The Tragedy of the Commons

Punch Bowl War Correspondent Nikhil Menezes transcribes an anonymous account from newly declassified documents. They tell of a war, now forgotten.

Day 1

I heard a few kids whispering amongst themselves the other day, something about 1920 Commons having had enough. But I couldn’t take it seriously; Commons had been the universal punching bag of the school for too long. The dryness of their burgers, the excess grease of their pizza, the occasional rogue mouse or bird, they were the stitches that held together the social fabric of our campus. How could its weaver be responsible for its destruction?

Day 3

They stopped giving take-out trays today. There’s a tense air about campus and rumors are swirling around. Some say it’s the first step towards the implementation of a complete ban on exports. This hearsay was affirmed by the latest Penn Alert, that anyone who took a piece of fruit out of 1920 Commons cafeteria would not be the University’s responsibility.

Day 5

It happened. The bridge lies in ruins, mere rubble on the ground below. It was conducted in the night, the controlled explosion that toppled the bridge, our link to the other side of campus. Meanwhile, all possible exits have been blocked off by 15-foot high walls of ice cream containers, patrolled by guards armed with burning hot fry oil. Living in Harnwell, I find myself at the heart of what some have dubbed the Commons Sector. It is a rectangular area, its four sides being 40th, Spruce, Walnut and the now infamous 38th parallel.

Day 6

The mechanical plodding of the Commons Guard has become the only sound we set our clocks by. They inspected every room in the sector today, confiscating all foodstuffs. A roommate lost a bowl of homemade guacamole that he only made yesterday. The mood in the room is understandably grim. You can smell the burning cardboard, macaroni, fruit, ramen and popcorn from the food-fuelled bonfire on High Rise Field, our former nourishment transformed into a symbol of our subservience to the Commons Guard.

Day 7

Despite efforts to control our Wi-Fi and telephone lines, a few brave souls have managed to garner information about events across the 38th parallel. Hill Cafeteria attempted a reflective coup on their side, but the Walnut Street Entente of Chipotle, Bobby’s and Sweetgreen promptly shut it down in accordance with the Pinto Bean Treaty of 1976. Allegro’s, a supposed ally of the High Rise League has been reportedly shipping supplies of tomato sauce and grated cheese to 1920 Commons. Clearly we cannot count on liberation from the outside.

Day 8

It has been three days since the birth of the new regime and still I have not described our meals.  1920 Commons – whose name has been changed to the Great Commons – provides the sector with meals three times a day. We line up to the bottom of the left staircase and the queue stretches back so far that it dissolves into the horizon. A new rule dictates that one must eat everything one is served, regardless of the serving size allocated. All this must be done in the 20 minutes we are given to eat our meals. Nothing in the choice or scope of food is different, but the former sounds of the place; those echoes of camaraderie over the mediocre fare have been extinguished. We eat in silence.

Day 9

There is tension in the air; soldiers march with a particular purpose as the news slowly spreads by whisper. There has been a border breach; three individuals have broken the Walnut Street boundary. With them, our hopes lie.

Day 10

The Great Commons has broadcasted that a Huntsman-funded force has been put down outside the Bay of Smokes. I watch the would-be liberators being marched down Locust Walk, resplendent in their suits and ties. Even from my 22nd floor apartment I can see the terror in their eyes and the deep longing they must feel for the warmth of the Bridge Café.

Day 11

Good news at last! Those three intrepid fellows who found their way to the outside have convinced the Walnut Street Entente to intervene. Measures have become more draconian as the Great Commons senses its twilight. A good friend of mine whispered to me during lunch today that he was taking an apple in his pocket as he left. I have not heard from him since.

Day 12

The walls that have separated us from the world are slowly coming down, ice cream container by ice cream contained. The results of the Wawa Peace Conference have been revealed and harsh reparations agreed upon. These include unlimited Commons-specific guest swipes, mandates on cookie dough ice cream and a ban on overcooked pasta. As I write this, I am comforted by the metallic sound of construction tumbling through the air. The bridge is being rebuilt and I am secure, secure that Commons will not rise again.

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