“Get it before it gets you!”
I was introduced to the tradition of squidding in my first year at Grinnell when, dining at ease with a group of friends, someone yelled “Squid!” and threw a banana peel across the table at us. It landed in front of my friend who, without hesitation, grabbed a fork and began to stab the banana-peel “squid” so furiously that fork and banana seemed to be involved in a life-and-death struggle. I may or may not have feared for human life in that duel.
The few seconds it actually took to kill the squid stretched into long minutes and culminated in a final thrust. With an inaudible moan from the banana-squid, it lay heaped on the table, fork still quivering upright in the yellow remains. Everyone at the table cheered, but I only sat there shocked and confused. How did people know they were supposed to do this? Stabbing the “squid” would not have been my first reaction, yet the squid-killer had acted with reflex-like speed and skill. Clearly, I still had much to learn about the Grinnell College dining experience.
The origins of squidding are unclear, though it is thought to be a fairly recent tradition, dating back less than a decade to an enterprising student adviser who taught it to his impressionable first-year students. They carried the game on into their senior year, passing it along to others and spreading the excitement of bananastabbing throughout the College. It is difficult to say how many current students are familiar with squidding. There is, of course, always one way to find out — if one is willing to risk letting a killer squid loose in the dining hall, that is.
The best squid attacks are launched from one table to another, or at the very least from one end of a table to the other end. Occasionally some overconfident person will attempt an attack from even farther away, such as from the balcony section of the dining hall.
As my friend Brittney Brown ’11 and I were casually having dinner underneath said balcony one evening, I was more than a little surprised to hear a shout of “SQUID!” and witness a banana peel thrown from above thump threateningly onto Brittney’s tray. Surprised into inaction, I slowly came to the realization that Brittney was not aware of squid protocol, and that she might not figure it out intuitively before the squid, say, ate her. That would be the sad end of a beautiful friendship. Still frozen by sheer surprise, I began to wonder what to do to prevent this awful but unavoidable outcome …
There was the flash of a fork, and a classmate I only vaguely knew was suddenly beside our table. With the cool, determined precision of a practiced warrior, the student finished off the squid, which Brittney and I had been too slow to vanquish. The classmate had seen the whole attack from two tables away and had bounded over, rescuing my friend Brittney and generally saving the day. I had a new hero.
Our rescuer returned the squid carcass to us and went back to finish her meal in peace, and Brittney and I, now fully recovered, began to laugh. As soon as I could keep a straight face long enough to muster coherent sentences, I explained squidding to Brittney. We laughed all the more.
I have held an undying respect for all squidders ever since.
Sara Woolery '11 is an English Major from Malvern, IA.