There’s a line in The Great Gatsby where Jordan Baker is comparing large and small social gatherings and she remarks, “…I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”
Remember that time you and your boyfriend or casual hookup partner or close friend decided to call it quits or had to have some sort of serious conversation about some (allegedly) awful thing threatening your relationship? Or remember when you just had to vent about how your “friend” was saying nasty things behind your back or about how schoolwork was stressing you out to the point where you couldn’t handle it? Where did you go to hold this conversation? More likely than not it was Caseys’ Corner, McDaniel’s premium coffee shop on campus.
Similarly to how people in mob movies go to public places like restaurants or city squares to have meet-ups and not get killed, it seems to be that at McDaniel College students (and even faculty) flock to Caseys’ Corner to have their un-fun talks with people they really don’t want to see. There is a mutual understanding that at Caseys’ Corner you are out in plain view and aren’t considered sneaking around by your friends, but you have that peculiar kind of privacy where everyone around you leaves you alone and oddly avoids all eye contact whatsoever. It’s the kind of privacy in plain sight that Jordan Baker was so drawn to, that intimate interaction without feeling confined to a cramped dormitory where you can’t leave easily.
It’s not that Caseys’ Corner is a place of ultimate aesthetic value or a cozy location stocked with good books and sweet aromas seeping from the cappuccino machines; there is no artwork, the heat is rarely consistent and music is never playing. The most entertaining thing to happen inside this coffee shop is that sometimes snooty customers in North Face gear come in and demand some sort of complicated, caffeinated beverage with about four extra ingredients and obviously skim milk. The charm, then, if that’s what we want to call it, comes from the fact that Caseys’ Corner is just the place to go. It is located roughly in the middle of campus; when you leave your unfortunate chat you can go into the library (which has a lot of good hiding spots – trust me) and at the very worst you can still get yourself a half-decent cup of tea or coffee.
Now as the semester begins to get to that point where things are starting to wrap up, stress and tension rises exponentially. Term papers and final exams overwhelm students and they call upon their friends to meet them in Caseys’ Corner to unwind a bit. Guys see their ex-girlfriends holding hands with some lame, scruffy dude walking across campus and need to vent to someone about it. Students will likely come back in late November from having performed the infamous “Turkey Dump,” where you go home for Thanksgiving and end your relationship with your partner from home, and need to meet up in the coffee shop to discuss how that went.
Regardless of the reason, in the coming weeks Caseys’ Corner is going to be more crowded than a Best Buy on Black Friday. There will be so many emotions and hormones flying around that it will make me nauseous just being in there. What needs to happen is that students should get creative with where they meet: the Pub, back corners of the library, various academic buildings – it doesn’t matter. Even take advantage of those random days in November and December that are warmer than the most beautiful April afternoon and go walk around. Caseys’ Corner, both the space and the workers making coffee, will not being able to handle the influx of pissy young adults as the semester comes to a close.