Banging on a Lunch Tray

As I near the end of Daniel Levitin’s This Is Your Brain On Music, I recall certain memories with great emotional implications. Without getting too deep into the book content, our ears connect to the parts of the brain that determine movement, which, in turn, is connected to emotion.

It’s complicated and interesting. Someone should write a book about it…oh, wait.

Music is the great equalizer.

Back when I was just a wee lass on a college campus, I had yet to connect with anyone. I had purposely chosen a college that was over 1,000 miles from home. I knew no one. My schedule was 19 hours (the norm was 16), I was apathetic toward my roommate, and my stomach was tied into a knot of apprehensive fear.

The first day of classes, I made my way to Phelps Hall to experience the culinary perfection that is college dining. I clutched my tray, white knuckled, and slunk into a seat in the corner with the prayer, “Please don’t let anyone notice me. Please let someone come talk to me.”

Lesson number 1: Not many people show up to lunch within the first half-hour of open hours.

That was fine. I’m not really that sociable anyway. I had a book with me.

Then, something amazing happened.

As most common eating areas are wont to do, music was piped in through the speakers. In most cases, these speakers are tuned to either something everyone will enjoy (like a top 40 station) or something everyone will hate (like the college radio station). By lucky happenstance, it was set to top 40 and I was sitting under a speaker.

Cue Tainted Love by Soft Cell.

Lesson number 2: Everyone knows Tainted Love by Soft Cell.

I started a head bob, nothing too overt.

Then, something magical happened.

Thump, thump.

Someone slammed their fist down on the table in time to the music. You know the part. You did it in your head right then.

As the song continued, so did the pounding. By the end, everyone in the dining hall was banging a tray, stomping their feet, and singing along.

I was nearly in tears, thinking: ‘My people…I have found them.’

There was a piano in the dining hall, and, over the course of my college career, there were several sing-alongs. (My school had a ridiculously successful music program and about half of the student population had either a music-related minor or major)

My last visit to Phelps Hall for the Up-All-Night Breakfast, senior year, days before graduation, I entered with my group of friends that I had cultivated over the years. We wore joutfits (for those of you who don’t know, a joutfit is an outfit of all one color). We took the stage and sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Needless to say, we had a supportive audience. It was magical. It was amazing.

It was something I will never forget.

And, maybe there was a freshman sitting alone at a table who thought: “My people…I have found them.”

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