Street | Feature
Today, I ate a banana. I peeled it back, admired its yellowy goodness and had nearly chomped into my delightful treat, when I was suddenly overcome with a wave of paranoia.
Is that guy on his phone taking a photo of me right now? He is! How can I trust anyone to let me eat a banana without judgment anymore? Can I even trust my own friends? Ugh, I bet I look like a total moron eating this banana.
Princeton Bananas — a new Facebook page launched Feb. 5 featuring photos of students eating bananas around campus, both inside dining halls and out — has taken the student body by storm, striking fear into the hearts of banana consumers everywhere.
Their self-proclaimed purpose is to inform the Princeton community of the “slaughter of this majestic fruit,” the founders explained in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.
The three agreed to meet with me, on the condition of anonymity. I told them in our initial correspondence that I’d wait outside of Cafe Viv at 10 p.m., holding a banana as identification of my pure intentions.
The founders called themselves The Banana Republic and used the code names BananaHammock, Bananagram and BananaBread to protect their identities. They had told me they would be wearing banana masks to the interview.
At 10:15 p.m., I started to worry because I hadn’t found them yet, and a study group had asked me if they could take all the chairs from my table. I took a lap around Frist with my banana in hand and quickly found three others who also had bananas with them. We silently nodded at each other, in acknowledgment of our mutual banana appreciation.
We walked around Frist, trying to find somewhere quiet and secluded, so that no one else would know the insidious nature of what we were about to discuss — the desecration of the banana by typical, tactless students. They led me to an abandoned stairwell that happened to have exactly four chairs. Perfect.
“How’s the meng arm?” Bananagram asked as the four of us struggled to move the chairs around. Immediately, the three went off on a banana pun spree.
“A banana a day keeps the meningitis away?”
“Yeah, write that down.”
“We should have a meng-themed day tomorrow. Everything we say will be meng.”
“That’s the kind of creativity that just flows within an organization like this,” BananaBread said.
The founders explained that they first conceived of the page when BananaBread sent Bananagram a Snapchat that included a person in the background eating a banana last November. “I circled the guy, like, ‘Haha, dude chowing down’ or whatever, and from there we started taking more photos,” BananaBread said.
Though The Banana Republic has been taking shots of people eating bananas since November, starting with that first Snapchat, they only decided to launch the page after they had built up a bank of about 25 to 30 photos, which they now store on Dropbox.
Since then, the page has been constantly growing. Forty-one photos have been posted thus far, and nearly all have been tagged with their culprits. The page has accumulated 674 likes as of press time on Wednesday night.
“They’re coming in faster than we’re posting them now, so we’re building sustainability,” BananaBread said. The Banana Republic hopes its growth doesn’t stop there, however.
“We do have one office on Nassau Street. We’re opening up our Hong Kong office, I think Thursday. Or Friday?” Bananagram explained.
“Well, it’s Thursday here, Friday there,” BananaHammock noted.
“We do have corporate offices in London, New York, as well as San Francisco. So I think it’s going pretty well,” Bananagram said. A phone call to each of these offices led to automated recordings informing me the number had been disconnected. I wondered if they had ever been connected at all.
Though their stated mission is to “instigate drastic change in our gustatory habits,” the three see themselves as a warning service to the Princeton community, alerting students to what they consider the crime of biting the fruit with teeth.
“We want to give people a safe space to report this crime, without feeling like they have to be attached to it,” BananaHammock said. The founders hope to eventually install banana-shaped BlueLights, the kind students can use to inform P-Safe of emergencies on campus, so that students can continue to report sightings of their peers gnawing on bananas without using forks and knives.
“The idea would be that P-Safe would respond immediately,” Bananagram said.
“Or we’d have our own task force,” BananaHammock added.
Though about 70 percent of submissions are from underclassmen according to the founders, the Banana Republic hopes to infiltrate the eating clubs as well, and already have upperclassmen contacts within Tiger Inn and Cannon Dial Elm Club.
“The entire Princeton community should be aware of the issue,” BananaHammock said.
“Princeton Bananas, more than anything, brings the community together,” Bananagram added. That includes all undergraduates, graduate students, professors and administrators.
“I think President Eisgruber the other day was considering actually eating a banana with his teeth, but then actually ended up using a knife,” Bananagram said. “That was just hearsay, that’s not a fact … It was really a friend of a friend of [President Eisgruber’s] doctor who said that.”
The founders have set a few ground rules for submissions: they don’t take posed pictures, and people have to actually be eating the fruit, with a few exceptions. For example, Michael Chang ’16 was photographed with a banana in his ear.
“We don’t really need to draw attention to the positive, because everybody should strive for the positive. We should really only shame those who are desecrating bananas,” BananaHammock said. Posting photos of people posing only glorifies the crime, the founders explained.
“We’ve also hit a few glitches with the idea of anonymous submissions versus non-anonymous submissions,” BananaHammock said. For example, with Tiger Ad Mirers, another student-run Facebook page that features anonymous love notes, students can submit posts through a confidential Google form, but the founders have not yet found a similar forum for pictures.
“We thought that might be a turn off for people to send photos in, but it definitely hasn’t, especially because we don’t insist on giving photo credit or anything,” BananaHammock said of this lack of anonymity.
The founders are also not sure of what to do with photos of students from outside Princeton, such as a recent photo of a West Point student. In those cases, they generally ask for the student’s permission. In addition, if a photo subject ever asks to be untagged or for a photo to be taken down, the founders said they would immediately remove it.
In the coming weeks, the Banana Republic said, it will be conducting two contests for the general public. First, the best screenshot of a Snapchat of someone eating a banana will be rewarded, as a throwback to the origins of Princeton Bananas. The winner, the founders say, will receive all-encompassing banana glory and 37 of the finest yellow boomerang fruit. Secondly, in a “Nana with a ‘Nanner’ ” series, the first person to capture a picture of someone’s grandmother eating a banana will win everything, the founders say. This person will be invited to join the Banana Republic team.
The Banana Republic hopes its message on this inhumane slaughter of bananas is recognized not just by the Princeton community but, perhaps one day, the whole world. The banana, the founders said, is a special fruit that deserves extra care in consumption.
“Bananas, they’re, like, alive, right? No other fruit is like that,” Bananagram said. “Apples are just apples. Bananas are forever.”