The Table, our place

Table veterans can tell someone’s new by the way he sits at the end and scoots his chair in, only to knock his knees against a poorly-placed support. Veteran and stranger share a laugh and, with that, the ice is broken.

In a world of infinite, instant, impersonal social connection, it’s easy to forget these places, the places we meet up, hang out and at which we try, failing, to study.

The Table is exactly what it sounds like, circumscribed by a spiraling stairway and no fewer than three hallways, walled in by the doors which lead outside to a statue of three naked girls dancing. It’s within spitting distance of concert hall, band room and philosophy department.

Between, after and during classes, The Table gives meaning and form to what would normally be featureless foyer, and to majors and minors and folks in the marching band, it’s every bit the watering hole.

Other campus cliques can’t compare. I don’t care if the Craig School of Business boasts a conference room by its thoroughfare, if the Student Union a Panda Express, if the Madden Library a Starbucks. None are so kind to friends, strangers or conversation as The Table, and no place on-campus has such a vibrant, public, welcoming community.

As only a landmark at a crossroads can, The Table draws together the unending soap opera of the music department.

It’s the perfect vantage point to see freshman arrivals and hear about departures, for steamy first kisses and thorny break-ups, for old jokes and fresh stress. Loud, baseless complaining meets its scrap of polite legitimacy here, and non-sequitur eccentricity is the currency of a good time.

The Table is not without its war wounds. A lacquer job fresh in my first year had scrapes, marks and wholesale trenches within a semester.

Perhaps someone fancying himself a crossword wizard would eschew the grandmaster’s choice of blue ballpoint, applying his thick, black Sharpie onto the newsprint of the Friday crossword, enough seeping through to The Table to leave stray scribbles. I imagine bits of the incorrect answer to Four Down and a misspelled Thirteen Across remain today, a legacy of ego and shortsightedness.

Careless freshmen tenor saxophone players would plop down in a seat liberated from the band room, throwing their case down upon The Table with such force that the noise would echo something terrible.

More lastingly, when admonishments encourage them to leave, their case takes some gloss from the veneer along for the ride.

Too-tired percussion pedagogy students, pencil in hand, would fall from study to sleep upon their notebook while waiting for class to start. Their head presses down on their hand with such force that the pencil’s graphite would embed itself, making a permanent gouge. Upon waking up, the sleeper in her shock cautiously shoves her backpack a few inches to the left, covering up the only groove she’d make that night.

Even considering all my classes and professors, the friends and open-mic nights, the salsa club and The Collegian, nothing represents Fresno State to me like The Table.

It isn’t in the best condition, sometimes attracting people not worth trying to like; it’s appreciated by those who know it best, and more unknown than it deserves.

Benjamin Baxter graduated in 2007 with a degree in print journalism. Yes, he’s Hannah’s brother and yes, he’ll be in the alumni band on Saturday.

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