The Fairfield University student body can be divided into two distinct categories: those who frequent Penny’s II on Blackrock Turnpike, and those who prefer the Athena Diner in Southport. I started my career at Fairfield as a Penny’s girl, but after waiting twenty-five minutes for cinnamon toast and countless cups of forgotten tea, I tried the Athena on a whim and have not looked back since.

Admittedly, the food quality of the two diners is equal; in my experience, diner food is diner food (unless the meal is at the Fairfield Diner and Vegetarian Enclave, and then it is just revolting). The Athena possesses a certain atmosphere that makes it more appealing than its counterpart to this college lady. The wait staff is pleasant and seems to appreciate the business of their college clientele. Pitchers of ice water are readily available. There is one of those claw machines that you can never win a stuffed animal from in the foyer. While these are all wonderful things to be sure, they are somewhat superficial, because in truth, I prefer the Athena because it is the site of more bonding experiences than I can count.

Walking in to get a bacon cheeseburger at 2:00 a.m. during finals and blow off steam would turn into a lengthy discussion about the loss of someone’s parent and the new understanding of mortality we were gaining. Over disco fries, plans were frantically drawn on napkins for the restaurant several of us plan on opening in five years in Florida-serving Mediterranean and seafood fare with a view. (I am currently in charge of designing the menu and the restaurant logo.) Decisions regarding careers and relationships were mulled over a cup of coffee. And through it all, the melodies of Jimmy Buffet and Frank Sinatra play on the mini-jukebox on the table.

Everyone needs their place, their hangout, where they can walk in and be shown to their regular table, order the same thing off the menu every time and call the manager “boss” as the check is paid (making sure to present a Fairfield i.d. at this time to obtain the discount as well). At heart, though, the place is somewhat irrelevant; it is glorified scenery. Fifteen years from now, it is not the color of the establishment’s wallpaper but rather who you went to this place with and what you talked about that will stick in your mind.

Lift your milkshake glasses-here’s to the memories and bon appetite.

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