In the student center, Princetonians assiduously smooth tin foil over the lids of their sodas. In Chancellor Green, others slip Snapples up their sleeves. On B and C floors, computers are turned off, books repacked, North Faces solemnly slung over one arm. Carrels empty out into the computer clusters, as the world of Firestone prepares for its last email check.
Suddenly, a deafening buzzer sounds overhead. Denizens of the library officially begin their nightly trek up to the A-floor, to the low-ceilinged, overheated, pseudo-study den of procrastination, the "Sober Street" where caffeine flows like beer. After hours of hardcore B and C floor studying, the first signs of the Reserve Room – the gentle hum of gossip, the steady 8-6423 song of the voicemail phone – appear like the land of milk and honey.
However, the truly unproductive know that to secure the most accessible seats, it is best to arrive immediately after late dinner, in order to catch the crucial first half-hour of people watching. After turning on the computer, pulling out the Diet Coke and student center candy and placing the requisite copy of Art in Theory in conspicuous view, the dedicated Reserve Roomite turns to the entrance for the show of the evening, noting who comes in and who sits where and for the comic relief of the occasional rookie colliding into the Exit turnstile.
This prototypical Reserve Room "studier" is rarely, if ever, seen working. The female of the genus can be identified by her strange juxtaposition of impeccable makeup and running sneakers, scholarly glasses and vintage jeans – the statement that says "I'm studying" almost as much as the Psych 101 textbook in her hand. Males traditionally sport plaid button downs or bar-affiliated T-shirts and take full advantage of the blue swivel chairs. They turn from side to side to intercept their counterparts and the latest gossip these girls bring as they flit from carrel to carrel on the Loop.
The Loop is the most latent but most rigidly observed ritual of the Reserve Room. Whereas the B and C floor Loop maneuvers involve various staircases and often sham call numbers as a pretext for procrastination, the Reserve Room Loop has no shame. Beginning at the entrance to the Reserve Desk, a fully executed Loop can take as long as an hour and will bring you past every desk, table and disintegrating chair on A-floor. Seats are specifically chosen with regard to Loop proximity. The tables fill up earliest, then the carrels as North Face insignias and pea coats gradually spread outwards.
The focal point of the Loop is the circle tables situated between the intersection of the exit and the entrance and, more importantly, of the bathroom and the phone. Those who are not actively Looping are fully aware of the Loopers. Though ostensibly engrossed in The Principles of Corporate Finance and PST's six song lineup, they are poised at any moment to take off their headphones and hear who did what in the TI taproom.
The Reserve Room, as widely known, is not a place to study. The proud and the dedicated like to think of it as a "studying club." Much as our eating clubs are less places to eat than places to drink beer and socialize, the University Reserve Club (which will soon be featuring passes) is less a place to study than a place to chat over a Kiwi-Strawberry Cocktail and a Lemon Nestea, a place to trade gossip and yogurt pretzels, where happiness is having three new messages and where streakers – unless they break the windows – are nearly blasé.
(Double Take was written and edited between 4 and 5 a.m. in Firestone's Reserve Room.)