March at St. Olaf
The Pause does not feel the same today. The dimly lit rooms are still there, alongside with the sweet scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies wafting in the air, faithfully providing students with a more “chill” hang-out vibe as they scurry to finish heavy-duty assignments before the next day. At 8 p.m. on a Monday evening in March, the load of people that the Pause welcomes reduces significantly from the large crowds on the weekends. Now, the biggest friend group present only consists of four people. The big window panels mounted on the walls prevent any chilly, humid air from entering the indoor environment. On the other side of its transparent surface, the late night Minnesotan sky threatens to snow again, like it has been doing for the last five months. Just in time for Spring Break.
On the table at the far end of the Jungle, a section of the Pause populated with diner booths and single vintage tables, sat a group of teenagers chatting loudly. Laptops, notebooks, planners and paper-clipped assignments, either scattered around them or laid out before them, are paid no attention to. Though immersed in two completely different conversations, their appearance and demeanor speak of the same private, liberal arts college universe that they occupy. The girl that is sitting nearest to me has her back to my vision. She is animatedly conversing with her friend in high-pitched excitement, this makes her fairly long, brown curls that are cascading down her yellow shirt bounce up and down from time to time. The friend on the other end of her conversation wears expensive and stylish clothes, his attention split between listening to the enthusiastic girl and keeping track of whatever is happening on his iPad screen. Participating in the other conversation within this chattery group sits a tomboyish looking girl, whose St. Olaf cap covers most of her pixie haircut but not the bright smile on her face. Oddly enough, she is delivering the patriotic tune of the National Anthem with a gentle, calming voice. The charming-looking guy sitting next to her is clearly captivated by her performance, as seen clearly through his gaze behind the oversized, round eyeglasses sitting on his nose.
I cut right into the conversation as it turned into a group discussion about enchiladas – a heated debate about whether or not spicy enchiladas are better than the non-spicy kind. When asked where they would like to be then, if they could be anywhere, the girl with bouncy curls replied without hesitation: “Austin, Texas!” – She replied excitedly. “Home sweet home for Spring Break!” As the stylish-looking guy next to her takes five more seconds to think, his attention still splits between the iPad screen and the conversation still, his face breaks into a smile: “Literally anywhere but the Hill.”
Shifting comfortably on the couch near the walls and away from this group, a skinny European teenager sinks into oblivion, unaware of the commotion going on around him. He sits a laptop on his right thigh and a game controller on his left. A caf tray is set on the table before him, stacked with plates that seems to have been finished, except for one dish of spaghetti drenched in marinara sauce that is left untouched. The boy stared at the sword-slinging, armor-wearing animated knight on the big screen while having some sort of political debate on YouTube projecting from the earbuds that were plugged deep into his ears.
Outside, it starts to snow, just in time for Spring Break at St. Olaf.