Lounge, home-away-from-home, faces renovation

By Angela Clem

It’s 6:57 p.m. on a Monday night. I hear the muffled collision of pool balls from across the student lounge as I make my way to a table and settle in. “Gold Digger” is blasting. Fresh popcorn is tumbling out of the pot in the corner, permeating the room with the fragrance of salt and butter. If you don’t like pool or Kanye, fine, but no one can say no to free popcorn. Located in the basement of the Campus Center, the student lounge is a place where Mac students come together to temporarily escape the hustle and bustle of campus life and academic stress. The lounge is staffed by student employees with the all-encompassing title of “building manager.” These students perform various tasks in the Campus Center, but building manager Rachel Perry ’15 says working in the lounge is her favorite part of the job. “It’s the easiest job you can do as a building manager because you sit behind the counter in front of the computer, and you play music if you know people aren’t watching TV or playing video games,” Perry said. In addition to the role of lounge DJ, building managers also have the responsibilities of keeping the lounge clean, the popcorn popping and the game supplies in circulation. Students use their IDs to rent out pool balls, board games, ping-pong supplies and video games. The student lounge is scheduled for renovations that are expected to conclude in Spring 2013. Many students, including Damion Prendergast ’15, are concerned about the continuation of their favorite lounge activities. “I’ve already emailed someone about it, actually … they need to keep pool and FIFA in [their plans],” Prendergast said. “Usually, I work, and then look forward to 11 or 12 when I come down here for a break. If there’s nothing here, then there’s nothing on campus for me.” From her seat behind the counter, Perry and other building managers have a unique understanding of the inner workings of the lounge’s subculture. The upcoming changes will be especially significant to those who staff the lounge. The most important attribute to maintain is the laid-back vibe. “I hope they keep [the lounge] very relaxed, and a safe haven for students getting away from their college lives,” Perry said. In Perry’s experience, the most popular supplies are the pool balls and video games. The lounge’s system of choice (PlayStation 3) offers options such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and FIFA 2012. FIFA is the ideal stress relief for Prendergast, who ranks the lounge as his favorite campus scene, second only to the Leonard Center. “I [visit the lounge] probably every night, whenever I need some stress release … it’s definitely an unwinding spot,” Prendergast said. “If I’m playing FIFA, I’m down here for an hour and a half or two hours.” The basement offers Prendergast and other students the opportunity to relax before returning to their studies. It’s rare to see crossover between Macalester’s academic world and the lounge culture; few students visit and expect to study seriously because of the lounge’s atmosphere. Even for Perry, it’s difficult to think of schoolwork in such a laid-back setting. “I admit that I don’t really get anything done, although building managers are allowed to do homework,” Perry said, laughing. Building managers are integral in creating the lounge atmosphere. While they typically utilize a personal playlist, they will also play any student requests. During the lounge’s busiest hours, the cacophony of voices, music, television and games creates a surprisingly mellow environment. One of Prendergast’s favorite experiences is playing Dominoes with friends. “When all the Jamaicans are down here, it’s loud. Loud and boisterous,” Prendergast said. Pool is another popular choice. Elijah Wohl ’15 plays for up to an hour almost every day. “I like pool because it’s more of a group game, and I almost always come down here with friends,” Wohl said. “The first orientation event I skipped, I was down here playing pool. It was how I met a lot of my current friends, actually … I came down to check my SPO and people just called me over.” In contrast to the regulars that frequent the lounge, many visit simply for the free popcorn. In just three hours of observation, I saw more than 40 students walk in just to scoop a bag of popcorn and then leave (plus, I couldn’t avoid grabbing a bag for myself). The openness of the lounge allows for both regular and infrequent visitors without being exclusive or displacing anyone. While many Mac students may be temporarily inconvenienced by the lounge’s imminent renovations—where will the popcorn machine be moved?—it remains to be seen how the lounge subculture will be affected for the duration of the remodeling process. refresh –>