In my lifetime, I have had a lot of jobs. Almost all of them have been shitty. In fact, the only time I’ve ever been happy with doing anything responsible was when I was in one of my favorite classes. (Please god, have some grad school representative read that and automatically make me a student.)
Now that you know, it won’t be shocking to hear that I was one of the concentration camp victims who was forced to work in a college dining hall. In case you’ve never worked one of these shifts, let me break it down for you:
- You walk in. Your boss writes down that you did not come 15 minutes early and therefore, should be dismissed from any University related job. Ever.
- You clock in, talk to some of your coworkers and see what responsibility they ended up getting stuck with. If you’re the luckiest, your job is to cut vegetables, meats, cheeses, and fruits into bite-size please-don’t-sue-the-university chunks.
If you’re the unluckiest, your job will be to decompose the great structures of compost, used cups, bowls, and milk-sodden-goulash that freshman assholes create on dining room trays and send to the dish room. (To this day, I still cannot drink milk)
- It didn’t really matter what job you had because you would leave at the end of the day sweaty, tired, and murder-the-freshman-y.
There were high points, of course. Our supervisor was Charlotte, and she was about 63 years old and had been doing dining hall shifts for about 60 of them. It was Charlotte’s job to give us really condescending commands that didn’t make sense, followed by a 15-minute conversation with herself.
One time, I accidentally/purposefully squirted a bystander with dirty burrito water, and she screamed. Charlotte came over and scolded me, but then slipped a lollypop into my back pocket. Only a few things in this world will make me love you forever. That is one of them.
So, here our story begins: It was my sophomore year in college, and I was flat broke. Flat broke enough to volunteer to work in the dining hall at 7 AM on a Friday morning. I had class at 10, and that was literally the only rule I laid down to my manager: I refused to be late for class. She had agreed.
So Friday mornings usually went like this:
- Rob would stop drinking on Thursday around 11:59PM.
- Wake at 6:49AM. Feel Awesome.
- Walk to work and be exactly on time.
- Start working the omelet bar, give death glare to all of the weird assholes who spent the last night bible-thumping instead of getting hammered like any self-respecting youth.
- Finish omelet making, clean station.
- Get station ready and stocked for lunch-sandwich station.
Well, this fateful Friday morning, things had been going exactly as they had been. I was still too angry at all of my customers for breathing to say any words, I wasn’t cleaning the omelet pans quickly enough to be deemed sanitary, and my body was reeking of recently ingested tequila.
But something was different. It took me a while to realize what was off, but then I realized—I was running late.
My world came crashing apart. I literally looked at the customer I was making an omelet for, felt the tiniest ounce of sorrow, said, “Go eat some goddamn cereal like a goddamn human being,” and dumped his half finished egg mess on a plate and thrust it into his hands.
As quick as I could, I started pulling out pans of egg, vegetables, meats, and sauces and threw them into my trolley to take back to the cooks.
I unloaded my breakfast ingredients and loaded my lunch ingredients with lightning speed. I was actually causing a little bit of a commotion. Even my manager came out of her office to see what the hell was going on. When she asked, I screamed, “I’M LATE.”
She looked nonplussed, but then she said, “That’s not the first time this has happened to me, but it’s the first time it’s been from a male.” And with that, she retreated into her office. All the while, I was piling sandwich entre after sandwich entre onto my food trolley. It had built into a veritable food mountain. I really had to get out of there.
Soon, all of my ingredients were on the cart, and it was time for me to put them in the omelet/sandwich station. I jogged my trolley about 80% of the way to the goal when one of the most popular meats slipped.
The container of salami clattered to the floor and the meaty interior exploded everywhere. It was like a Quentin Terentino movie.
I stood and debated. I had to. My least favorite thing in this world is the feeling of “being late”-- Somewhere up the list from that is “hurting my fellow man”.
I hurt my very soul, but it hurt my soul more to be late for class. I had to get there. I quickly scooped up the entrails of the salami container and shoved them back into their new, contaminated home.
I put the soiled meat container back on my cart and did a quick glance around me. It seemed like no one had seen or heard the incident. I slowly walked back to my station and guardedly put my ingredients in their correct places. I was almost finished when someone startled me from behind.
It was my coworker, who was taking over the station next. I was so relieved that I could have cried. I handed her my apron and dining room swipe card.