The Pros and Cons of Food Courts
Arntzen Hall is a typical college building in the middle of western Washington University’s campus. It does not seem like much from the outside as it appears to be a plain old building with grey stained walls. Upon entering this building, you can see students taking smoke breaks outside as other students are entering and leaving through the multiple sets of doors. Everyone is trying to get somewhere and is rushing. Both a Starbucks and a small market are visible through the windows. It contains the largest lecture halls on campus and is home to multiple typical fast food eateries that many students enjoy. These eateries also include Topio’s Pizza and Subway, which are located in a spacious dining room called the atrium. Because of this, the environment of the atrium is energetic, productive, and slightly chaotic.
With speckled tile floors and red brick wallpaper, the atrium is highly similar to a high school cafeteria or a food court, which is something almost all American teenagers are familiar with. From the perspective of someone who does not come to these types of places often, the high-energy feel can be comforting, exciting, and welcomed. No matter where you reside, individuals all over America can be seen constantly waiting in long lines, chatting with their friends, studying, staring off into space after a long day, talking on the phone, etc. With all the different people coming into the atrium every day, it is no different. It can be a fun place to meet up with new friends, eat lunch, and hang out. It is recognized as a place to socialize and it is positive in that it allows a school with 15 thousand students a way to be more like a smaller community.
However, as I am a student at western who goes to the atrium every day for work or class, this building does not appeal to me in the same way it would for a newbie because of it’s environment. Overall, the building always strongly smells of the sickly sweet subway bread dough cooking in the ovens. Snippets of conversations can be heard from most friend groups all over the dining areas. Lines of students block pathways and food products. There is also always a sea of students who are bored, tired, and hungry after just having been in class for almost 2 hours and there are rarely free tables during busy points of the day. Because of this constant flow of distraction and dysfunction, the atrium can be an easy place to waste time, get a headache, and become overwhelmed or panicked. Even western students agree that the eateries can be too hectic. An example of this is when an anonymous western student said in a podcast, “I’ll pass by Starbucks in the morning through the atrium and there’s a line that goes on, there’s probably like 25 people in the line, so I don’t understand that but I guess they just really like their Starbucks.” From this we learn that, no matter how fun a typical mall or theme park is to the consumer, the employees working for the companies generally dread their shifts as it just means working a typical minimum wage job in a loud environment.
Crowded events or buildings appeal to many because they are relatively upbeat places to have fun during the day. However, with every good aspect of a situation comes a bad one. The atmospheres can lend themselves to be both fun and positive, or disorderly and annoying. This is unavoidable as the conditions of places like the atrium just come along with the large number of people passing through it everyday. Similarly to all cafeterias, food courts, and dining halls in different states, their uses can range from a space to study, a relaxing area to retreat between activities, a new way to meet up and spend time with friends, and many more options depending on what the person wants from it. It is the environment that allows places like the atrium to be one of the standout places the general population enjoys.