Blast from the Past: Food Service
Just found this group. This is amazing. I haven't thought about my freshman year in Dining Services for a long time, but reading all these posts and remembering makes me realize that I learned at least as much there as I did in classes that year.
I'd never done any kind of food service before, and was totally at sea. My very first shift I worked the pot sink, washing and washing and washing, sweaty and miserable, close to crying but I did it!
I heard my first Madonna song in that kitchen: "Lucky Star," blasted out during cleanup, everyone singing along.
One night a few weeks into the semester I took the train to my mom's for the weekend right after a shift. There was a high-school student from town at the station too, and I was telling her how I was at the college and had just started this job at food services. "Oh," she said in this weirdly matter-of-fact yet aloof way. "I don't have a job. I don't have to." I was stunned. I hadn't had a job in high school either, but lots of my friends did, and it had never occurred to me to be snobby about it. It was like a window into a whole other class system.
Because I never got that good at food service, I didn't expect compliments, just to get through the shift. I got snapped at a fair bit for being slow and doing things wrong. It was new for me, and in retrospect really good for me, to do something regularly where I didn't shine and had to work hard just to keep up. Not that I shone at everything else in the world, mind you; I just tended not to keep doing things that weren't easy for me.
One night we were short-staffed and I threw myself into it, along with everyone else in the kitchen: washing pots, pulling the dishes off the conveyor belt, running refills out to the salad bar, running the garbage out to the dumpster, back to the pot sink, everything a blur, until finally the shift was over, everything washed, wiped down, closed down, fresh bags in the garbage bins, the machines turned off. Only then did my student supervisor turn to me and say what a good job I'd done, how I'd helped keep everything going during a really tough shift. Those words of praise meant more than any grade I got on a paper. And they were harder-earned, too.