“Okay, now that we’re done with that, can anyone swipe me into JJs?”
There’s a cry from the back as someone tosses a Diana pizza right at their face. The assailant’s aim is true and the Eternal Dining Hall War erupts anew.