Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Very College Sequel: When You're Here, You're Family!

"Have some more sa-loppy joes! I know youse like 'em extra sa-loppy!"

by Brendan Cavanagh

Here's another reason why being a sophomore is superior to being a freshman:

The cafeteria staff at all three cafeterias are inexplicably kinder and more eagerly interactive. Last year, I either despised the employees- like the surly bitch who made sandwiches and wraps at C-Club- or developed the ever-unrequited desire to make friends with the more impressive workers- as is the case with Willy, whom I dubbed the "Wrap Star." He made a different kind of wrap or sandwich every day of the week, and did so with such nuance, such perfection, and with so little effort that I couldn't help but admire him. He was a quiet, middle aged African-American man who always carried a pack of Newports in his tightly fastened apron. I used to get the impression after I frequented his station every day that he and I sort of struck up a nonverbal bond. It seemed to me that I was getting extra chicken in my buffalo chicken wrap, or just the right amount of mustard on a sandwich- Willy knew exactly what a I wanted. I swear I heard him say in a barely audible whisper, "What's happenin', man?" a couple times. But alas, our relationship never went much further than that. Eventually Willy was assigned to work in the greasy depths of the kitchen, to which I witnessed Willy quietly respond, "Man, that's some bullshit" before he untied his apron and reluctantly shuffled off to the back of the cafeteria. I haven't seen the one cafeteria employee I hoped I could befriend since, but I'm sure whatever skill set he's dealing with now, he's mastering it without allowing the hanging ash from his Newport cigarette to fall.

This year, when I started frequenting the cafeterias again, I found it fun to see who still worked there and who was missing, but I never thought about befriending them until they started warming up to me almost immediately. My first new chum is a layover at Atherton Union from last year, now nightly manning the ever-evolving "Exhibition Station" where you can find mashed potato with chicken strips bowl one night and pio tofu broth bowl on the next. I can't recall exactly how it happened, but I was getting something to eat there one night and I think I cracked a joke to the two guys there, one scrappier looking with a tattoo on his neck (and I believe he wore grillz last year), the other with an afro as tall and wide as he was. They both began to joke back at me and we had a nice little conversation, where the scrawnier of the two asked me what my name was. So I told him, asked for his, and I couldn't quite hear what it was. I smiled and "repeated" back, "Ah Dustl-" ultimately leaving off a syllable and hoping he thought the whole thing was an awkwardly visible mouth spasm. I think his name is Dustin, or Dursely. The thing is, he doesn't wear a name tag! Ahh! It's like that time on Rescue Me, when Dennis Leary doesn't know what his blonde bootycall's name is. So he goes through her mail and aggravatingly finds letters for a Nancy and a Lauren. When he ultimately is asked to say her name after a full month of "oh yeah" or "baby," he is shocked to find out her name is in fact, something like Jessica or Lavender or something (similarly, I just don't remember).

He told me to come back anytime, that he'd hook me up. Hell yeah. I get only the best meals at the Exhibition Station. And those guys love me over there. They blast their hip hop on their boombox and we joke back and forth. Tonight at dinner, they had a DIY ice cream sundae bar, and I was having trouble getting the coagulated hot fudge into a sizable portion on the top of my ice cream. After a fruitless minute, I was finally getting some into my bowl when suddenly Dustin comes out of nowhere in a huff with a spoon he ran to another cart to get in order to help me out. You see. Those guys wait on me hand and foot. Such friendly devotion. I should make them a mix CD or something.

My other new friend, a deadpan, jolly middle aged African-American, works at a similar Exhibition Station at the cafeteria across the quad from "A-Town," on the bottom floor of my dormitory. At lunch he whips up homemade chili, or stir fry, or tacos or anything and makes lively conversation. The first time I said anything more to him than "Thank you very much" Rick told the people in front of me in line and me to tell him we wanted "Rick- the works!" He was making gyros or something. I said, "I'll have the works!" to which he responded, "No- you say, 'Rick- the works!'" So I did, and we exchanged names, and he told me to come back anytime. I eat something from that station probably every day because it's the only near-decent food in the whole joint, so I always see Rick laughing and engaging nervous freshmen in conversation. I say, "What's happenin', Rick?" And he'll probably say, "What's happenin', jack?" Isn't that awesome? He calls me jack with a lower case "j". I've always wanted someone to say that to me so casually. It's like talking to Richard Pryor. The other day asked me what the word of the day should be. We brainstormed and I came up with "spontaneous," and I had the pleasure of watching Rick assault my roommate and a taken-aback little freshman girl to use spontaneous in a sentence. What a guy.

On the whole, most cafeteria employees have been very friendly to my friends and me, and okay, you know what? Maybe there's not a big point to this blog post, but I will say that in some ways, the hospitality and companionship of the cafeteria staff make up for the crumby food they're forced to serve us. B Cav out!

1 comment:

  1. There are three types of cafeteria workers: Guys that enjoy it, guys that would rather be dead, and quiet cute girls they hire to keep the middle demographic coming back to work.