Stamatakis: The five stages of your Market Central relationship

By Nick Stamatakis

There are supposedly five stages of grief that one must traverse to achieve a sense of peace… There are supposedly five stages of grief that one must traverse to achieve a sense of peace after a loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Similarly, you will find there are five stages of your relationship with Market Central that you will traverse before you can achieve a sense of peace with Pitt’s on-campus food. May the road rise up to meet you.

Stage One: Utter confusion

Designing a dining area to sit comfortably sit diners beneath three circular buildings could not have been easy. Upon seeing the floor plan of the dining area — two largely windowless squares squashed together, all mixed with support beams and curved walls — architects and designers of the 2007 renovation of Pitt’s main dining hall must have known they had their work cut out for them. The plan they came up with is what you see today: a Taco Bell/Quick Zone come-and-go area on one side and an all-you-can-eat buffet smorgasbord known as Market Central on the other.

The final product makes the new user feel like a goldfish swimming through a maze with all-glass walls: You might know where you need to go, but you’ll probably bump into a ton of people or at least find yourself pressed up against some table that inexplicably seems to cross in front of a walking area on the way there. To a new student, parallel lines seem to converge. You can walk in a straight line and somehow still end up where you began.

Furthermore, spoken directions become meaningless in Market CentrEscher. Saying that you’ll be in the far back corner could realistically send a friend to four separate places. I dare you to try to point to Forbes Avenue from any spot inside. Eventually you will learn to communicate by expressing a relationship to a specific food area — 12 feet from the salad bar, etc. — but until you learn this, you wander in utter confusion.

Stage Two: Screaming excitement

Now that you can find your way through the maze, you are suddenly blown away by the dizzying array of options. At home, you got to pick from one thing to eat; at high school lunch, you had about three options. At Market Central, you can eat from six themed areas, with dozens of items available. Once you realize that many of the options feature cuisine from different countries, you soon find yourself comparing the dining hall to Epcot. Eagerly, you begin searching for a giant, costumed mascot.

But more importantly, with a constant supply of burgers, wraps and fries, you experience an ever-present calm . If one of your crazy new dining experiences isn’t pleasant, you know you will always have a back up.

Stage Three: Bargaining

With that constant supply of burgers, wraps and fries slowly forming the bulk of your diet, you have now come to the realization that the international options offered at Market Central often come with a digestively challenging dessert course. You realize your Tier 1, Plan A, 225-swipe meal plan might not be very cost-effective any more. Suddenly, simply deciding what to eat becomes a strategy session:

Guy 1: “Hey, want to go to Five Guys?”

Guy 2: “Sorry man, I have 175 swipes left, I need to use three a day until the end of the semester.”

Guy 1: “Dude.”

Guy 2: “OK, I’ll go to Five Guys. I’ll just have to use six swipes tomorrow, and then you’ll have to let me swipe in half of the crew team.”

Congratulations. You are learning how to bargain.

Stage Four: Disgusted revulsion

Giant black butterflies have blotted out the sunshine. Oh wait, you’re actually just in Market Central. Flickering fluorescents tinker above as you slave away working to be at 60 swipes by the end of the week. Where have the forks gone?

Miserably, you smear butter on a bagel. With only three cold chicken patties — breaded, not grilled — sitting under the dying heat lamps, there is no other choice. All the ice cream appears to be sherbet. Where have the spoons gone!?

You see your reflection in a mirror. Your gut runneth over — the dizzying array of options has devolved into nothing but French fries dipped in ranch. You still have 50 swipes.

And there are no knives.

Stage Five: Fond reminisce

After just a few months on your own, with your formative years far behind you, you start to realize that when you cook, you’re back at one option a day. Only instead of a doting mother and father serving plentiful food, a cabinet filled with ramen and canned stuff forms the bulk of your new diet. Something starts to sound good again, and while you would never pay for it, and you might not even admit it out loud, you find yourself on occasion wanting to go back to Market Central. Now you know why those upperclassmen were friends with you when you were younger.

The circle has been completed. I hope your journey is without trouble.

If you have extra meal swipes, please email Nick at [email protected]