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.


Previously published in “The Sound and the Fury” and “Bonnywood Manor”. Slight changes made for this post. To be fair, I retired several years ago, so I haven’t been in a Verizon cafeteria for a while, but I trust that little has changed. Except for the part about getting a paycheck. Yep, that’s different.

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.)


40 replies »

  1. We didnt have a cafeteria but sometimes food was catered just for our department.
    The people from the other departments would try to pretend like they thought it was for everyone.
    Uh, NO! Take yourself back downstairs where you belong before I stab you with this spork.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Can’t believe you took a photo of your FOOD!

    Please refrain from this snowflakery millenialistic behaviour in future!

    But I do love when you maketh me chuckle.

    Hot kisses on all your cheeks


    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is cruel and unusual. I want that burger NOW. I don’t care if it’s the equivalent of drinking a glass of grease. Maybe I’ll calm down after breakfast, but as of this moment, I’m obsessing. Cruel, cruel, Brian.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I wouldn’t a thunk it, but we had the same work cafeteria! Some slip in the space time continuum no doubt. I would write a sizable chunk of text if I tried to respond, so I’m just going to say a few words for each tempting heading:
    1. Stampeding people: Humans still have a herd mentality, despite what some might think. I mean look who got into the oval office last time. Sheep WERE involved..
    2. Buckles and choice: The prudent employee knew the menu, maybe three years in advance, so that person could speedily cruise the counter and item of choice and get the hell out of there before those obsequious sheep showed up. Less trampling that way. And less jail time because someone stabbed some other idiot who stood drooling in front of the dessert counter, with a plastic spork. Those things are indestructible. Well unless the spork is the only utensil available. Then they snap if you try to scoop up mashed taters with ’em.
    3. Visitors with or without badges. I always wondered about those people. I mean, if one is free and not burdened because they’re not chained to a place by bonds of work-a-tude, what the hell? The visitor might go to a four star restaurant where there are actual cloth napkins and genteel wait staff. I suspect the visitor is a cheap ass sort who doesn’t like spending actual money to eat. His/her meal is probably comped.
    4. Healthy choices. Those clearly didn’t include eating in a cafeteria ANYWHERE. Because aside from that salad bar, most stuff in a cafeteria is fried or loaded with so many cholesterol ‘points’ that it’d choke Mama Cass (and it did). Go find a “Healthy Tomatoes” restaurant and leave the cafeteria to the folks who belong in there.
    5. Driving. Road rage exists because of #1. Although it might better be termed “trod rage”. Being hesitant and/or forgetting to use your turn signal could result in your death. And many will think the world a better place for that.
    6. Friends. Some people just don’t know what is truly important in life. Like FOOD. And those same deluded soppy joy filled twerps probably were forced to watch shows like “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’ as a child and mistakenly thought the real world worked that way. We could only dream..
    7. Rubber gloves. One is likely to get snapped in the eye by one of those things (even if it’s a latex glove, that kind of action STINGS) to move things along. The server just wants to do their job and go home, where things don’t smell of possibly rancid grease and despair.
    8.Interesting Rules. Those sorts of people should definitely be banned from anywhere with more than one food item on a menu. And calling those people “anal retentive a-holes’ will get the nay-sayer a quick trip to H.R. where they’ll have to sit through yet another viewing of “How To Treat Co-Workers Respectfully”.
    9. Spawn of Registers. My own theory about the sort of cash register villain that singles a person out for acts of hatred and malice? They’re secretly attracted to the customer and don’t know how to adequately express their feelings. The stick up the ass scenario works too though..
    10. Plastic and free. Some folks are just light fingered and if something is presumably free, they’ll take it. Whether or not they need it or will ever use it is immaterial. I’m guilty myself of being a paper napkin hoarder. Intervention is required. And some pity. We’re sick you see. And richer than you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, this commentary is rather brilliant, which is causing me to rethink my position in the life spectrum. Perhaps I haven’t really pondered the possibility we should combine our rapier wits and publish as a single entity. But what would be our nom de plume? Brilanie? Melian? Mel Brule? (Damn it, why do those accent marks not work for me at critical times?) Brimel von Stigmata? Melquise de Brianthanador?

      Okay, I think I’m getting a bit carried away. I must retire to my soothing back patio and re-approach this dilemma in a more calm manner….


      • Well, you mentioned Verizon in the post… but not the sandwich station or CoffeeBean&TeaLeaf (attached to the cafeteria) so I figured it was just a fluke of similarity. Did you ever eat at the Fluor Daniels facility in Santa Ana? Same thing but on a MUCH larger scale (they had about 30 different food stations).

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Not only is this an excellent post but I’m also insanely jealous that you have a cafeteria at work! We have to either brown bag it or hit one of the local restaurants before the line-ups get too insane. I mostly just eat crackers at my desk. And number 9? I had the same experience with one of the concierges at the building where I used to live–he was pleasant AF to everybody else but incredibly rude to me and I never knew why!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I’m retired now, so I no longer get to experience said cafeteria, but I really did enjoy the amazing plethora of foodie options, despite this sarcastic piece. In fact, it’s one of the things I miss the most from my Verizon days, which is kind of sad, really.

      But these people who get an attitude for no apparent reason? I know damn well I never did anything to that guy, but he was determined to make my life miserable. Some people just fixate on tiny things and never let go….

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Somewhere there’s a health nut who made a bean sprout cheesecake and served it to their family. They got the idea here, at this blog, from you. Now the family is looking for you and they won’t rest until you’re found.
    I thought you’d like this know this.
    Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great. As if I didn’t already have a cavalcade of folks who have an issue with my writing, most of them relatives. Well, I guess I’d best double-check the security system and notify Cleo that she is on point for surveying the front yard for intruders… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.