March 5, 2017

MORADI | Tables of Zeus: A Discourse

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I’m boycotting Klarman hall, or so I tell people angrily whenever people mention Klarman in conversation. I understand this statement is (A) ridiculous considering my presence at Klarman is effectively meaningless, and (B) barely even true because I refuse to miss cauliflower curry day.

Alas, I’m supposedly boycotting Klarman. I have some sort of good reasons: The entire “I’m so, uhh weird … I’m interested in, uhh, art” aesthetic feels utterly disingenuous, and the fact that so many people are wearing the same glasses  is creepy. Those reasons are trivial in impact, however, compared to my main, but bad reason: I can’t get a damn table.

If you don’t know who Warby Parker is, or if you aren’t studying a social science in Arts, then you may not be hip to the notorious tabular situation at Temple of Zeus. Let me lay it out for you: We have six sitting strata at Zeus. In order from most sought after to most unwanted, there’s internal rectangular, internal circular, external circular, couch, bench and floor. Note that there are some substrata, such as internal circular: outlet-adjacent and internal circular: outlet-distal. Note also that I’m generalizing to some extent; there are some who think the couches are better than the tables, but they are simply fools tricked into loving their own subjugation. To quote Rousseau, “Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire to escape from them.”

The stratification of Zeus seating is primarily structural; some seats are simply more favorable than others in terms of outlet adjacence (as previously discussed), distance from the soup line, acoustics and space. As a result of these structural inequalities, however, we see social stratification emerge as well. Social capital is transformed into tabular capital at Zeus. The more Zeus-friends you have, the more likely it is that you can either secure a seat at an optimal table initially or maintain a table long-term. Many social circles communicate via online group messaging platforms (such as Groupme, Facebook messenger, iMessage and Slack) to inquire about Zeus seating ahead of time or to make arrangements for one member of the social group to maintain the group’s occupation of the table.

Unfortunately, as a result of this social stratification, the well-seated remain seated well and the poorly-seated remain seated poorly. This cycle is not indestructible, however; many, in fact, break the cycle by engaging in arguably unethical methods of obtaining seats. The practice of hovering over a table with a single occupant with the intention of intimidating said occupant into vacating is not uncommon, and the more insidious gradual conquest of a single-occupant table is almost too commonplace. We are all familiar with an intruder’s seemingly innocuous, “Is anyone sitting here?” followed by more intruders joining in with the intruder until we, the original occupants, become the minority and are forced to work, eat and live under the tyranny of the majority.

How do we assuage these injustices, brought upon by structural inequalities and perpetuated by our generation’s moral degradation? The seating inequalities at Temple of Zeus wouldn’t be so considerable if it were not for the larger-scale inequalities between Cornell Dining and Temple of Zeus (a matter for a different column). For now, let us consider tackling the problem on a smaller scale. Assuming that Zeus is self-interested as a firm and is primarily preoccupied with making money, the cafe itself does not have a vested interest in ameliorating the seating inequalities. The solution could come from greater regulation from the Cornell administration, although as the Cornell administration grows in scope each day, I become increasingly wary of administrative overreach. A third party could intervene, though this would likely result in the exploitation of seating areas rather than accessibility (imagine if a firm decided to place individuals in every high-demand seating area then auctioned off access to each seat: lucrative for the firm, but harmful to all).

A democratically elected board could organize a lottery system in which individuals interested in sitting are given a bid to a certain table. A project team could develop a thermal pad to be placed on each seat such that after a given period of time the seat becomes too hot and the occupant is forced to leave. A social movement could encourage prospective sitters to challenge occupants to fight in exchange for the seat.

Zeus himself would hate to see his mighty name besmirched by such heinousness. While I may not know for certain how to reverse these grave atrocities, I do know that we need to speak up about this issue. After all, awareness is the first step on the staircase to change.


Pegah Moradi is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at All Jokes Aside appears alternate Mondays this semester. 

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