Luke Stone ’20
The Fir Tree has been a Woodberry staple for decades. It, like many things around here, has stayed the same for years. Fir Tree online ordering should not continue because the continuation of such a system will create more logistical problems for the Fir Tree, it will make students more entitled, and it will reduce the Fir Tree’s social significance.
Online ordering at the Fir Tree should not continue and expand because doing so will likely create more logistical headaches for the Fir Tree. The Fir Tree’s online ordering system was created with the goal of “helping the Fir Tree itself become more productive and responsive” by eliminating the rush of orders that inevitably occurs at 8:45 PM and 10:00 PM during the week. The project’s proponents believe that online orders will make the Fir Tree more efficient because the Fir Tree can begin preparing and cooking online orders at 8:30 PM when it opens.
But online ordering will not magically make the Fir Tree’s kitchen able to process more orders at one time. The Fir Tree staff may be able to prepare those select online orders for people before 8:45, but when another fifteen people stand in line at break, the Fir Tree will still experience those same backlogs that occur every other night. “Well,” one might say, “Once the administration allows the expansion of online ordering, the Fir Tree will run more efficiently.” This is not so. If the administration allows a larger number of online orders, the Fir Tree could be servicing online orders until 8:50 or 8:55, making both online customers and in-store customers late to the second half of study hall as a result. While these logistical problems are certainly fixable, they still remain largely unsolved, particularly as this program expands.
The Fir Tree online ordering system will make us more entitled. Our generation has been referred to as the “me” generation. The stereotype is that we expect our parents, our employers, and our teachers to rearrange their lives to make ours more convenient. And online ordering plays straight into that trap by making us feel entitled to have Fir Tree food as quickly as we can.
Contrary to what some may think, the Fir Tree is not a right. No one is entitled to his food at the Fir Tree. For many, Woodberry is a humbling experience. It makes us realize that we are not nearly as important as we sometimes perceive ourselves to be. Having this online ordering system makes it seem as if every student has some sort of God-given right to Fir Tree food at break. We don’t. We have a full service dining hall that is open every single meal of every single day that can keep you from going hungry. Don’t like the meal at breakfast or lunch? Try the salad bar. Don’t like dinner on a seated meal night? Step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. The Fir Tree is not essential to serve your basic needs. The Fir Tree is a luxury. We don’t need the Fir Tree. The natural next question is, “Where will this lead?” If we are entitled to Fir Tree food online, should we also ask the dining hall staff to prepare plates for us to grab at lunch? Of course not. In the dining hall, we should all wait in line for our food the same way that we should all wait in line at the Fir Tree.
The online ordering platform’s website, firtreeweb.com, states that the project was created with the goal of “giving Woodberry students better access to Fir Tree food regardless of their geographic locations on campus.” While this program was launched as a superfluous, egalitarian crusade, it actually makes the Fir Tree even more unequal. This program gives exclusive preferential treatment to the first ten people who order online in the same way that our campus’s geography gives an advantage to people who live on A Dorm in the race to the Fir Tree. If you want food at the Fir Tree so badly, surely you can bear the burden of waiting in a line for five to ten minutes. And if you get there too late, I truly have faith that you can make it through the night just a little hungry. Even if for some reason you don’t think you can survive, try the free cereal, yogurt, or fruit just twenty feet to your right as you walk in from outside.
Most significantly, Fir Tree online ordering should not continue because it will erode the Fir Tree’s significance as a social gathering spot. There are certain places on this campus that we hold sacred, places that always have been and always will be more than just a chapel, a field, or a walkway. No matter how much the society or the culture around those places changes, the places themselves never seem to change. These places have the same pews, the same benches, and the same bricks that generations of Woodberry boys before us used. And even if these places don’t have the same original materials, they were likely remodeled with special care to ensure that the experiences boys had in these places were similar experiences to the ones that their forebears had.
In his sermon last Monday, Dr. Hulsey spoke about how supportive our alumni community is. While there are many different reasons that alumni choose to support the school, one of the most common reasons is the sense of a shared experience. And like it or not, standing in line at the Fir Tree is a shared experience that forces us to interact with one another just as we should.
Our community values relationships. For decades, the Fir Tree has served as a fundamental building block of lifelong friendships. It’s where you take a friend who’s feeling down about something that happened at home. It’s the place where you take your semi-formal date or formal date on Friday night when she arrives. It’s where you go to hang out on Saturday after class when you don’t want to wait for the dining hall to open. Online ordering seems to be bent on destroying the Fir Tree’s communal significance by making it easier for a boy to come down, get his food, and go back to his room. I know that one of the visionaries behind this system said in an email that online ordering allows a boy to “spend more time with [his] friends,” but an email exchange I had with him earlier this week proves otherwise. Nam Bui ‘19 said, “pre-ordered dishes would be put inside the box with the customer’s name written up top.” Because the online orders are placed directly into boxes (and treated as to-go orders) it is evident that the primary purpose of the online ordering system is to make it easy for people come to the Fir Tree, pay, and leave with as little human interaction as possible. That’s not what the Fir Tree is for, and that’s not what it should become. If we allow this to continue, new students will come next year and think that online ordering is the way to go when, in reality, it will lessen their chances of getting to know their classmates by standing in line, ordering, and eating at the Fir Tree.
Just because online ordering has become ubiquitous in the rest of the world does not mean that we should use such a system here. As Dr. Smith once said during an Invite Back Weekend speech, “Woodberry is not the real world. And we don’t want it to be.” We don’t want online ordering, no matter how convenient it may be, because its continuation will create more logistical problems, it will make students more entitled, and it will erode the Fir Tree’s social significance in this community.
The views expressed in this article do not, in any way, represent the views of the editorial board, our faculty adviser, Mr. Guldin, nor the opinion of The Oracle as a whole.