10 Reasons Why

10 Reasons Why the Cafeteria at Work Is Just Like Real Life

1. People will stampede if food is involved.

Until 11am, everybody in the building is a sloth. Phones are unanswered, priority emails are ignored, and conference calls are full of long silences and the sounds of tumbleweeds blowing past. Nothing is accomplished whatsoever, with customers out of service, and small riots are developing as trouble tickets are not worked. The governor considers mobilizing the National Guard, but no one is returning his calls.

But as soon as that lunch bell dings, the cattle drive kicks into full gear. Two seconds ago, everyone was too weak to hit “next” on their iPod. Now the race is on, with people thundering down the stairs, commandeering the elevators, and parachuting into the cafeteria. It’s a free-for-all of gluttony, rude shoving, and a disregard for basic civility. This is what America has become.

And if you don’t have any intentions of eating lunch today, stay far away from the cafeteria and the surrounding hallways. This advice should not be taken lightly. You’re dealing with a crowd of crazed, drooling zombies who will stop at nothing to satisfy their twisted desires. At the very least, you could lose a limb. And on Taco Salad Day, your life is meaningless to these people. Stay in your cube and pray for daylight.

2. If you give people too many choices, they will buckle.

Our particular café has several food stations, with a “grill” area, an “international cuisine” area, a “dripping with cholesterol and breaded lard” area, and so on. Initially, this design appears to be very considerate and thoughtful on someone’s part. And it would be, if we weren’t dealing with lost souls who have no idea what they want.

The Losties wander around in a migratory circle, glumly reviewing the options at each station, frowning, and then moving on. Nothing will satisfy them. Ever. But they keep going, apparently thinking that the fifth time they slog their way past a station, the contents will have magically changed in some way. Nope. It’s still the same bubbling vat of split pea soup as it was the last time. Same crackers, too. And yep, the same twit is still standing there, trying to decide between the cup and the bowl, mesmerized by the shimmering heat coming off the pot, along with a faint wisp of fake ham and the scent of splattered soup on the floor. He will still be standing there next Tuesday.

3. People with “Visitor” badges should be denied entry at the door, no questions asked.

There’s already far too much activity going on in this place, with physical jeopardy around every corner. We don’t need to complicate things by throwing strangers in the mix. They don’t know the procedure, so they end up just getting in the way and asking too many questions. If I stop to tell you how the salad bar works, the line at the enchilada bar is going to get longer and they might be out of ranchero sauce before I make it through. If such a horrendous thing should happen, with me sauce-less and sad, I will not greet this development with grace and dignity. There will be a scene, a loud and humiliating one in which you will not feel pretty or loved.

4. People take this “eating healthy” thing too seriously.

Look, you person standing there clutching the pesticide-free apple and the bag of organic granola, we don’t appreciate your kind around here. I want to enjoy my onion rings without any guilt or mortified looks from people with zero percent body fat. I’m very happy for you that you’ve made some positive lifestyle changes. But I haven’t made a similar decision, and you need to take your bean sprout cheesecake somewhere else. Go outside and enjoy nature. I’m going to stay in here and enjoy processed foods doused with chemical lubricants so my body does not immediately reject the pretend food.

5. People don’t know how to drive.

It’s very simple, folks. Common courtesy should be your guiding principle when maneuvering around the cafeteria. Don’t run around all wild-eyed like somebody doused your panties with wasabi. Look where you’re going, stay on the correct side of the road, and yield to the right or the person with the heavier tray. Don’t you dare cut me off, zooming in front of me without the proper turn signal or a polite beep on the horn. Road rage can take place anywhere, even cafeterias, and you don’t want me to go there.

And no, it is not okay to violate protocol by running up at the last minute and joining a group of your friends who are in the line ahead of me. You do not get a free pass just because you know someone’s name without having to look at their ID badge. You need to get your ass to the back of the line, and stand there with the other slackers who didn’t have enough ambition to knock slower people down and get to the cafeteria during the first wave of the Apocalypse.

6. People mistakenly assume that standing at the same food station makes us friends.

It doesn’t matter that we are breathing the same relative air and waiting for the same type of entrée. Unless I give you specific permission, which will probably never happen even if we’ve had intimate relations in the past, you are not allowed to speak to me while in line. I’m focused on an end goal of filling my belly. This equation has nothing to do with you or your troubling need to socialize while we watch someone shove tuna surprise into a plastic container.

Turn around and talk to the person on the other side of you. The probability of an actual response is far greater with them, even if they lost their vocal cords during the tragic bull run of 2003, when the cafeteria accidentally served chicken-fried burritos and Cheez-Whiz casserole at stations that were too close to one another. (It was a dark time, especially since they had to close the cafeteria for 3 days until they could get the questionable residue off the ceiling.)

7. People are mystified when asked questions by someone wearing latex gloves.

Okay, Sludge Boy, you need to pay more attention to the line server who is just trying to get your food right and is not trying to send you over the edge of sanity. When she asks you “what vegetables would you like with your Mongolian stir fry?” she means exactly that. She just wants you to select the ingredients for her to throw in the sizzling pan that is sending sparks of couture-destroying cooking oil into the air since it’s completely empty because of your slow ass. She is not asking you to stare stupidly at the grated carrots and the sliced bell pepper while crickets chirp and civilizations decline. Pick something. Or leave the line. A or B. How the hell did you get hired?

8. Some people have interesting rules about their food.

What kind of life experiences have people had that would lead them to say things like “I’d like the Chicken Alfredo but hold the sauce and the chicken” or “I can’t eat anything green” or “my vegetables can’t touch”? Or, and this one confounds me, “I’m a vegetarian and I need to know if meat has ever been cooked on that grill”. As we’re standing at The Burger Grill. Where they make burgers. With meat. 97% of the time. What answer other than the obvious are you expecting here?

9. The people working the registers are the spawn of Satan.

Well, not all of them. One in particular. I don’t know what I did to this man, or when, but he hates me. He can be chatting away with the person in front of me, comparing baby pictures and making plans for a picnic. Then he catches sight of me, and his eyes go dark. He scours my tray to make sure he doesn’t miss any possible extra charge, whipping out his little pricing chart to see if he can combine any of my items and make them into something more costly. Wait, a banana and a container of milk? That could be a fruit cream latte with room. That’s twelve bucks!

No, it’s just milk and a banana. Two bucks. Can’t stand you.

And don’t let me head his way after visiting the salad bar, because then he actually has to weigh my salad to determine the price and that just goes against his concept of God and nature. From the look on his face, you’d think I just cart-wheeled into the room, completely naked, and then did the splits on the muffin counter. He sighs, grabs the container, slams it on the scale, doesn’t wait for it to settle so I’m probably getting charged more while it’s on the down-low, throws the container back at me, and then barks out my total.

When he returns my change, he won’t even count it back, just wads up the bills and coins and shoves them at me. Then I’m dismissed and he immediately turns on the sunshine for the person behind me.

I actually don’t want to ever find out what I did that drove him to this point, because whatever it is can’t possibly be as bad as he’s making it, and I’d only be disappointed at the revelation. He’s just a selectively bitter man with sociopathic spikes of outrage. Which actually makes him just like me. We’re probably related, sharing a distant relative who escaped a potato famine and moved to the New World aboard the good ship Barley Hops. Maybe that’s why he’s mad. My branch of the family toiled in nicer factories and we eventually got into the better social clubs before his branch did. Jealousy can be a wicked muse. Still, get over it and pull that stick out.

10. People don’t know how to behave around plastic utensils.

Just behind the registers, and before you hit the “dining room” proper, there’s an area where you can get silverware if you’re staying, plastic ware if you’re headed back to your cube, and a variety of condiments. This is where people with no sense of decency really shine, tempted as they are by the idiotic decision of the cafeteria staff to provide paper sacks to carry your stuff, if needed.

The “everybody owes me” people will grab a sack and start snatching up fistfuls of forks and spoons, followed by three inches of stacked napkins. Then they move to the condiment section, practically dumping entire bins of little packets into their sacks. (Who really needs 100 servings of mayonnaise in a desk drawer? Help me understand that.) And of course, these people are loading up all this mess without even trying to be sly about it, glaring rudely at anyone who has the nerve to get in their way.

Yet these same people are stunned the next day when the cafeteria manager announces a 10% price increase to cover operating costs. So they steal even more. And the prices go up again.

Now do you understand how our economy got this way?

People take more ketchup than they really need.


Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 06/10/10 (when I was still working for Verizon) and “Bonnywood Manor” on 05/30/14 (still working). Revised and updated with extra flair for this post (no longer working).

Story behind the photo: Snap of the “Burger of the Month” at Snuffer’s Restaurant in Dallas, June of 2016. (I no longer recall the name of that limited-offer burger, or why I felt compelled to take a picture of such, but it clearly involved aggressive bacon. And it was cooked on a grill that has touched meat.)


31 replies »

  1. Interesting rules about food…. I know so many people with those! I don’t go out to meals with them anymore. It distracts me too much lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As someone who is trying hard to diet, if you are going to stand near me and eat onion rings, you are going to get murdered.
    In real life.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I can totally relate to no. 10. one time I went tona friend’s apartment. ..she offered me coffee. ..to my surprise she went. out along with sachets of creamers and sugars from a fast food chain. ..and she said…you know I save a lot out of this…..like, seriously? .

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Have you been checked for hypoglycemia? After I quit laughing (it took an hour for the giggles and snorks and such to subside…I think my neighbors called 911 because they thought I was having a stroke or choking to death on something). Why did I write that weird first sentence? Because this post embodies the life of a hypoglycemic having a sugar crash. Those happen regularly after a long morning of loafing, hiding in the supply closet and grabbing a cat nap, and pretending to have urgent business with the CEO (not fooling anyone, the CEO never comes in before 1 pm…avoids the stampede o’ hunger crazed employees that way you see). One in the throes of an ‘episode’ of hypoglycemia would stab their own grandmother if she got between them and their objective – food. How do I know all this? I’m one (which juxtaposed with my diabetes makes for a FUN day. My pancreas is apparently related to the idiot you described to perfection in #7 who is also that idiot ahead of you in the fast food drive up lane, who is stumped by choices like “mega bacon burger” and “mega burger” … oh the humanity! And that whole ketchup packet thing? Survival tool of the elderly and the student…how else could they condiment properly? I mean that $1.98 for the bottle of ketchup might actually buy an extra can of cat food…or top ramen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So I guess what you’re hinting at here is that I should be more considerate when folks behave inappropriately (at least in my opinion) in public food procurement facilities. That perhaps they have completely valid reasons for their erratic flight patterns if I would just take the time to understand them. Perhaps I should ponder this a moment. Uh huh. Uh huh. I see. Hmm. Okay, now that I’ve reviewed the tapes (don’t ask why I have them) it’s still very clear to me that the majority of the obnoxious heard is simply that. Obnoxious. But I will keep an eye out for medic-alert bracelets dangling from the intrusive arms of people shoving me out of the way, just in case… 😉


      • Oh no, no censure at all implied or overt. I found the post totally hilarious and your take on the food hoard was spot on as usual! I guess I should have eaten something prior to writing my extensively long reply….another victim of my errant blood sugar…my apologies sir if it were mistaken. 😉


  5. “my vegetables can’t touch.” The dining together experience is where ADD rears its head and bellows “I am not a suitable mate or companion for any but the most dysfunctionally retentive or completely amoral born in a pig sty hoarder.” People who cut waffles on the geometry of the holes and maintain both quantity and proper spatial relationships on their plates. People who moosh everything from green pea pellets and orange Jell-O into their mashed potatoes burp a Rebel yell and say things like “Hell, it’s all mixed up in ma belly, whut’s yore problem?”

    No visitors, particularly vendors. They will note and monopolize buyer’s weaknesses. The register people are the the same ones who moonlight at sporting event concession stands and conventions. I think they are genetically immune to even a passing compliment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been contemplating a part-time job (just to pay for travel and those ridiculous insurance premiums) and this situation presents an interesting opportunity. Perhaps I could start a new career in Food Behavioral Sciences, with a minor in Transportation and Congestion Analysis. I’ll get back to you… 😉


  6. My food cant touch. We had a potluck here at work and I took 4 different plates…and remember, I’ve had the gastric bypass so there was seriously 40 little splats of food around each of these plates. I like to think of myself as a majestic unicorn and NOT a complete pain in the booty. When we have leftover food at our potlucks, we send out a department wide email and you can literally hear the droves of people running to the conference room like they’ve never eaten before. Bitches LOVE leftover scraps of food!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did have a friend in high school who was very particular about the size of a bite of food. If a chunk of something was just the right size, into the portal it would go. If it was too big, she would carve out a proper proportion and make do with that. If the last bit was too small, she wouldn’t touch it, often leaving her lunch tray peppered with teensy bits of this and that, like she was one of those people at CostCo who proffer up samples of the latest whatever…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I knew it was the ketchup!! Satan-juice. It had to be. Thank you. This, by the way and quite incidentally is a glorious piece of sarco-wit for which you should be nobelled at the very least 🥇

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m thinking you took a picture of the Burger of the Month not only because of the aggressive bacon, but because it was on a poppy seed roll, which is sheer poetry. Also, you were drinking Vodka at the time? As a mixer or straight up? Either way, it must have been an interesting evening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If memory serves, the beverage was actually a Moscow Mule served in a copper mug. As mentioned, the burger-ravaging and Mule-guzzling took place at Snuffer’s restaurant. I would never dream of imbibing in the work cafeteria. Of course, there were many co-workers who not only dreamed it, they lived it, constantly engaging in covert rounds of nip and tuck. Which is kind of sad, in that their inebriation would often lead to them missing the beauty of the poppy seed roll…. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Bean sprout cheesecake is just wrong. The folks working these registers are the “gatekeepers” indeed – much more intense than the people monitoring airport travelers. I am guilty as charged for taking mucho napkins but in my defense those damn dispensers have to be wrestled to the ground just to get more than one napkin out at a time. For some reason I manage to injure myself more with plastic utensils than with metal ones. I do take more ketchup than I need…apologies to the economy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, your sins are great and mighty. I think the only way to absolve yourself is to write some new posts for your blog. It’s getting a little dusty over there. Said with full support for a fellow blogger, as I really enjoy your humor pieces… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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