I miss the old Express: A lament rooted in disappointment

Nicholas Tillinghast/The Miscellany News.

It has been a little over five months since Express lost the right to serve hot food, an experiment which has, at best, made me very sad. For the majority of the roughly one and a half years that I have been on campus, Express has featured hot food items. 

As a Main resident and self-proclaimed eater of hot food, I have had to move my appetite to The Retreat, something I am rather ambivalent about. Retreat has always felt to me like a backhanded name because the interior gives me recently-renovated gas station vibes (which is strange because it’s technically just a room inside Main). I think it’s fine if they want to embrace a gas station aesthetic, but if so, they should call the place something more fitting like “Quikstop” or “The Vass Zone.” 

Another thing I’ve noticed is that there’s far less linearity to navigating Express than Retreat. Express, at its peak hours, features a one-lane superhighway that bends into a horseshoe of efficiency. On the flip side, Retreat at peak hours can feature upwards of seven different lines in its interior, sometimes going in completely opposite directions, all of which will inhibit your food journey. During non-peak Retreat hours there is ample space, which means I end up aimlessly walking around the place for far too long, unsure of what combo of four items to get. Express didn’t allow space for indecision, especially if there was, like, one other person there—you just had to get your food items and skedaddle.  

I eat at Express-side tables far more than Retreat-side, in part just because of how empty that side of Main gets now. Express has been practically deserted since it lost hot food. I almost expect a tumbleweed to roll by. I haven’t been to Express in ages, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were cobwebs on the shelves. Humor Editor Madi (my most unreliable source) claims that if you do go there, they will undoubtedly ask you why you went there when Retreat has more food items, so apparently you get judged at Express now, too.  

At Express’ peak, Chicken Nugget Tuesday felt like a real fervor. The lines were atrocious and if you weren’t in line, you had to slip through a wall of people to get to class. It felt worth it for the nuggets, though. Like it or not, food becomes way more iconic if you’re forced to wait far too long for it. 

Look, I won’t act like returning hot food to Express will solve all of my problems, but it would solve most of them. Does moving the hot food to Retreat just kinda make sense? Was Express brutally inefficient at times? Certainly, but my nostalgia for the magic of Express remains.

The move to Retreat has not been without good ideas, like a particularly Cheesy Thursday last week, in which it served both grilled cheese and fried cheese curds on the same day, while a vendor who I refer to as “The Cheese Guy” was selling cheese not far away. A Cheesy Thursday indeed. 

In a lot of ways, I feel like I have lost a friend this past semester. We had some good memories, me and Express, like the brief time that there was not-whole-grain Pop Tarts, or the great pizza burger or the first time there was premium Ronnybrook milk. In closing, I’ve written a short, open letter to Express:

O humble food source,

How might I express the ways we’ve grown apart? 

You brought the fruits of my academic labor, 

the finest of campus chili

and thine own cheesesteak. 

But over summer’s heat, 

you grew so cold, or 

room temperature in many cases.

Although I accept Retreat’s adoption, 

I can’t find solace in your dining options. 

Warmly,
Disappointment.

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