Emotional appeal, nostalgia keep Grease Trucks alive

Walking on Eggshells

A logical fallacy is a trick or manipulative tactic used to gain the upper hand in an argument. One of the more interesting fallacies out there is known as “appeal to tradition.” This fallacy assumes something superior simply because it is older, or a tradition. Appeal to tradition crosses over with other logical fallacies, such as emotional appeal, whereby something is supported based on how it makes someone feel, rather than on the practicality of said proposal. A similar fallacious practice, known as nostalgia, entails using positive aspects of the past to make sweeping generalizations about that time period whilst sweeping all negative aspects under the rug.

With these fallacies in mind, consider two eateries that I have come across in my lifetime: the Rutgers grease trucks and a small convenience store in my hometown. The small convenience store had been in business since just after the WWI and served an enormous purpose, both on an emotional and practical level, in my hometown. It was one of the few places where a townsperson could buy food, and on top of that, the family who owned it built a name for itself. Many of the sons served on the town’s fire department, and the family became generally well liked.

Fast-forward several decades, and the store finds itself desperately trying to stay in business. The township and its surrounding municipalities are dotted by an array of grocery stores, delis and other convenience stores, leading to slow business at my town’s small convenience store. The hours have been shortened, barring this store from being of service to the early-morning commuter crowd. The options have been cut down and the prices raised, prompting shoppers to go elsewhere.

This little store has ceased to serve any practical purpose, and it would be far more feasible to put a more stable business in that location. Yet, this has not been done, nor would anyone in the town ever want to put a new business there. Why is this so? The store is a tradition, the family name is a tradition, and it will continue to be a part of my town’s tradition. In that way, tradition is something rather strange. It can justify practices that would otherwise lack sense, feasibility or purpose. Relate this all to the Grease Trucks, considered by many to be a long-time part of our Rutgers tradition. In their heyday, the Grease Trucks served a purpose. You might have been coming from Easton Avenue at one in the morning and did not find the extra 1,200 calories troubling.

Or perhaps you had 20 minutes before class somewhere along Voorhees Mall and thought to maybe grab a bagel and a cup of coffee. The Grease Trucks offered these amenities. More importantly, they offered an idea of what it means to be a Rutgers student — to fit the Rutgers mold, to be a Scarlet Knight. Now, things are different. Though the trucks do not sit at the Scott Hall bus stop, I can still walk over to the Barnes & Noble Cafe. The trucks now compete with such establishments as the Knight Wagon, which offer much healthier options and meal swipes. The general consensus is that the Grease Trucks were forced away from Scott Hall as a result of shady politics and business deals among Rutgers officials, business developers and New Brunswick officials. Either way, the Grease Trucks have found themselves at a rather unlucky area of New Brunswick’s history.

It is true that some of the Grease Trucks are higher quality than others. Some can provide better prices, options and food quality. Others are downright awful and tasteless. There is a push to keep them alive, and it stems from a desire to uphold traditions. From that desire, people find ways to justify the Grease Trucks. We might remember the good old days when we could leave a fraternity party, buy a fat sandwich and have fun with friends. But we leave out, or downplay, the loud and obnoxious lines, the lower quality food, the smell and the people who never even liked the Grease Trucks. Today, the days are sad when a line for a truck has two or three customers at best, while its competitors, the Knight Wagon, have a line of dozens more customers. Whether the result of shady politics, bad luck or legitimately concerning public health practices, the situation that have enabled the existence of the Grease Trucks has changed, and so must the Grease Trucks themselves.

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