Opinion | Market Impossible: 12 Hours in Market Central

By Allison Dantinne, Senior Staff Columnist

There is a place on campus where food lies abundantly under heat lamps, where pizza appears constantly and where students meet with friends to eat and converse. This place is Market Central. It has touched the hearts of many Pitt students, so in return, I touched it right back for 12 whole hours. I spent from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. on Saturday in Market, learning about Market, coming to understand Market and, eventually, becoming Market.

9:04 a.m. I grab a cup of “citrus” water from the “hydration station,” and settle into my seat. With this spa water, access to multiple varieties of egg and only four other students in Market, I feel calm.

9:33 a.m. I finish my plate of eggs while staring at the shadowy mustard walls. They remind me of “The Office” — specifically, of Dwight’s shirts after he gets sweaty from doing parkour tricks in the parking lot with Michael and Andy. More people file into Market. I wonder if they think the same thing about the walls.

10:10 a.m. After seeing the color of these walls, which I have now named “Dwight’s Sweat Stain,” I understand my first-year depression better.

10:24 a.m. A girl mentions that her sister “smells like school.”

10:41 a.m. Market begins to smell like my mother’s broccoli cheese soup, but it’s 10:41. It is not soup time. I may be hallucinating.

11:12 a.m. I just finished watching a 25-minute video of two people performing a merit-based ranking of common fruits. My descent into madness has begun.

11:28 a.m. I’m now regretting my choice to sit at a real table with real chairs. I begin my search for a booth, so that I can spread out and possibly sleep, soothed by the Panera/arcade aesthetic of the upholstery.

11:42 a.m. There is now a group of young girls, all about 7 years old, and a college student standing behind my booth. One girl in a gray shirt with a blue sequin heart on it asks how long the student will be in college. The student says that she’s in here for four years. The girl responds, “That’s a lot.” It truly is, blue sequin heart girl. It really is.

12:21 p.m. My brain feels a bit like liquid wax pooling in a freshly lit candle. Three hours and 17 minutes in.

12:41 p.m. Two students walk past my table, each holding a plate with one chicken patty on it. One student has a lone patty, while the other has it on a bun with ketchup splattered on the side. I believe this says something about their personalities — the lone chicken patty student is likely intense and serious, while the one with the ketchup on the side feels more artistic and imaginative.

1:14 p.m. In my pursuit of more citrus water, I come across broccoli cheddar soup in the soup pots. I rush back to my table, throw the water down and head back to the soup, convinced that it would all walk off in my absence. I ladle the soup into a bowl and cradle it back to the table, holding it like women on Instagram hold mugs of tea in November.

1:16 p.m. I blow a spoonful of soup too hard and it splatters on my laptop screen.

1:16 p.m. The soup isn’t even that hot to begin with.

1:34 p.m. The soup’s OK.

2:30 p.m. A girl walks past my table carrying an arm full of bananas. A Market employee then stops her, telling her to put some of the bananas back. I see this as a classic reiteration of Icarus, in which banana girl flew too close to the sun in trying to steal 10-12 bananas. I think four would have been a bit more reasonable.

3:44 p.m. For hours, I have slinked around the booth sections of Market, waiting for the day I can have one to call my own. At last, that day has come. As I spread my plates across the table and stretch my legs over the seat. I have an outlet, therefore, I am immortal. I am a winner.

4:03 p.m The ice cream machine works. Even the swirl function works. I look from my bowl of swirled ice cream to the ice cream machine repeatedly, thinking of all the times the ice cream machines were turned around when I lived on campus and relied on Market for my swirled ice cream needs.

4:05 p.m. If you stir vanilla and chocolate together, it just becomes lighter brown chocolate, which is disappointing.

4:13 p.m. Someone just yelled from the booth behind me, “Ryan, don’t get involved!” So, whatever it is, don’t do it Ryan.

6:17 p.m. I hear the familiar trumpet blare of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” from a few tables away.

6:22 p.m. Did anyone else go through that phase where you wanted to put every food in the panini press? I was pressing wraps, sandwiches, burgers — anything with a bready exoskeleton. Therefore, as a tribute to the past, I panini-press my dinner: a wrap with cheese, cucumber, humus, pickle, lettuce and yellow mustard.

6:24 p.m. I can’t even comprehend how stupid I must have been to consider subjecting a wrap with cold lettuce to the heat of the panini press. It didn’t even melt the cheese. Now I’m eating charred garbage and it’s all my fault.

6:29 p.m. I have warm lettuce stuck between my teeth.

6:39 p.m. Another episode of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” begins.

7:00 p.m. Another student walks away from his table, and says “Ryan, Ryan. Beer goggles,” with his hands up, flexing fingers indicating words in quotes. Is this the same Ryan as before? How many Ryans can there be? Probably too many.

7:09 p.m. The same student now gives us, “Yep. Yeeep. Yep,” while banging on the table. I’m deeply confused by his speech, and yet, I get the spirit.

8:07 p.m. With only 53 minutes left in this sadistic, self-imposed challenge, I feel myself slipping due to the air conditioning and my terrible decision to forget a sweatshirt. I imagine myself as a chicken patty, the heat of the lamp above me extending my life much like the sun fuels photosynthesis.

8:11 p.m. Does “I feel like a chicken patty” sound like a Kanye West tweet?

8:34 p.m. A student sits at an adjacent table with a hamburger, iced tea and a large, well-worn tome.

9 p.m. After grabbing a cereal bar for the road, I exit Market Central with less of a sense of self and more of a sense of Market. It is possible that Market has taken part of me forever? Likely, 12 hours and a chunk of my soul. And what has it given me back? The debilitating feeling of understanding a chicken patty on a psychic level.