Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Person, Place, Perception

At long last the New Year's Resolvers have fled the gym. Pre-January Monday levels are still high, but it isn't a beehive anymore. This observation reminded me of another incident a few days ago. The Weinstein all-you-can-eat dining hall (known as "Downstein," it is located below the "Upstein" food court) hits normal peak hours around 7pm on weekdays. At fill tilt, Downstein hosts about 80-100 kids and the wait for the grill is two minutes tops. Certain Saturdays, kids from an inner-city high school are fed at NYU dining halls (I don't know why).

Well, I made my Saturday lunch run to Downstein only to find a swarm in excess of 500 high school kids. Loud and rude, they held up the grill for ten minutes. By the time my order was up, there was no chicken. I left without eating and went to another dining hall, but while braving The Shit I realized how completely this throng of young people transformed the space for me. I barely recognized the room in which I stood, and in which I stand almost every day. The people made the place wholly different: I had the intense sensation that I was getting lunch back at Eastview. The crowd, the noise, the judging and the sense of being judged. It was all very transporting.

I realized that one's perception of a place is heavily tempered by the human presence in that place. The gym, Downstein, it's true anywhere.