Yale Lunch

For a few seconds, I stare at the simple, white screen of YaleLunch.com. My name and email address are typed in. All I have to do is click “Pair me.” But what kind of loser has to use a website to avoid eating lunch alone? “Most likely … the sorts of people who eat snack boxes of raisins and compulsively smell their own hair,” wrote Eve Binder ’11, in an article on IvyGate.

Well, apparently that’s now me.

YaleLunch recently piggybacked off HarvardLunch, a program started this past November. Seth Riddley, a senior at Harvard, was the father of the impromptu idea: “I woke up in the middle of the night and thought — oh, that would be a cool website,” Riddley told me. The premise is to pair up two strangers for a meal — not a blind date, an opportunity to meet someone you haven’t yet and otherwise probably never would.

At first, Riddley did the pairings himself, but the system is now automated. More than 300 students at Yale have used it, thanks in large part to Mary Liu ’12, who emailed Riddley one day about bringing HarvardLunch to Yale and expanding it into a recruitment tool for student organizations. So far, her idea has received an overwhelmingly positive response from both students and campus groups — in the three days following her email publicity, over 100 people signed up.

One of those was me. Or was it four of them? The first time I submitted my name to the wrath of the randomizer, I received my pairing and a suggested date and time for lunch. Overcoming my almost debilitating inner feelings of inadequacy, I shot “Katie” an email.

And never got a response. Maybe she was hoping for a potential romantic interest? Maybe she looked me up and wasn’t feeling a connection? Or perhaps my email was simply lost in the bottomless depths of her inbox.

This was, needless to say, discouraging. My YaleLunch career had started off on a sour note. But I persevered, risking an ego-crushing double rejection. Cleverly anticipating a 25 to 50 percent response rate, I rabidly asked the website to pair me three successive times. I had to get a lunch date.

And within the half-hour, I did: two emails suggesting Friday, 11:30 a.m., in the Branford pit. I’m not sure why this didn’t engender more suspicion at the time, but what I initially considered mere coincidence was in fact a joke on me. The two matches had been hanging out in the same suite at the time, and … yeah.

That said, they were both still, in fact, interested in getting lunch with me. And then another ding signaled a new message — an email from my fourth match! I was suddenly in high demand, and the lunches I usually reserved for old chums were filling up fast.

I finally met (date? lunch buddy? random match?) #4 by the trays in Commons for lunch on a Friday. We loaded up plates and shared a placid, laid-back meal. He was a junior in Silliman and dating my froco’s sister, so some mutual acquaintances were established. Our meal even managed to extend through dessert, to my surprise. I don’t think we ever plan on meeting for lunch again, but we can now both wave to one more face on campus.

The thing is, Yalies don’t need a website to meet new people — we’re a socially competent bunch. My match was normal, and by most standards, I’d consider myself in that category as well. Neither of us was smelling our own hair, or worse, balding. What YaleLunch does is force you to step out of your comfort zone: “It’s like a probability experiment to test that any randomly-selected Yalie will be awesome,” said Liu. “Don’t think you’re lame, but think of it as a probability.”

“Awkward? I guess it could be,” Riddley considered. “It’s just something fun and new to try.”

Well, if you put it that way, I might just go and put my name in a few more times. You should too. Maybe we’ll end up having lunch.

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