“Friday Fly” is a recurring column dedicated to a fly on the wall’s perspective on campus spots and daily life here at Pitt. This is the fifth installment.
A boy in a Penguins jersey takes a bite out of his cheeseburger, his head tilted as he thoughtfully looks outside. He eats alone, like many of the other students at The Perch. The dining hall isn’t very crowded, but it feels cozier that way.
Down the hill at Market Central, two girls at a high-top table lean in toward each other over their empty plates. The girl in the red sweater shows her friend a text message from someone with a heart next to their name. Occasionally, a loud laugh or exclamation stands out from the other ambient noise, but their conversation quickly fades out of earshot.
Dining halls are the hubs of student activity at most universities. They are comfortable places on campus for students to gather, share a meal and have a good time. Although both of Pitt’s are on campus, Market Central and The Perch are quite different from each other.
To get to The Perch in Sutherland Hall, students have to walk or take a Pitt shuttle up Cardiac Hill — unless they live in one of the few residence halls or fraternity houses nearby. It’s not the best place to go if you want a quick bite to eat between classes.
Market Central — which is underneath Litchfield Towers on lower campus — is at the center of everything, like its name suggests. This dining hall is close to most dorms and campus buildings, making it a convenient spot for students to eat.
What The Perch lacks in convenience, it makes up for with its view of distant treetops and open sky. Unlike Market Central, The Perch is not underground. Instead, it’s built over the lobby of Sutherland Hall and students tend to sit at tables near the large glass windows, eager for a change of scenery from their dorm rooms.
At Market, the noisy, crowded space makes ordinary conversation a challenge. Market’s seating packs hundreds of students in a limited square footage, making it easy to eavesdrop — intentionally or not. You can overhear one person’s plans to go to a club that weekend and another person’s complaints about a roommate who always leaves their shoes by the door.
Across the room, a girl carries a plate of french fries back toward her seat — but it takes her an extra five minutes to get back to her table after she encounters two people she seems to know. She spends a couple of minutes talking to each person, one hand gesturing wildly in the air while the other hand grips the plate of fries.
Even though Market is physically a substantial space, it doesn’t always feel that way. It’s so crowded you have to squeeze behind chairs or between tables and cut through groups of people just to navigate the room. The Perch is much smaller, with only three food stations compared to Market’s seven, but it’s more personal.
At The Perch, workers greet students with a hello, sometimes even using their name. At Market, only the self-swipe machines acknowledge a student’s entrance.
Swipe. Beep. Gate opens. Gate shuts. Repeat.
It’s all automated.
At The Perch, even throwing away your trash involves a brief exchange with a real person. After the boy wearing the Penguins jersey scrapes his plate, he places it on the conveyor belt.
“Thank you,” the voice of an unseen worker calls out from the kitchen.
“No problem,” the boy replies as he walks toward the exit.
At Market, a girl with a long, brown ponytail carries a stack of plates to the dish return. She places the four ceramic plates in one of the revolving cubicles, drops her silverware into the designated container and leaves with a banana in hand.
No one says a word.
Although Market is open four hours later, has more variety and is more convenient than its upper campus sister, The Perch has other characteristics that make it just as worthy. Often overlooked, The Perch is a hidden gem, tucked away from the rest of Oakland. Even though you can find me at Market most evenings, I’ll be at The Perch for brunch on Saturday mornings.
Maggie primarily writes creative nonfiction and about student life for The Pitt News. Write to her at email@example.com.
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