by Professor Whyse
by Professor Whyse
The Scoop is $25/year, and it offers all the cookies you can have. Mounds and mounds of them, baked by energetic graduates (or current students) trying to make a living—working on their novels or paintings or whatnot in the daytime, baking cookies in a semi-somnolent state in the evenings. They seem especially prone to laughter.
It’s been my favorite haunt for fifty years. Of course, as a freshman they took us to every tea shop to get a sample, until we were so full with caffeine that we wouldn’t dream of sleeping until the next night, and so full of liquid that there were lines for the bathrooms everywhere we went. Groups of freshmen sang in merriment as they caroused down the sidewalk, sweeping paper cups of tea samples off the platters held by smartly dressed waiters. I remember those days fondly.
Trevisia, with her thick braids that look like bread twists that are colored red, green, and yellow, is at the counter today, ready to assist anyone who is struggling with the hot water machine (and ready to administer first aid if they accidentally pour boiling water on themselves), coming up with creative names for each batch of cookies (such as “Flourclouds” or “Fantasmittles”), and making sure that no one takes more than their fair share of cookies. (What constitutes a “fair share” is subject to debate. Certainly, anyone who takes five cookies and leaves will be subject to “cold tea” in the future.)1
The Scoop Bakers are the people who know the most students by name.2 After all, almost every student comes by the Scoop (except those who have gluten allergies, people on low-sugar diets (including Stoics), and those in the Poly House, who prefer to bake their own cookies), and it is difficult not to get drawn into the Scoop Bakers’ monologues-turned-dialogues (are we ourselves cookies being baked by the oven that is Philosophocle? when will we be ready? will there will be little time to bask in our fullness before we are eaten? what do you think, oh cookie-taker?). Plus, if you know the Bakers well enough, they may even surprise you with a birthday cookie on your birthday and sing to you. (Wisely, they do not do the same to me; I do not like to be reminded of my birthdays. Furthermore, the calendar is an artificial construct.)
Do note that coming to the Scoop means consenting to be people-watched by the Bakers, who look over the counter at the amassed tables of students (and lonely professors like me who need a little evening brightness, or sugar, in their lives) like benign life-giving gods and goddesses.3 The students munch cookies while conversing in the hushed tones of confidants; or screaming out their new “slam poems”; or screwing up their brows in concentration as they practice their deconstruction skills on towers made of wooden blocks; or drawing on the wall-to-wall blackboards with colored chalk in either hand, trying their best to be ambidextrous artists. Or they stare at space (or perhaps Trevisia’s rainbow braids) as they wait for inspiration, a pen poised frozen in their hands, a cookie cooling in front of them, to be resisted until they have written the next sentence in their thesis.
Everything here has a unique character. Take the chairs for example. There is the throne sofa (first-come, first-serve) and its foil, the “baby stool” that short people like to make their tall friends sit on, the one four-legged chairs that wobbles, the foldable chair that will fold when you try to sit on it, a chair made of cardboard (donated by an engineering student who has graduated).4 The hot water machine also has character: sometimes the water fails to stop when you turn off the spigot.
Lisa worked as a baker for the Scoop for one day before she was fired. She cursed out a student for taking two cookies when there was one more person in line. The Bakers prefer to take a passive-agressive stance towards cookie gluttons, because other patrons are unforgiving enough towards anyone who makes them wait thirty minutes for the next batch of cookies.↩
Except for Trevisia. A student of mine reported meeting Trevisia five times under different names, before she caught on. The sixth time, she remembered his name as being a combination of the five names he had given her. Memory works in odd ways.↩
More than once, conversations in The Scoop have made their ways into novels by former Scoop-bakers-turned-writers. Chances are increased if you are a regular patron—all the more reason to come frequently.↩
I prefer the rocking chair, myself.↩