An Account of Being in the Harriton Lunch Line



Today, I went down to the lunch line at the beginning of LEARN 1. Foolish? Maybe. Very—in fact. But I believed with all the naivete and idealism in my cold, dead, Senior heart (and with all the desperate hunger in my stomach) that if I headed down early enough, I could beat the lunch rush and avoid the crowded line. I was, of course, wrong.


The state of the Harriton Lunch Line is such that if you enter the throng of people, you are no longer a person with legs of your own that you use to stand and walk in line with. Rather, you are a delicate leaf being carried by the tempestuous current of a violent sea. The line is insanity—madness.


Once I was in the thick of the crowd, I could only see backpacks and backs of heads. I took this moment to look up at the window of open air above me and beg for mercy, as well as question why I would do this to myself. The divine presence of the fluorescent lights that shined down upon me did not answer. And with that, my troubles began. 


To my right, underclassmen boys were ripping off each other’s masks for sport. Past that, a student was put in a choke hold, and on the other side, someone else was pushed down to the ground as a joke. A kid next to me lifted his friend’s backpack above our heads; due to my fragile constitution and weak Victorian child bones, if he were to drop it back down it would’ve crushed me to death. 


The cafeteria door encounters a two pronged attack from two groups of people. One group is a civilized, normal group entering the line through the hall. The other is an unethical, savage group entering from the side door of the main gym, attempting to cut in the line from the right. The roadblock to the side of the line is failing to do its job of blocking the gym group and corralling high school children. On this particular day, members of the gym group have managed to hoist the barrier into the air and people are crawling under like rats to enter the line.


Closer to the door is where The Squeeze happens. The real flesh pit where all become one. This is where and when I ask, as I’m pressed against ten strangers, why anyone would ever spend the money to go to a rave when one could just enter the Harriton lunch line for free. There is only one door open, so children are pressed into the other doors beside it. This sight is gruesome for those in the open, safe space of the cafeteria.


Every five minutes or so, like a relentless tide, the crowd surges forward in an urgent bid to push through the door and be freed from the line. The man at the gate wields more power than Zeus himself and holds back crowds better than riot police. The feeling of seeing his hand fall in front of you, barring you from the dry chicken tenders you will purchase feels like damnation. I imagine that having the pearly gates of a heavenly utopia slammed on my face wouldn’t hurt me as much as being cut off from entry into the cafeteria which lays just beyond, like some forbidden promised land.


Finally, in one frenzied, harrowing rush, I am forced out of the single body entity that is the Harriton lunch line and into the bright, wide world of the cafeteria. It feels like I’m being birthed from the womb again. I dust myself off in the physical and emotional sense and look back at those who remain in line. I feel pity, but I also feel very hungry, so I move on.


Thus concludes my lunch line experience. To those looking to not undergo what I have, I would take the following course of action:


  1. Do not enter with your backpack, it’s tiring to carry as you stand, and impedes speed and maneuverability
  2. In fact, do not enter with any clothes at all
  3. Grease your bare body so you’re slippery like an eel so that you can
    1. Slide through the crowd like a worm
    2. Be so disgusting that everyone parts around you like the Red Sea and you can simply enter the cafeteria without problems
  4. Profit  


Ever the war zone, I come from the line like a bedraggled correspondent who’s just escaped the front lines. The lunch line is full of chaos. And not to be one of those people who complains all the time yet has no legitimate solutions to offer, but also I am exactly that. Genuinely, I imagine a lottery, Powerball style system where everyone is assigned a number and twenty students’ numbers are drawn at a time to be allowed entry into the cafeteria would be a better system than the jungled Pit of Tartarus which exists downstairs currently. As people, we cannot continue to live like this. 


I will probably have a repeat experience of this next week, not because I like it, but because I skip breakfast in the morning and am massively hungry by the time LEARN 1 rolls around. My final words to those as stupid as I: Abandon all hope ye who enter.