Obey the guidelines: stop eating in large groups

We’ve all been there. We finally reach the end of the ridiculous Caf line, grab our food, and make our way to the dining tables, where we are confronted by a health and social faux pas: the over-occupied table. Where only one should be, two, three, or more sit together, eating, breathing, coughing all over each other. You glance around to see if anyone else has noticed this indiscretion (they have) and if they will be the ones to do something about it (they won’t). You momentarily consider saying something, but you ultimately decide it’s not your responsibility, pick a table far away, and observe the potential superspreader event from a safe distance. 

I have been this person. I have also been the extra person at the limited seating table. I am equally displeased with my performance in both roles.

In the latter, I knew what I was doing was wrong, and I knew that you all know what I was doing was wrong, but I could usually provide faulted justification for my actions. Yes, there are more than the pre-allocated number of people for this table, but we all live together, so it’s actually fine. If one of us has COVID-19, we all have it, no unnecessary risks here. However, I will admit that there have been occasions when I ate with people I didn’t live with, and we sat more than four to a table. And looking back, that was really shitty. At the moment, I tried to reason that cases on campus were down, we have been socially distanced for months, one meal together won’t kill anyone. Except that that is kind of the point. It might. 

My mother is currently working on the Covid floor of a hospital in St.Paul. She watches people die of COVID-19 literally every day, and so, for me personally, eating in large groups is kind of a slap in the face to her and all of the work she and others are doing to keep our communities healthy, safe, and alive. Obviously, I have made mistakes in this arena in the past weeks, but in reflecting further on the situation, I have attempted to be more conscious of my actions’ effects. No more pulling over chairs, no more overcrowding tables. But there is only so much I, or anyone, can do alone.

Our community health is reliant on the compliance of every single member with campus safety guidelines, and that includes how we take our meals. Now, this is not to say that I think that dining services alone has the ability to stop the spread of COVID-19, or even that their current protocols are particularly effective (check out the Facebook page Underheard At Luther), but I do acknowledge that they are the best enforceable instructions we have right now. This means, when you enter the Caf, follow the directive lines on the floors to minimize cross-contamination. Once you have your food, either sit at an appropriate table given your party size or leave. If you leave, do not go to Oneota and sit eleven people at a four-person table. That’s cringe. 

Finally, if you are the person witnessing the entire [insert sport team here] sitting together at one table, please consider being a better person than me. If you know them, be direct and ask them to space out. You could also direct the attention of one of the staff members to that table. Or, and hear me out, we could all make a pact right now, that when we see these groups, we will all just stare at them in passive-aggressive silence until they become too uncomfortable and leave. Remember, this tactic will only be successful if we all commit to it, so I am counting on you. Don’t let me down. 

Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations with which the author(s) are associated.