Because of my tendency to mumble vague feminist claims, or perhaps because of my decade-long ugly duckling phase, I have always been pinned with the word “jaded.” I suspect this is because my first crush called me “chipmunk face” too many times, so I eventually beat him up in second grade and then gave up on romance before I knew what it was. Well, it’s been a while since a member of the opposite sex called me “chipmunk” (okay, last month), but I still consider myself to be a person who is slow to love. There, I said it. I don’t love much. But I love Wawa. The Wa was introduced to me as the consolation prize of living in Forbes, but in the past year it has served as my dining hall, my pregame, and therapist. And once an offer of free medical advice.
First, I need to clarify some terminology. “Love” as a word has been reduced in meaning and is now almost as meaningless as “literally.” (Poor, poor “literally”.) Things I do love: family, non-teacup size dogs, and my friends. Everything else, I’m lying. I am a huge fraud with regard to love. Yeah, okay, I say that I love caprese salad and Shakespeare, but let’s get real, I would rather be eating red meat and watching Bridget Jones’ Diary. I’ve even said “I love you” to people when I didn’t mean it. The Wa is not in that category of unloved, and in fact it has filled the role of a significant other. I see it every day, usually twice, it takes all of my money, it has seen me cry, seen me vomit (only once!), and it has never judged me. Actually, based on that criterion, the Wa is better than every boyfriend I’ve ever had, and exponentially so, minus the part about stealing my money.
Wawa is probably the biggest financial investment I have ever made with my own money, and entirely worth it, considering it has saved from being hungry at 2am, having to drink dining hall coffee, and from feeling the pain/shame of an afternoon hangover. The Wa is the only place I need to go three times in the 12 hour-span I waste on going out and dealing with the consequences. Example: at 10 pm I offer to bring mixers so I have an excuse to buy ring pops, at 2 am I trick someone into walking me as far as the Wa and get something weird like Greek yogurt, V8 juice, and four chocolate chip cookies, and at 8:30am I visit the Wa again, which is my chance to find my prox and buy three liters of water. Unlike Frist pizza, the hookup-culture of dining, the Wa is not a one-night stand and if it were a person would never text anyone at midnight, “u out 2nite??” The Wa wants to hang out all the time, even during midterms when I am barely a human.
As much as we all lie to friends from home and ourselves, Princeton students inevitably spend more hours on school than on going out, which means more caffeine, which means more Wa. Ah yes, the bitter taste of procrastination—it tastes exactly like a 24oz Diet Coke spiked with a 5 Hour Energy at 3am on Dean’s Date. But guess what? The Wa is right there with me, quick to offer a friendly remark I’m never sure how to respond to because I lose all social skills in the 36th hour of awake-ness. Being seen at the Wa late at night or early in the morning, preferably with a backpack, buying enough study provisions for three consecutive finals weeks in Firestone is a serious plus. Sure, I look like hell, but I am continuously fighting people’s assumption that I’m an airhead (I think it’s the hair + accent), and buying coffee and pens at 1am on Princetoween helps combat that.
Wawa does not only does withhold judging me for buying a cherry slushie after a really long day three days running, but it has forged the foundation of my social life at Princeton. Okay maybe that is something of an overstatement, but the Wa is what helped me initiate some sort of social existence in college. During Frosh week, my first friend at school (who was shockingly also in my Zee group) would go with me to the Wa around 9:30 every night. Then, we would look for people we had met, usually other freshmen, who were buying any of the following: solo cups, liter bottles of off-brand soda, bottles of tonic water (v. fancy), ice. She is pretty smooth, something which I have never been accused of, so I let her do all the talking. Our goal was to get invited to pregames, where I assumed attractive and friendly upperclassmen would shower passbooks and answers to the Micro exam on us clueless freshmen. This Wawa-pregame plan of attack usually ended up working, surprisingly, but unfortunately the nature of the events we got ourselves invited to was more along the lines of “large sweaty freshmen boys and a guy-to-girl ratio you are cautioned to avoid in Seventeen magazine” than anything I had imagined.
Regardless of the quality of parties, the Wa was helpful in at least locating somewhere to go before engaging in a mosh pit that has the highest average SAT score in North America. More importantly and more relevant today, the Wa has helped me successfully trick people into walking with me partially back to Forbes instead of having to go alone which is a really cold, boring 15 minutes to spend late at night.
First step is finding someone who looks hungry yet resilient, which I have found will most likely be a guy. Then, I start talking about some delicious food that Frist or Studio 34 doesn’t have. This is also where a guy is the best bet. Have you ever seen a Wawa sub? Forgive me for throwing mild shade at the subject of my love, but I would rather stick with the snacks processed in a factory of some sort than take my chances on a convenience store’s take on chicken parm. But dudes? They love it, either through some biological flaw or Darwinian mutation. They get all hungry and convince themselves that, no, one piece of pizza simply will not do, and we must go to the Wa immediately to ensure no one goes to sleep before consuming, like, 3,000 calories.
Once I’ve baited my friend(s) with large drunk appetites, the hard work is basically done. Usually I forget all non-PUID forms of payment, and forget to pay people back with corresponding frequency, so once we’ve made it to the Wa I do the “take two steps in then sprint to the Annex” move. Of course if you decide to use this method, there is always a chance that the guy you convinced to go to the Wa with you thinks that he’s coming home with you. Depending on how cute you had to be (correction: thought you were being) to convince someone to walk with you, he may actually get kind of mad when he finds out this isn’t the case and shout “Tease!!” down the sidewalk as you skip towards Forbes shouting back something about having early class.
How to avoid this situation once you’re already at the Wawa:
- As previously stated, take one step into the Wa behind your companion, then backtrack and RUN.
- Throw him a curveball and break into a sprint at the old Dinky station and don’t look back.
- Very loudly and obviously state whatever food you’re buying is for your boyfriend. (This is also a great way to play off just how much you intend to eat.)
- Buy all the tampons on the premises and make sure everyone sees.
- Once you’ve purchased all of the tampons, start throwing them at people while shouting, “Feel the pain of women’s curse!”
- Buy food that others are grossed out by in a pre-hookup setting, like beef jerky, three boxes of Fiber One bars, or a gallon of chocolate milk. Get creative; it’s really fun watching sexual attraction literally melt off of a guy’s face.
Sure, I came for the coffee, but why do I stick around the Wa? At some point on one of my daily walks from Forbes to the real Princeton, I realized that this walk was the only interaction I had with non-school affiliated people. Sure, saying “Good morning” to the businessman that holds the door for me doesn’t exempt me from disappearing into the Princeton “bubble,” but I think any reminder that the world is bigger than the 08544 is important. It’s so easy to feel incompetent, uninteresting, and alone when you’re surrounded by thousands of really smart, engaging students and professors, and once you feel that way, reemerging is tough. I didn’t have anyone reminding me how insignificant my failed Arabic quiz is in the long-term, but these daily doses of normalcy I got just getting coffee at the Wa helped pull me out of the “I’m not good enough” vacuum.
In particular, one night (or early morning?) I was in the middle of writing a paper that I was certain would 1) take all night and 2) get a bad grade regardless. The cashier, whose name I really wish I remembered, said something to me that I completely missed and I fumbled to speak proper English. Accidentally dropping the contents of my change purse all over the counter, I mumbled, “Sorry, gosh I feel so stupid.” She looked at me very seriously and asked if I was a student. I said yes and she responded, “you can’t be that stupid if you go here.” It’s so simple, but I think we all need to hear some variation of “you can’t be that stupid” every once in a while, and twice a day during midterms. Maybe I will never get the curve-killing A+ in my classes, but the world won’t stop turning whether or not that happens. Maybe it’s embarrassing that it took a hundred trips to a convenience store to have that realization, but it’s important. Hey, reader! Wawa thinks you aren’t that stupid! Skip lecture and buy a slushie! Give your change to the woman who collects donations outside! There is a world that exists outside of precept, and I promise you it has great coffee.
Wawa has provided me with opportunities for nourishment (of sorts) and social engagement (kind of), and has taken care of me through my school career, always there with affordable coffee and an understanding that it’s okay to hum along to the radio. It’s the only postgame I believe in, the only restaurant I’ve ever given 5 stars on Yelp, and the only place I ever want to be before 7:30am. I like to think that the Wawa is a judgment-free oasis at Princeton, an oasis that deals in coffee, cigarettes, and, like any good friend is there 24 hours a day to remind me that there’s a world out there bigger than mine.