The Next Black Death

Here’s the fear as I understand it: on a random Tuesday morning, every Bates Student will wake up with three urges heaving in their chest. One, the need for immediate tea (or coffee). Two, the need for it right now. Three, the need to take that infamous plastic, sturdy black mug to go.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., there will be a mad dash to the Commons stacks. Within an hour, every black mug that was so carefully cared for will have disappeared, never to return. They will be in our bags, on our desks, wedged between the seats of our cars. Visitors will leave Commons with parched lips and stripped throats. People will have to resort to cups (!) for hot beverages. We will look like hooligans, and feel like fools. It will be the next black death.

Now, I don’t doubt that most of us have one or two (or three, or four) mugs lurking somewhere. Nor do I doubt that mugs are expensive. A quick google search yields bulk prices at several bucks a pop, and those mugs don’t even have the soft, rounded edges and hidden scratches that our beloved beverage holders do. That adds up, and there’s no reason that our tuition should be funding additional mugs if the ones we have are working. But I do know that taking a mug out of the dining hall is treated as a sort of low level crime. People are corrected and reprimanded, but (most of the time) they keep walking. So, I ask you: Why? Why don’t we just let the Black Death strike?

I propose the radical: Let the mugs leave Commons! Freely. Happily. If students are irresponsible or forgetful enough to deplete the entire supply, then don’t replenish it. We will learn more from our mugless mornings then we will from the soft reprimands and public signs. Create a “staff, faculty and visitors only” mug station, if you will, so as not to inconvenience the entire school. I know that us students are not the entire school, and we are better off for it. But we are also not just in school, we are learning to live. And living means learning how to handle property that’s not ours. It means dealing with the consequences of our peers’ irresponsibility or forgetfulness as well as ours: owning up to it, figuring it out.

I also know that the mug rule is more than about us. It’s about our hardworking dishwashers and dining staff. It’s about having enough inventory and access for all of the people who use Commons, not just the students. It’s about the cleanliness and safety of avoiding another germ infestation. Haven’t you had enough, you ask? Aren’t you ready to take it easy for a second?

In theory, then, to-go mugs are a reasonable request. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to get our hands on them, and any argument otherwise is mostly full of fluff. But if we’re going to refuse to do the obvious, to do the easy, then let us die in our own mud! Let us slowly die The Black Death.