Kris an’ Murphy: The Tragedy of the Commons

dininghall lineupKris:You ate in one of our university dining halls?!?

Murphy: “[?…] As a matter of fact, I did. Yesterday lunch. I had a short break between meetings, not enough time to get something here at the faculty club or at one of the shops in the District. So …”

Kris:Ew. How could you stand it?”

Murphy: “I didn’t.”

Kris:Well, then …?”

Murphy: “I sat down to lunch.”


Murphy: “Argh what? I had time enough for it. I only do the ‘stand’ thing at the breakfast bar in my house. While I’m waiting on the coffee, of course.”

Kris: “That was not what I meant and you know it. How could you eat that stuff? The mystery meat, the mushy pasta, the mushier vegetables …??”

Murphy: “Been awhile since you did the commons thing, huh?”

Kris: “Not since I was an undergrad. Trust me, that experience scarred me for life!

Murphy: “Well, things have changed. The military mess hall model is out, the commercial food court model is in. The dining halls have choices now, and those choices are prepared by folk who know what they’re doing and make money doing it. You can actually eat pretty well. Not that ‘eating well’ necessarily sells. One guess which of the providers in the dining has the most traffic, the longest lines.”

Kris: “What? Mickey D’s?”

Murphy: “In one. And that’s tragic.”

Kris: “You ask me, I’d say that was pathetic.”

Murphy: “Tragic.”

Kris: “There’s a difference?”

Murphy: “Well yeah! I don’t study Euripides just so people can make bad jokes about mending trousers. The ancient Greek dramatists and rhetoricians had this pretty well worked out. If you’re standing on a bridge over a creek, and suddenly, out of nowhere, a flash flood roars in and takes out the bridge and you with it, that’s pathetic. But if you’re standing on that bridge and the flood takes you out because of some mistake you made – perhaps you didn’t program flood control gates upstream of the bridge correctly – that’s tragic. Heard the latest about Malaysia flight 370?”

Kris: “Oh for crissakes, Murphy, there is no ‘latest’ on that story and hasn’t been for weeks. Can’t we give it a rest already?”

Murphy: “Nope.”

Kris: “Why not?

Murphy: “Because the news providers are making money on it. We might say that we’re tired of the story, but what we do is keep doing websearches on it, logging into websites with the faintest scrap of something new, keep TVs tuned to news stations so long as they’re covering flight 370, and turn them off when they’re not. Result: all flight 370, all the time.

“People complained about the university dining halls. ‘Give us better food, and more choices!’, they hollered. Well, the universities have listened. And what they’ve gotten for their pains are a whole bunch of food stalls that change providers as fast as you can blink, because they don’t get enough traffic to turn a profit, and Mickey D’s. I got a decent meal yesterday. Who knows if the vendor will still be there next week? And meanwhile Ronald gets all the business that he can handle. I could fully understand if, soon, R. McD. is the only vendor left in the dining halls.”

Kris: “And it’ll be no one’s fault but our own, because we said one thing and did another?”

Murphy: “Yep.”

Kris: “And that, you’re going to tell me, is the tragedy of the commons?”

Murphy: “Fill your glass?”

Kris: “We’re going to have to get another bottle.”

This entry was posted in current events, Kris an' Murphy, We the People and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Kris an’ Murphy: The Tragedy of the Commons

  1. quilly says:

    What? Actions speak louder than words? Who knew?

Comments are closed.