Uniformist Lunch Table
The other Uniformists waited for me as I left the lecture hall. Each Uniformist had kept track of the number of other Uniformists in their section of the lecture hall. (We were all easy to identify thanks to our identical shirts.) I had noted seven other Unis in the middle section and so had every other Uni in the middle section, so we would not leave until all seven Unis from the middle section had gathered. This ritual of waiting gives me a sense of belonging.
We walked past the students holding up signs, each trying to advertise their skill at conversation, friendliness, or even flirtatiousness.
“Looking for someone to sit by at lunch. I will provide conversation. Can talk about classical literature (Greek, Roman, Chinese), plant identification, secret places on campus, and the history of the university library,” or “Will flirt during lunch. Warning: expect no commitment after lunch is over,” or “Practice improvisational poetry over food at the Rhyme & Thyme. Poetry experience required. Give me a line before you come!”
One of the Unis tried to pass them brochures on Uniformism, but was politely rejected. We do this not for our sake, of course, but for theirs. The “lunch hookers,” as are sometimes called, suffer from too much egotism, and too little faith in community. Their longing for a fresh conversation partner every day, I can only imagine, induces a profound sense of loneliness.
At lunch, we choose our entrees, but get the same side of carrot wedges. (Before we had tried to all get the same entrees, but this often meant that we depleted the entire pot and had to wait for the cooks to come out with another, and could not all eat at the same time; not to mention, various dietary restrictions made this difficult; if not communicated correctly this often caused one person to have a different entree and hence stand out, the very thing we were trying to avoid.)
The three round tables are there, waiting for us. The rest of the school has learned to keep them aside for us. Sometimes there is a lone student sitting there, one who does not know yet of the Uniformists. If ey is truly ignorant of the Uniformists, we will toss em a free shirt before bidding em be on eir way.
Our group is too large for one conversation, so we converse with the people around us. We miss nothing: if you walk down our tables, you will only hear variations of the same conversation.
“How has your morning been?” we ask each other.
“Fair. I woke up tired, had a cup of hot tea, and felt daunted by the prospect of one-and-a-half-hour of Feller’s Social Ethics. The weather seemed to reflect my semi-anticipatory mood. The lecture both met and did not meet my expectations. As always, lunch is a joy.”
Hearing each other’s daily morning routines, we are relieved that we are not alone in those first depressive moments of waiting for tea to boil in the cold morning. We remember that many of the other Unis are carrying out the same task. We take pride in the our seldom-broken morning habits. Any among us that have failed the morning routine - for example, woken up a minute before lecture and almost forgotten to change pajamas to unis before running across campus - will be motivated to return to their routine the next day.
“How are the carrots?”
“They are soft and overcooked. They are not the freshest carrots. However, they have been cut well.”
Nods spread around the table.
We mention many more constancies.
“How is the homework?”
“It is difficult at first glance. As I struggled with it, it became easier and I understood the material better.”
Nods; this was as it should be.
“How did you sleep last night?”
“I remember nothing of it.”
Nods; this was as it should be.
“What was the average grade on the exam?”
“It is an improvement over the first exam.”
Nods; for what mattered were not our individual grades, but the performance of the class as a whole.
Sometimes one of the new members will open eir pamphlets to glance at the standard questions. They soon learn, however, that there is little need: all ey needed was to not think too hard before asking the questions.
When we finish we line up to put our trays on the washing carousel. We say our goodbyes as we disperse to afternoon classes.