An hour ago I went down to the convenience store to get my traditional night time snack. The store is normally deserted or housing a few souls when I arrive there at half past 10. Any earlier than 10 and there is a constant crowd trying to find cheap dinner options. Close to the midnight hour a sudden rush of nocturnal students appears to get their fix before the store closes. Today when I headed down at the optimal time of half past 10, I was already expecting a crowd. Today, Monday May 4th, marks the first day of finals. As long as the convenience store is open, students will be rushing in and out for the duration of finals week. It makes for some interesting observations.
I bumped into an old acquaintance, who took the same introductory college course as I did. He grabbed a five hour energy just as I brought my items up to the checkout counter. “I really need this”, he told the cashier. “I’ve been up for 36 hours straight. I mean I’ve got three finals in one day. The work’s gotta get done.” Chris proceeded to pop the flask open and down the entire drink in one continuous gulp. I immediately got reminded of an incident in high school where a member of the football team downed five five hour energies in the span of two hours. Chris told me this was his third today. I can’t blame the guy; I have trouble staying awake after one sleepless night. Imagine not sleeping for two nights and going on to a third.
The girl behind me had made a direct beeline for the ice cream section. She was dressed in sweats, a sweatshirt, and flip flops; her hair messily thrown up in a bun. This girl wasn’t messing around because she went for the mid size pint container instead of the small individual cups. The last minute stresses of finals week leave little room for emotional comfort. I find a lot of students picking out their favorite comfort foods to keep them company throughout the night. Normally I could imagine a girl like her outlining her stresses to her friend group. However, during finals week it’s every person for themselves. As night approaches all her friends are probably scrambling too so something had to give in order to relieve the stress. I’m not judging, I’ve faced that familiar feeling before.
Whenever I’m searching for my drink while there’s a crowd in the store, I can always count on someone eyeing the caffeine stockpile. This only gets exaggerated during finals week. I glanced at this large, muscular, frat bro reaching through the freezer for a Monster Energy. I used to think only frat bros went for energy drinks until I attended a club meeting and the student senate representative showed up with a Monster. All I can say is that I identify all of these individuals as high risk takers because I’ve head Monster can really get your blood flowing (not in the good way).I recognized this individual as a member of the fraternity housed down the street from me.
They spent all of Friday and Saturday partying louder than any other time in the semester.To be honest, I hadn’t heard a peep from the frat house all semester. Occasionally I could hear some chatter within on a weekend night, but that was it. On Friday night I spotted people walking on the roof. Saturday the entire party shifted to a pickup truck. Quite an amusing sight as people were sitting on top of the truck, sticking their heads through the sun roof, and hanging out the windows. Before you ask, yes the pickup was stationary and parked in their backyard. In a similar light, as I passed the frat house tonight on my way to the convenience store I spotted (smelled more like it) a congregation smoking blunts outside. Now this gentleman stood next to me, smelling of Axe rather than weed, and gathering some energy drinks to aid him in the process of writing his paper. It wouldn’t be a far fetched guess to assume he would rather be joining his friends tonight, but like Chris, “The work’s gotta get done.”
I can’t blame any of these people when I take a look at the food choices sitting beside me right now. I picked up a Sprite because I like the taste and I need the sugar. The frozen quesadillas have become a staple dinner replacement during strenuous times, so I picked up a pack of those as well. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m eating a ton of saturated fat and sugar today, but just like the other people in the store, I required fuel to continue operating. I try to avoid comparing different peoples choices against each other in these scenarios because I value intent above everything else. We’re all using food or drink to make it through the night and I’m not “better” than anyone else just because I choose sugary sodas over energy drinks.
This is the other side of finals week where work gets done in very short periods of time and bodily fuel is in high demand. A professor I had freshman year once told me, “We can’t expect you to maintain this level of productivity throughout the semester, but finals week is always a rush.” She definitely was right about that. This makes me wonder to what extent professors are aware of the impact the stresses of finals week have on students. We’re cramming all kinds of unhealthy food into our systems to try and stay up all night while walking around like un-showered zombies in our sweatpants. I’m not saying professors are at fault, I just wonder if they take that into consideration when grading or designing their finals. The occasional good student doesn’t have to resort to such drastic measures, but my convenience store trips tell me they are definitely in the minority.
I’m in that majority group as well. Now that I’m fueled, focused, and done writing this blog post, I’m all set to finish writing my paper. Wish me luck, I still have a couple pages left and a presentation to write. It’s funny how these words fly so fast from my fingertips, but the mathematical text is taking painfully long to write.
*The featured image is my living room table. I attribute that mess to the stresses that the end of the school year brings. Before you tell my mother, my roommate had a part in that too.