The ritual is the same each morning. I take the puffiest plain bagel in the rack and plop it in the toaster on setting 7. Next, I get exactly three scoops of scrambled eggs, making sure they evenly cover half of my plate. I turn to the condiment station and splash on buffalo sauce. Then I retrieve my bagel and place it next to the eggs. Now the important step: I hollow out my bagel and place the eggs in. It’s an old trick I learned from my grandmother. By creating space inside the bagel, I ensure that I can eat my bagel open-faced without the eggs falling out. Simple yet brilliant. And that’s how I start my day.
It’s important for me to have a routine. Just like any Georgetown student, I face a variety of challenging, diverse tasks on top of the usual academic stressors. Club applications, job searches, finding the right movie on Netflix; it feels like the stress never ends. Fortunately, Leo’s gives me both the nutrition and environment to face the day’s challenges. Every time I swipe into Leo’s, I am filled with a sense of relief because I know I have arrived at my safe space.
I don’t see Leo’s as merely a dining hall; I see Leo’s as Georgetown’s social hub. When I go to Leo’s, I’m usually conducting one of three missions: the deliberate meet-up, the patrol or the solo mission. All three are immensely valuable to both my mental and social health.
The doctrinal definition of the deliberate Leo’s meet-up is: “a meal you plan to eat with someone before swiping in.” This can include anything from texting a friend to grab lunch to organizing a weekly club dinner at Leo’s. When I am executing the deliberate meet-up, I’m going in with a plan. I know who I’m eating with and enter its vaulted second floor dining concourse with a sense of purpose. Organizational meetings, group projects, even dates. I’ve had them all at Leo’s.
On the other hand, the patrol describes those meals where I find a friend in Leo’s. After getting my daily pasta bowl (chicken, white pasta, both sauces, tomato, mushrooms—I know my pasta order better than my social security number), I’ll scout the Leo’s crowd for familiar faces. Once I choose my unsuspecting victim, I’ll sit down with them and get right to the food. What’s nice about the patrol is that it allows me to catch up with those Georgetown friends I don’t get to talk to on a daily basis. Leo’s enables me to always keep in touch with my friends, both new and old.
Then there’s the solo mission. Sometimes I’ll walk into Leo’s exhausted and in need of refueling. I could be enduring writer’s block on an essay, stressing over an upcoming exam or just need time for myself. Whatever it is I’m facing, Leo’s gives me a safe environment where I can clear my head and relax. I usually go straight to the soda fountain and pour myself some Birnberg Surprise: a delicious, energizing mix of 80% Diet Coke and 20% Coke Cherry. Then I’ll venture to the windows of the lower floor and grab myself a table. I pop open my laptop, read the day’s news and sip my tasty concoction. At that moment, I know all is right in the world.
I’m no stranger to the criticism that Leo’s faces from the average student. Their eggs are soggy, the pasta line drags on forever, and they frequently run out of forks. But when I think of Leo’s, I fondly recall those Friday night dinners with my freshman floor when it seemed like anything was possible in the night ahead. I remember Team Tuesdays with my ESCAPE family when we would munch tacos, compete at trivia, ask “How are you?” and mean it. I think back to the many times I’ve needed a friend at Georgetown, knowing I could simply text out “Leo’s?” and find one. I am grateful Leo’s makes connecting with friends so casual, so easy. My Georgetown experience would not be complete without my Leo’s.
On my first day of NSO, my Orientation Advisor told me Georgetown would become my home away from home. But throughout the day I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was a traveler in a strange land. I thought I’d never belong. However, two days later I walked into Leo’s for the first time. Step by step I assembled my inaugural buffalo egg sandwich. Little did I know that over the next five semesters, this castle of subpar pizza, totalitarian wok cooks and surprisingly addictive cookies would become my new home.
Jonah Birnberg is a junior in the College.