The definitive guide on who to sit next to at John Jay for the best eavesdropping experience.

At times, I relish eating alone in the dining hall. Nothing gives you a cross-section of the Columbia population like setting your plate down next to a group of people and preparing to eavesdrop. Admittedly, it’s not always my first choice to sit next to a group of people talking loudly. However, you’ve been to a dining hall—being picky about where you sit is not really in the cards. So if I’m already sitting next to you, there’s no point to me listening to your noises if I don’t get a little gossip as a treat…

The best people to eavesdrop on are two female best friends. There is no better way to spend your lunch—it’s like starting a new podcast on Episode 47 and praying that the girlies fill in the blanks for you on what’s happening. On my first experience eavesdropping on two besties at JJs, I got to listen to them talk smack about their other best friend in the friend group. They were tearing this girl’s life choices to shreds and saying “don’t get me wrong, I love her” before each talking point to make it sound like they weren’t judging her. I was glued to the edge of my seat. If you sit next to two female best friends, you are going to be in for a real treat.

If you can’t sit down next to two female best friends, a great second choice is two men in a theater-related club on campus. Yes, there’s the whole stereotype that “men aren’t as catty as women,” but sit next to these two fellas and you’ll see that be disproven. There are two species of Male Theater Kid—you can usually clock these men by either their youth pastor energy or their curly hair + patterned shirts. Now, these men can bring the goss, and best of all, it’ll usually be related to whatever drama is happening in Varsity Show / their improv group, etc. This effectively doubles for your lunchtime entertainment and your update for club affairs on campus. One time, I sat next to men in [theater group redacted], and I watched them wave at a fellow cast member across the room and act friendly, and then start discreetly talking shit about them without the other person realizing. I was secondhand embarrassed for everyone involved, but mostly for myself for being so invested. 

Need another great option for people to eavesdrop on? This time, find a group of kids who look like they would have been in marching band in high school, but not the ones that were sexually active. Sitting next to this group, you might want to strap in because it’s about to be a chaotic meal for you. Yes, they’re going to be loud. But you are probably going to hear some fascinating debates, such as which dean is the hottest, or whether or not Taylor Swift is gay. You’re going to have an urge to participate in these Philo-esque debates, but restrain yourself. Remember, the first rule as an eavesdropper is to never interfere with your observed subject matter. It’s like being at the zoo—just like you wouldn’t feed the animals, you shouldn’t reveal that you’ve been listening to people’s conversation for the better part of an hour.

Now that you know who to sit next to, I’ll raise you one option that can be either great or horrible, depending on your luck: two men in the CS major. Men majoring in computer science can be either (1) very funny, or (2) the worst people to speak to on Earth. There’s just no in between. I don’t really have any advice for identifying male computer science majors, but if you sit down at a table next to two guys, there’s a pretty good chance that one or both of them is in computer science due to how large the major is. Like I was saying, men in computer science can be very funny—one time, I was eavesdropping on two men behind me in line at Chef Mike’s, and their absurd conversation about Steve Harvey kept me thoroughly entertained while waiting for my meatball sub. However, I’ve also sat next to my fair share of internship-obsessed guys, comparing their offers at Amazon vs Facebook, and it made me literally consider dropping out. If you choose these guys, you’ll be doing the equivalent of scrolling through LinkedIn during your lunch, comparing yourself to people you don’t even know. And as we all know, perusing the LinkedIn timeline is the worst thing you can do for your self-esteem. (Unless you’re already successful, which in that case, congratulations I guess?)

Remember, eating alone at the dining hall is perfectly normal, and if you’re gossip-deprived, it may even be a good way to get some tea about strangers at this school. Just make sure you’re careful with who you sit next to—if you see a hackathon T-shirt on a m*n, don’t walk. Run.

Empty John Jay via Bwog Archives