Satire | Public service announcement: Beware the Market Central moochers

By Grace McGinness, Staff Columnist

Editor’s note | This column was originally mislabeled as opinion. It was written intentionally as satire.

What would you do if you saw a hungry child standing right in front of you, a child whose life should be carefree and filled with dino nuggets but who is instead begging you for some spare fries? Would you help them? Do you have the compassion in your heart to feed them?

Now imagine that child a decade later. They’ve gotten into a university, they’ve found a friend group that loves them, they’re excelling in their stats class and maybe they’ve even managed to get a little friends-with-benefits situation going on. Yet there they are, still begging for dino nuggets. The sight pulls on your heart strings, and you want to give them the world. It wouldn’t be too hard to extend your hand and feed these young, struggling adults.

At all times of the day, an upperclassman is asking every student with a working ID card to spare a few meal swipes into the dining halls. They’ve been standing there for 15 whole minutes pleading with both those who are going in and going out — often the same exact person both ways — just hoping to catch a break.

Never mind that they moved out of the dorms without looking back, spitting upon Market’s failed health inspection report as they left. Never mind that they posted a photo of their new, clean kitchen with the “Adulting.” Never mind that they have a kind of Stockholm syndrome-type gleam in their eyes as they gaze towards Market Central’s own Flying Star Diner.

If you do decide to take pity on these poor souls, do so with a grain of salt. Do not stand there with a polite smile on your face expecting a thank you. Once these senior moochers pass through Market’s gates, they will look straight through you as if you were just another stranger in the cafeteria. Which you are, but you’re a stranger that gave them the gift of food, so the sudden coldness in this new, fragile relationship will sting a bit.

But, if you have the time, you should follow the ungrateful soul to their table where you will get to observe the moocher in their natural habitat and see what exactly they had planned for your free meal swipe. They will probably scurry to some dark corner of Market Central to a table that is easily guarded and far from the prying eyes of the dining hall staff. Once there they’ll unload their entire kitchen.

A whole cabinet’s worth of tupperware containers will come out of that Jansport backpack somehow, and a whole sleeve of stale bagels will be jammed into every one. After the protein-guzzling student athletes are beaten back, chicken breast after chicken breast will be smashed on top of one another. Sometimes, the poor, hungry senior will stake out these hunting grounds for hours in order to collect sufficient stores.

Quickly, all evidence of the heist will be packed away, and the vagrant will escape with their digestive track already gurgling in protest against the upcoming torture of high-cholesterol, fried food. Half of it will go bad by the time they unlock their front door, but every piece of smuggled contraband is going to waste away in the back of their fridge anyway.

Now you might be asking yourself, “Isn’t that the same kid I just watched crate out half the liquor store into the back of their friend’s pickup truck?” And you’d be right, it is that same kid. But they’re not thirsty right now. They’re hungry, and only you can save them from a slow death from stubborn denial of their budgeting skills.

It is possible to deny these creatures your precious, hard-earned swipes even though you probably won’t get through them all by the end of the year. Most of the prowling upperclassmen will accept your refusal graciously and definitely won’t imagine setting your backpack on fire. However, once denied too many times, a select minority of these students will go absolutely feral, and they will attempt the jump over the glass wall by the dessert section. Many have tried, though very few have stuck the landing, so make sure to bring over a plate of stale popcorn in case someone falls on their face.

But the danger does not end at the exit of the dining halls. Some moochers are more crafty, and they will infiltrate your social circles just to latch onto your meal plan. Classmates, sports teams, student group leaders and Greek life brothers and sisters may try to hit you up at 11 p.m. for a pass into a barren dining hall. Yes, even the stoic mentorships of bigs and littles in academic fraternities can become strained under the heavy expectation of free food.

So what should you do? Run. Run far away as fast as possible, because they’ll be hunting when you try to enter Market and will still be there when you try to leave. They’ll be in your inbox, DMs, group chats, Snapchat and LinkedIn messages asking for a swipe. And they’ll be there the next day and the next and the next …