IHOP is one of those places I try and never find myself in after sunset, like Arkansas or Kroger parking lots. Actually, I try and never find myself in Arkansas, regardless of the time of day. Arkansas is where Satan was going to be banished to, but then God realized Hell wasn’t taken, and sent him there instead. Satan was relieved, I am sure.
Anyway, IHOP is usually a very scary place that I try my best to avoid. One night a semester, however, there is something magical about IHOP. No, I’m not talking about those times when the circus is in town, and some half-rate magician is walking around IHOP, stealing people’s wallets and then telling them that their wallets “disappeared into the ether, never to be seen again.” I purposefully avoid IHOP on that night, because that magician’s name is Dave, and I strongly dislike Dave.
No, the one night a year I enjoy IHOP is the night of class registration. This semester, it fell on Wednesday, Nov. 11, which meant myself and my fellow classmates all began to arrive at IHOP around 11 p.m. on Tuesday. Russell Richardson, my residence advisor, drove myself, Forrest White, and Seth Reid. I sat shotgun, exhausted after a full day of classes, waiting tables and fighting extra-terrestrials that live in Dodd 16’s fridge.
Normally when I walk through the doors of this particular IHOP, that simply means that I wish to consume cheap, greasy food alone. It’s really sad if you think about it. When I entered the premises at 11:20 p.m. on this Tuesday night, however, I was greeted by cheers and a generally cacophonous atmosphere. There were nearly 40 or 50 freshmen and sophomores, all seated on one side of the restaurant, with their computers or tablets open to Union’s portal website.
I took the far seat in a booth, a decision I immediately regretted as two more students sat next to me. When restaurants say a booth is meant for six, and it can only fit four college students comfortably, then that restaurant should be sued for libel. Needless to say, I became quite close with Forrest over that midnight meal. That last sentence should not be taken out of context.
Everyone ordered the legendary $5 meal that IHOP offers and immediately began finalizing class choices. I already had all of my classes picked out, but multiple sophomores had yet to make the majority of their schedule. As the midnight hour neared, I began to grow nervous, like Cinderella at the ball. Granted, my car doesn’t usually turn into a pumpkin, but I really wanted to successfully register for all of my classes. If I didn’t get the right honors lecture, I would have 8 a.m. classes three days a week, which is a surefire way to lose what little sanity I have left. I briefly thought of running around at midnight and shutting everyone’s laptops, guaranteeing my spots in the classes I wanted, but I also wanted to live to see the next semester.
As midnight rolled around, everyone prepared to hit submit. Registration opened at 12:01 a.m., and everyone had their laptop clocks set to display seconds. There was a tension through the air, rarely felt outside of gladiator games and competitive shoe-tying, and my heart began to race as the clock slowly ticked upwards. At 12:00:50, everyone began to countdown from 10, while I played Europe’s “The Final Countdown” from my phone. I felt like a scientist in the NASA control room, hoping and praying that the launch would go successfully. At the stroke of 12:01, sixty clicks were heard simultaneously, and I hoped that I had gotten my classes.
Everyone’s web pages began to reload, and we all sat back in our seats, hoping we had been successful. I jerked forward when the web page came up again reading “Error loading page.”
“Houston, we have a problem.”
I frantically reloaded the page, but the servers were jammed, and I only got code. If I were a scientist, I probably would have slammed my fist into the computer, cursing. Unfortunately, I am a poor college student and could not afford another computer if I broke mine. As soon as the web page came up again, I noticed that none of my classes had been registered successfully. I quickly typed in all of the class codes for the second time that night and pressed submit for the second time in as many minutes. I gripped my coffee mug, probably weakening its structure with my bear strength, and I prayed for success. Please, God. Don’t allow me to have 8 a.m. classes. Please.
After 30 seconds of pulse-pounding nothingness, the webpage refreshed, showing I had gotten all my classes.
“Mission control. We have liftoff. Repeat, we have liftoff.”
I high-fived myself and collapsed back in my seat, exhausted from the ordeal. I had done it. I had conquered the system. As my RA drove me back from IHOP, I realized I had actually enjoyed the last hour, despite my preconceived notions of dread. Indeed, such camaraderie was rarely felt in any establishment, much less that of the dingy, pancake-filled house of horrors.
It was this moment that I realized IHOP wasn’t what made the evening great. It was the amazing collection of individuals surrounding me, all united by the mindset of “If I don’t get my classes, I will scream and probably throat-punch my classmates.” The feelings of dread and competition brought this varied group of individuals together in a way that nothing else can. I truly believe with that set of classmates, I would even be able to have fun registering for classes in Arkansas. That is a lie. Arkansas will always be terrible.