Bagels and Baby Steps
I tentatively untwisted the tie holding the crinkled plastic sack closed, and plunged my hand down into its depths. My fingers grasped around for a bagel, and I eventually pulled one out. I examined it closely, and almost decided to walk back to my table then and there. My gaze moved towards the toaster—a menacing, glowing conveyor belt of heat.
I have used toasters like this before, so part of me didn’t understand why I was so anxious about this one. Casually, I ambled over to the terrifying machine, bagel in hand. Placing the bagel halves on the top of the belt, I furtively looked around and was relieved that no one was watching me fumble with such an easy task. In my haste, I put them in face-up. Oh well. They were quickly obscured by the mouth of the toaster, and I soon heard two dull clunks, one after another, indicating that my breakfast had reached the end of its toaster journey. But where were they? Why weren’t the clunks followed by ‘swooshes’ as the bagel halves slid down the metal slide underneath the toaster? My worst breakfast nightmare came true when I looked into the machine: My bagel halves were stuck at the back of the terrible toaster. With heat radiating onto my face, I squatted down, reaching dangerously close to the dreaded machine in a desperate attempt to retrieve my bagel chunks. Finally, I got them out. I took a deep breath and reminded myself that nobody cared that my bagel halves were toasted on the wrong side and had to be dug out from the back of the toaster. The hint of personal triumph made them taste even more delicious.
“Fear of the toaster” sounds so juvenile. Yes, they can burn you or erupt into flames, but everybody knows how to use them, even the fancy conveyor-style ones in the cafeteria, myself included. So why couldn’t I bring myself to use the one in the cafeteria until this week?
I equate my edible successes in the cafeteria to my adjustment to college overall. During the first couple of tormented days, I only ate salad. The amount of people swarming around the other stations disconcerted me, so I stuck with the first thing I saw. Then I made a friend to eat with, and with her and our shared neuroticisms on my side, we both began exploring the other stations. It took two and a half weeks for us to make it to the back of the cafeteria, where the pizza is.
The level of comfort we found in our meal-time experience directly correlated with our comfort living in college. As time went by, we became more adventurous—visiting the dessert table, getting ice cream, making tea, as well as going to the fifth floor of the library, finding the craft room in the UC, and meeting more people. All of these little, insignificant things that everybody did long before us with ease symbolized the progression of our adjustment.
Look at me now! I am a bagel-toasting, tea-making, ice-cream swirling pro. All it took was a little time, and some support from a friend.