Broke a plate? Hooray!

by James Gao | Columnist

It’s that time of the year again: The squirrels are getting chubby from discarded French fries, pine cones are falling just beyond reach—and speaking of falling, so are plates. 

The dining hall in the HUB is a place where students can enjoy an all-you-can-eat meal. As things go, food consumption is directly proportional to plate usage, and that’s where the fumble occurs. One moment there is a happy hum of conversation and food being consumed, and the next, a show-stopping crash of glassware jolts every head towards its origin. The unhappy perpetrator stands there, stunned by the sudden and tragic turn of events. Slowly it begins, a few scattered claps throughout the dining hall, then more hands chime in, till the sound of palms spanking palms is an uproarious ovation on par with applause for everyone’s favorite president, Beck Taylor. Determined to exercise my mind in keeping with Whitworth’s education of mind and heart, I find that an analysis of this strange tradition is in order.

The first time I heard the clapping as a freshman, a wave of confusion washed over my dessert-induced stupor. Was it someone’s birthday? Had someone proposed? Surely it wasn’t for the plate that was accidentally dropped a few moments ago? But the evidence was clear: All eyes had turned to a sheepish student undergoing the denial phase of the five stages of grief. Time stood still for a brief moment as they stared at a Rorschach splat of their late food receptacle.  Immediately I felt disgust as to the insensitivity of the gesture toward someone who obviously felt very, very guilty and very, very sorry. What motivated people to find such joy in another’s misery? Then and there, I resolved to stand amongst the ranks of the compassionate and reserve my applause for President Beck Taylor instead.

A year later, I am back at Whitworth. The person I was a year ago would have been horrified and ashamed of who I am today. Not only do I clap, I enjoy it. However, this is due to some newly gained insights into our illustrious history of cheering at the death of a plate. 

To graduate as a true Whitworthian, there are three honorable rites of passage, colloquially referred to as the “little three”. One must get clocked on the coconut by an errant frisbee, catch a spiky torpedo of a naturally-falling pinecone with their bare hands, and lastly, cause the demise of an innocent little Sodexo plate that never caused anyone any harm. Because the pinecone catching part is almost entirely up to chance, it is only fair to include the other two points as being conditional upon happenstance. In this light, anyone who drops a plate at the dining hall while clearly not intending to, has effectively fulfilled a portion of their extracurricular destiny. 

Now surely, that deserves a cheer. 

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