Vassar bubble broken by bubble tea

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Students have been returning to Vassar for two weeks now, and the college is gradually returning to its usual vibrancy is a sight for sore eyes. Of course, now that the pandemic is worse than ever, coming back is no easy feat. Students are required to remain six feet apart at all times, wear masks in all public areas and, most importantly, remain on campus. 

Staying on campus, however, provides unique challenges for us all. Students who previously saw therapists or picked medications up off campus must now scramble to find creative solutions. Yet no one suffers more than the students who frequented Twisted Soul for their bubble tea.

Some students have chosen to simply ignore the mandate to remain on campus. One junior commented, “Twisted is like right there, you know? It’s pretty much on campus. I can totally see it from my dorm room window. It’s like…right over…well, I can see it if I lean out my dorm room window and…just…crane—OK so like I could see it if that tree and that other tree weren’t there, but like I’m right that it’s not even really like leaving campus at all.”

Other students have found a clever way to acquire their bubble tea without breaking the VassarTogether pledge.  

One student, who asked to be referred to as “ThaiTea-ana,” explained the system.

“Ok so I text my friend who lives off campus asking for my favorite (Thai tea with bubbles, of course) and then next time they come to campus they bring it with them. It’s pretty sophisticated stuff.” 

But the organization goes far beyond these two students. The trade network is elaborate, connecting tea-addicted students who have no off campus friends with those who do.

The system works like this: one student contacts another, who contacts someone else, who knows another person, who knows someone who lives off campus. That person gets the tea at their earliest convenience, comes back to campus, gives it to the person who contacted them, who gives it to the person who contacted them, who gives it to the second person the first student contacted, who gives it to that student’s contact, who finally gets it to the student. 

A different student, also code named “ThaiTea-ana,” shared her experience figuring out how to use the system.

“It’s pretty easy to find like one or two people who are already part of the network. I got in touch with five different people over Signal while I was waiting for my email code for the Healow app. We all go by code names based on our orders. It gets a little confusing, there are like upwards of 50 ThaiTea-ana’s. But this way I don’t have to know who’s who and in that way I can get my tea without breaking the pledge. It’s pretty much the same as delivery, except you get it a few hours later and the ice is usually melted.” 

Some entrepreneurs within the group have already branched into delivering other goods. For example, the code-named “Roy Litchi-enstein” is the point person for art and office supplies, covering the territory including Michael’s and Staples. “Heidi-biscus Tea” and “Al-mond” alternate picking up groceries from Adam’s and Stop & Shop, while “Chai-ler” makes special stops at Poughkeepsie Wine and Liquor for students who can verifiably prove they are 21 or older. 

Chai-ler explained how the students deliver the items, “It’s very safe and easy. The point of this is to keep students from breaking rules while keeping them comfortable, right? So it’s all very distanced. Off-campus students, such as myself, will leave the delivery at our designated tree, and then the student who contacted us picks the stuff up. So the on-campus student gets the stuff from the designated tree, and then if they know who ordered it first, they take it there. If someone got in touch with them asking for a friend, they take it to their own separate tree, and the person who got in touch with them picks it up there. Easy peasy.”

The first ThaiTea-ana added that the system is not foolproof.

“We’ve had a lot of complaints about melted ice and wasps getting in the tea. One person got sprayed by a skunk because their touchpoint didn’t dig a new hole to hide the tea in, they just kinda stuffed it in this skunk den. But we update our practices pretty consistently to reflect the feedback we get from students.”

Even with the glitches, this underground market is growing and thriving, providing the Vassar bubble with the bubbles it needs to keep running. 

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