A Visit to the College Cafeteria

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
A humorous experience at a college cafeteria.

Submitted: March 27, 2015

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Submitted: March 27, 2015




Half-starved and exhausted, I walked out of the glaring sun, into the college cafeteria. As I entered the alcove, I was confronted by three large tables, placed along the wall. The first two were cluttered with books, pamphlets and flyers. Jewelry adorned the third. Every entering student was forced to pass these tables, since all other doors to the building were kept locked at all times.

As I was making my way past the first table, a heavyset bearded young man called out to me. I paused to see what he wanted. He told me the Rockefellers were organizing a conspiracy to take over the world. When I shook my head and continued walking, he jumped up and held a newspaper in front of me. "It's only twenty-five cents to save the people," he exclaimed.

"What people?" I asked.

"You don't believe it?" He became very excited. "What about Cuba? What about Vietnam? The bombers are off the coast of Florida now!"

I walked on.

"You fascist pigs are all alike!" he shouted after me. "But we'll get you yet!"

At the next table, a young Oriental in neatly tailored suit and tie held out a pamphlet. I smiled and shook my head. Then he started to wave his arms and tell me in a shrill high-pitched voice that I'd better listen because the world was coming to an end and only those who listened to him and read his literature would be saved. "It was revealed to me on the holy mountain," he insisted. I thought it strange that he didn't get together with the bearded fellow at the other table, because if the world would soon end, why worry about whether the Rockefellers--or any others-- were taking it over? But I was too hungry to stop and suggest this idea.

Pondering this bit of wisdom, I passed the third table, where two students insisted that I try on some "love beads," and, observing my lack of interest, sadly agreed that I appeared not to have much love in me.

Finally, I entered the cafeteria itself--a large, plain-looking room with huge glass doors. It was 4:00 in the afternoon and the place was dead. Most of the day students had left and evening students had not yet arrived. Small, scattered groups of students lounged at tables. Some sprawled across tables. Others sat on chairs with their feet on the tables. Still others sat on the tables with their feet on the chairs. Some were throwing food back and forth. Others were embracing.

The floor was cluttered with debris. Chairs were strewn every which-way. Some were overturned and others had broken backs. Many tables were piled high with refuse left by day students, and the odor of decayed food filled the air. I waded through the mess, pushing chairs out of my way, sliding on orange and banana peels; now and then getting stuck on splotches of dried soda and wads of chewing gum. More than once, I had to duck as frisbees soared close to my head. But I was hungry and didn't let these minor inconveniences bother me.

My parched lips craved liquid, and there was a water faucet right in front of me. "Water!" I panted. The water had been off the last time I was there--a couple of days before--and I was fearful that it would still be off. I tried it and, thank goodness, it wasn't. I reached for a cup. No cups! I stared unbelievingly at the empty shelf. Two bus boys, in white attire, sat at a nearby table, watching me.

"No cups?" I inquired.

They stared languidly and shrugged. "It's not our job..."

Furious, I wanted to seize one of them by the throat and demand service, but it was no use bothering with them. They weren't even looking at me anymore. So I marched over to the woman at the cash register at the exit of the serving area. She was short and fat, with tightly bound red hair, stuffed into a net. I explained to her that there were no cups. At first she said nothing. I repeated my statement and she saw that I was not going to give up so easily. Accordingly, she ran around a bit, then called out to someone, who in turn shouted to someone else. Then she came back to me and said with finality, "There aren't any cups."

"What about these?" I asked, pointing to a stack of cups I had noticed by the coffee urn.

"Oh, those are coffee cups. You can't have them unless you buy coffee."

But I didn't want coffee. I wanted water. Yet she was absolutely sure that these cups were too valuable to be soiled by just plain water and considered the matter settled. However, as I stood there begging for a cup of water, she was finally moved to pity.

"Well, maybe if you take one of the small ones." (There were two sizes.) "But only the small ones. Otherwise it's ten cents."

So at last, now nearly dead from thirst and hunger, I managed to gulp down some water. It was warm and sudsy, and tasted of detergent, but it was better than none at all. You can be sure I held onto the precious cup for dear life, in case I should want more water--or any other liquid.

Now for some food. I could see that this would be difficult. To begin with, it would be hard to get into the serving area in the cafeteria because there was only one narrow entrance for students going both ways--in and out. Iron grating covered the rest of the opening. So, if someone was exiting, one had to wait for him to pay and get clear of the passage before one could get in. Sometimes a collision would occur and tray, food, and even students would go flying. I was fortunate. There being few students at this time of day, I made it alright--and confronted the meager array of foods and beverages. Not liking the looks of the greasy hot food, I chose a tuna fish sandwich and a salad. I realized the danger in this. (cold food was more likely too be contaminated--especially in the caf). But I felt daring. Along the way, I picked up a soda (also perilous). I got the food alright, but now came the really trying part. The utensil tray was empty. Again, I accosted the red-haired woman, who scowled and at first pretended not to hear me. But I persisted and she again ran around and yelled out to someone. Soon a busboy appeared with a bunch of plastic utensils in his hands and dumped them into the appropriate sections of the tray. I noticed that his hands were coal-black (he was a white man), and also that, without covering his mouth, he sneezed right on the "silverware" (as the red-headed woman had called it). Each plastic utensil was so tiny that it looked like a child's toy--something that came in a doll set.

Now came the fight to get napkins. I didn't see any and nobody seemed to know where they were. The red-headed woman, now somewhat mellowed, sent a busboy off to "check." He returned with a stack and promptly dropped them on the floor. He stooped to retrieve them, brushed them off with his hand (leaving red stains--ketchup or blood, I don't know which), and placed them on the counter.

I quickly paid and got out of the serving area, breathing a sigh of relief. I washed the utensils as well as I could (there was no soap), but unfortunately couldn't wash the napkin. Then with a blinding headache, bleary eyes, and total exhaustion, I marched to an empty seat, to the beat of the college radio announcer's staccato monotone, and fell into it. Boy was I hungry! I dug into the salad with my miniature fork. Crack! It snapped in two like a match stick. I sat there staring dolefully at the two tiny bits of plastic. If only there were some way I could put them together again! I just couldn't face that red-headed woman. Also, I dared not leave my food unguarded. Could I eat the salad with my hands? Cautiously I glanced around. No one seemed to be looking.

All at once, a piece of paper was thrust under my nose.

"Vote against judicare!" shouted a young man. Then he poured out a string of words so fast that I could only make out one here and there. Not being able to get a word in myself, and not knowing what else to do, I kept nodding and smiling patronizingly as he continued his verbal harangue. "...so be sure to vote against it," he ended suddenly, and was gone to the next table.

Wondering what he had really said and more hungry than ever, I took a bite of the tuna fish sandwich. Immediately, my taste buds told me there was something strange about that tuna fish. I was trying to figure it out and preparing to take another bite, when all of a sudden, the jute box blared forth with such intensity that I jumped out of my seat and dropped the sandwich to the floor. Well, that ended my investigation. I plugged my throbbing ears with my fingers to protect them from the noise and had to maintain this posture for a full five minutes before it died down. Then I drank the soda and stared at the salad. If only I hadn't put the dressing on it.

I didn't have to worry about it for long, because when I turned my head for a moment, the busboy came along and swept everything off the table with a single motion. Now, with no food to occupy my attention, I looked over the enormous room and watched the various activities in progress. A fat, balding man, much older than ordinary college age, was sauntering from table to table, asking for money for the subway, though there was no subway  within miles of the college. When people refused him, he would stamp his feet and jump up and down in a fit of temper, abusing those who had denied him in the most violent terms; then move on to the next table and begin the procedure all over again. Some of the students were laughing at him, but he took no notice.

A girl was passing out "Get Saved" buttons. She asked me if I had tasted the Bread of Life. I replied that I had tasted no bread of any kind for hours and was starved. She said she'd pray for me.

With no food and little comfort, I saw no purpose in remaining any longer in the cafeteria. So I made my hazardous way toward the door. I noticed a vending machine that said, "Apples," and thought I'd have one. But alas, when I attempted to look through the window to see which apple looked good, the grease and dirt formed such a thick film that I couldn't see a thing. I dared not put a coin in the slot, having complete confidence that I would receive a thoroughly rotten apple. 

So, waving goodby to the red-headed woman (who again pretended not to see me), I took a deep breath and rushed past the three tables--oblivious to the cries, gestures, and papers thrust under my nose--and sailed out into the clear fresh air and sunshine.

© Copyright 2018 Godfrey Green. All rights reserved.

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