Dartbeat Mythbusters: The FoCo Challenge
I would like to begin with the observation that the “FoCo Challenge” is a complete misnomer. When I was tasked with examining this Dartmouth tradition, I thought of it as a challenge in the usual sense —an activity that a person must strive to overcome with some great physical, mental or emotional strength. In short, I thought of it in the same way that I thought of running a four-minute mile, writing the greatest collection of sonnets in the English language or passing Econ 20. I have done none of these things. Zero. But now that I have remained in FoCo for an entire day and stuffed my face with several meals for the price of one, I can tell you that there is no possible way it is equivalent to these feats. Of course, not all agree with me. Some say completing the FoCo challenge makes you a fiscally responsible hero. Others say it involves unfairly duping the College out of two meal swipes and should be banned, or at the very least frowned upon. Me? Well, I chose to ignore my questionable moral compass and sedentary lifestyle and imagine that I’m now a Dartmouth legend for having completed the challenge. If you’re still unconvinced, here are some highlights of my mind-numbingly uneventful Sunday in FoCo:
11:30 a.m.: Use my first and last meal swipe of the day to enter FoCo. Screen near the entrance shows that today’s brunch includes a CINNAMON WAFFLE BAR AND EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE FALLS INTO PLACE.
11:45 a.m.: Set up shack in a comfy booth, where I will remain for nine (9!) hours. Head to the waffle bar, accidentally step on the Bean Boots of the gentleman standing ahead of me in line, apologize. He gives me a forgiving nod and the waffle tongs. I debate conjuring my inner FoCo Joe to make a unique breakfast but settle for two waffles, some whipped cream and chocolate chips.
11:47 a.m.: Return to my table to find that my friends have spilled OJ all over FoCo and themselves. Proceed to haphazardly dump the contents of an entire napkin dispenser onto the area. [Side note: The table is fine. My friend’s jacket, however, remains a bit “crusty.”]
11:50 a.m.: First bite of my chicken (nuggets) and waffle entrée. Happiness ensues.
2:00 p.m.: Still a good number of people on the light side finishing up their lunches. Have managed to overeat and my phone has died three separate times. Need to move seats and find a power outlet, BUT I’ve gotten a head start on my homework so I’m feeling productive.
2:15 p.m.: Power outlet found and OH MY GOD THERE IS A BABY SITTING IN A HIGH CHAIR ACROSS FROM ME. He is stacking cups and his family is clapping for him. Sights of this cutie help me forget that FoCo is closing in 15 minutes and that I am slowly being abandoned. Mom tries to brush the cutie’s teeth and he begins to cry/shriek/snort.
2:30 p.m.: FoCo is officially a no-man’s land. Everyone has cleared out and the dining hall won’t reopen for dinner for another two and a half hours. Four people remain on the light side, including myself.
3:15 p.m.: The pile of plates from my last couple of meals is starting to stink up my table. There is no one in the room to smell / judge me. I do not move the plates.
3:45 p.m.: I am so bored that I get up and pour myself several glasses of water.
4:00 p.m.: Total ennui. Time is a cage and the cage is filled with black plastic chairs and white tables.
4:45 p.m.: I smell food. Suddenly I can see (smell) a glitter of hope.
5:00 p.m.: People start trickling in. My heart begins to swell with happiness.
5:10 p.m.: I get up to get dinner and am pleasantly surprised by the Ma Thayer food options—pork loin, smashed potatoes and lazy lasagna.
5:20 p.m.: I spend the next ten minutes reading a New York Times article on the difference between mashed potatoes and smashed potatoes. I think of commenting, but decide not to.
5:30 p.m.: I decide to give up on the pork loin now that my friend has successfully spent the last 20 minutes referring to a single piece of it on my plate as “Snuffles.”
7:30 p.m.: Two hours gone without an observation of any note. Circulation to the extremities is fading. I want to be anywhere other than here.
7:45 p.m.: Overhear a student talking about how beautiful the weather was today. Order a sun lamp on Amazon. I try to get one in the shape of a sun wearing sunglasses, but it’s sold out.
8:00 p.m.: I watch two couples have dinner at two separate high tables. I come up with fake backstories for each of them. One couple met on a Carnival cruise. The second couple met on FFB. He was filling up his Camelbak when she rolled out of the women’s bathroom and ran straight into him. It was love at first sight.
8:15 p.m.: I wish someone would find me and kick me out. I cannot stay another minute in this hellscape.
8:20 p.m.: Make three trips in total to dump the piles of plates/utensils and the mountain of napkins I have accumulated on my table.
8:21 p.m.: Spend a minute wondering what it will feel like to leave. Decide it will be good.
8:30 p.m.: Finally (!) walk out of FoCo in style. By style, I mean I trip in front of a DDS worker and then limp to Starbucks.
Well, there you have it. I did it. I completed the FoCo Challenge, and instead of the “IM Champion” t-shirt I was hoping for I got a stomach ache and a mild case of social anxiety. But on the upside, I have two extra meal swipes!
Editor’s Note: While the majority of the observations in this piece are accurate, parts of our reporting have been fictionalized.