I was convinced that I had seen everything until I watched the guy in front of me in the breakfast line at Mac slap two dollops of ketchup onto his pancakes and walk away like he didn’t just defy the laws of nature. I remember watching this event unfold in front of me and wondering if I was living in a simulation after all. I had endured the previous semester of college familiarizing myself with the prickly and speckled edges of my discomfort zone and pushing up against the boundaries of change and newness, only to become completely undone at the sinful culinary combination I had just witnessed.
To be quite honest, this is not the first time that I have felt a similar sort of taken aback. A couple months ago, I was having a conversation with a classmate who confessed that she actually reads the tags on her clothing and sorts them according to their laundry instructions whenever she needs to wash her clothes. Another friend confessed to me that he ties his shoes using a fourth technique that he made up on his own.
I have spent quite a lot of time reflecting on the quirks that I have observed on this campus. Some of them, like the soiled pancakes, have left me horrified, while others have left me amused, confused, intrigued, and impressed. All of them, however, have led me to come to a conclusion that had been compounding the second I stepped foot on campus for the first time this fall: people are museums that preserve and exhibit the practices, lessons, habits, and memories that have shaped them.
After all, these unconventional habits must come with a story. I know that my personal habit of eating goldfish with ketchup comes from my immigrant mother, who used to give me the snack with ketchup because she could not imagine eating such a dry food with no sauce—the way that Americans did. My classmate who divulged her laundry secrets told me that her mother worked at a laundromat for sometime, so she grew up learning how to properly take care of her clothes. And although I do not know the story behind my friend’s innovative lace-tying, I can imagine that there is one to be told.
If there is anything to take from my musings on the oddities of the people who walk this campus, it is that our littlest habits can expose the complexity of character and life experience that exist around us. I often feel that, as a college student, I am an amusement park of constant stimulus, surrounded by the history, memories, and intricacies that can birth deeper conversations and moments of interpersonal exploration. So, the next time you are grabbing lunch with someone who has a culinary quirk or unconventional habit, ask them about it—you never know what you’ll learn.
To the guy who put the ketchup on pancakes: I really wish I knew your story. Because you had to have a pretty damn good reason to commit such an abomination.
Featured Graphic by Liz Schwab/ Heights Editor