One of my favorite Ditch Day traditions never occurs on Ditch Day.
You see, on Ditch Day, the seniors arrange dinner for their stacks: taking them to a restaurant, hosting a picnic, etc. Something that never happens is a normal house dinner. Each Caltech house has its own dining hall where the members of the house gather week-nightly, student waiters serve, and the traditions run so thick that you could cut them with a knife (that would then be vibrated and pulled against the edge of the table to display boredom, of course.)
One of these traditions is after-dinner announcements. Having announcements after dinner seems like a pretty straightforward idea – you conveniently have everybody together at the same place and time. But over the 82 years that the Caltech houses have existed, they have become infused with memes, call-and-returns, taboos, expectations, and rules. One of these rules is that the house president (or acting house president in the president’s class-induced absence) must call on each individual making an announcement. One non-president announcer cannot yield the floor to another under the threat of punishment.
Of course, like all rules, there is an exception. A most excellent, exciting exception. When the President calls on an expectant looking senior who raises their hand only when other announcements seem to be done, a hush falls across the over-crowded room. Even those who live off campus come when there is an email cryptically noting that the seniors suggest that it might be a good idea to attend dinner.
Then, all eyes focused on them, the senior delivers an announcement meant to both amuse and convey something about the theme of their stack, followed by ‘I don’t know why you would need to know that, but perhaps –senior name here- knows more.’
To which that senior will respond, ‘I don’t know much about that, but I do know…’ and launches into their own announcement.
‘But Ben, they’re just announcements. Why would people be so interested? What did you do for yours?’
Unfortunately, fully explaining the experience of Ditch Day announcements required some delving into the labyrinth that is Blacker Dinner and I have class tomorrow, so you will have to wait to know, like underclassmen during pre-Ditch Day dinner.