Hey, it’s 3:00 a.m. You are: a) sleepily trying to write a paper, b) just getting out of a party or the delis, c) so hyper you are having trouble restraining yourself from doing random things like sprinting down your hallway screaming, or d) really, really bored.
But that’s okay. There is a home for you at Wawa.
The 24-hour shop is the only place where you can find true camaraderie that stems from an insatiable desire for a 16 oz. Mocha Alert Cappuccino in the wee hours of the morning. And no, no matter how much you try to justify going there, be it on the odd occasion, weekly, daily or, even scarier, hourly, it is not just because you need the caffeine. If that were it, you would invest in a little coffee machine and forego the trek. Even people who have personal coffee makers often choose to put forth the effort required to not only walk to Wawa, but also to wait in the inevitably long lines at all hours of the day. No, you go because it is an excuse to hang out with people, to take a break and maybe catch up with those you have not seen in some time, and because it is the only place you can go past 2:00 a.m. most nights of the week.
Wawa has become a Mecca for the nocturnal community, and this is no joke. Many make the pilgrimage nightly, and “pilgrimage” is appropriate because in a way the mass migration of people at night represents, as pilgrimages have and continue to do in many religious traditions, a cross-section of society at the College. I am not saying that there is a neo-Chaucer around out there waiting to tell the tales of the stumbling socialite, the reclusive scholar and the hungry policeman. One cannot forget, as well, the people behind the counter, for the role they play is an important part of this subculture-- always there to be firm with a tough sense of humor. Only rarely can one sometimes get them to crack and show their warmer side.
At any given moment while wandering around looking for whatever your “usual” is, you might run into your RA, an old lab partner, a good friend or an ex. These unexpected meetings can jumpstart a friendship that may have fallen by the wayside or act as the channel that lets long-buried resentful memories resurface. These types of interactions are healthy because they force us to patch up our social sides, separating us, albeit briefly, from the incessant throb of stress and schoolwork that looms over our heads. Burying yourself in your homework will not make your relationship problems go away - why not just deal with one face-to-face over the cream and sugar counter? You will be glad you did.
The popularity of this midnight Mecca has manifested itself on the Internet, too. People perusing the newest fad can now find a group called “The Cult of the Wawa” on www.thefacebook.com. Here people can extend the commonality found in trips to the store. Established by sophomore Victor Sulkowski, the group exists as a way of sharing all the great, ugly and just plain strange experiences to be had at the unofficial local hangout.
I had the delight in chatting with Sonja, one of the regular late-night workers, while she made subs for the various starving students and occasional police officer that passed through in need of sustenance. According to her, “it's always interesting” at the Williamsburg Wawa. Basically, busy times are all the time, and she revealed that indeed, our humble little Wawa is the most successful in the entire state. Not that any of we students should be surprised - I am sure most of us are wary of just how much of our limited funds go to the store for snacks and such on a semester-by-semester basis.
After all, $1.05 for a 16 oz. coffee might not seem like too bad a deal, but if you’re making these a nightly fix you might find yourself gulping down over twenty bucks a month. Try getting one of the refill mugs if your Wawa coffee runs are habitual – it’s only 99 cents to fill up the 20 oz. mug while a new cup that size costs $1.15. Even if nightly caffeine rushes aren’t your style, you’ve still got a great variety of options to choose from at all hours of the day. If you got to the UC Center Court just five minutes after they shut down, you could ease your hunger by dashing to Wawa and grabbing a Hot-to-Go bowl instead for $3.99. There are lots of choices, but the selection varies from day-to-day so it’s usually a good idea to have a look at the menu board before getting your heart set on a Chicken Alfredo bowl only to realize there aren’t any. For a late-night or anytime treat try a Strawberry-Banana Smoothie for $1.19; sure, they’re not made right in front of you, but they’re pretty darn tasty and less expensive than the Daily Grind variety. If you are in a real hurry you can even grab a refrigerated wrap. They’re $3.69 and might be considered a little pricey, but the splurge can be worth it if it’s a choice between a satisfied appetite or another rumbling stomach all class.
And, in case you were wondering, the word “Wawa” is not just some spontaneous phrase the founders bestowed or mistakenly mumbled for their chain of handy convenience stores. Depending on how lucid (or intoxicated) you tend to be when you make your way over to the local social center/coffee resource, you may have at one point noticed the little squiggle of a bird over the first a. There is significance to that bird. In fact, according to their corporate website profile, “â€˜Wawa’ is a Lenni Lenape Indian word for the Canada Goose that was found in the Delaware Valley; that is why we use the goose on Wawa's corporate logo.” The name is also shared with a town in Pennsylvania where the company traces its roots back to 1902. So clearly, our favorite late-night stop has a long history of its own, long before it landed in Williamsburg.
Whatever your opinion on Wawa and its positive (have fun with your friends!) and negative (put off your paper another hour!) consequences for students here, it undeniably has come to represent, for many, a culture that underscores the closeness of the College population through the shared experience of something as simple as a laugh over a cup of coffee.