Have you ever seen that girl from your lab serving the RPCC grilled chicken and wondered what it’s like to be on the other side? Working in the dining halls comes with perks like a high starting salary, constantly getting to meet new people, and gaining work experience or future recommendations. It’s also hard work. A dining job was my first on campus job freshman year and as soon as I clocked into work, I found myself counting down until my five hours were done. If you’ve never worked in a dining hall, here’s what happens on a typical dinner shift.
14.25: The Countdown begins
When you walk in, the Chef greets you with a list of all the things that need to get done. And you haven’t even changed into your uniform yet. With a sigh, you grab a uniform in your size from the office, clock in, and head to sanctuary: the changing rooms. They’re the perfect place to hype yourself up until 4:30 (the official start time of your shift). It’s also the perfect place to send that text to your friends: “Come visit me at work tonight!”
2Tick, tock– has time stopped?
People start to trickle in, so you start running around: wiping down counters, refilling stations, and being asked interesting questions. No, the drink station orange juice isn’t freshly squeezed. Yes, you are only allowed to take one piece of fruit out of the dining hall. This is the longest hour, especially if you are serving the meats–you get bored having to repeat that, yes it’s only two pieces per person, but you can come back for more later. You entertain yourself by guessing what each person that visits your station will get. After two shifts, you’re already an expert. You look at your watch but only three minutes have passed.
3The Existential Crisis Kicks In
You start thinking about all the homework (or Netflix) you could be catching up on or, if your shift is on Friday night, all the Collegetown shenanigans you might be missing. You ask yourself, “why am I even working?” but you snap out of it when you notice that there are no more cookies on the dessert platter. You scurry to get some more, carefully avoiding the side eye that hungry patrons and your supervisor are giving you.
4The Long Awaited Break
By the time break comes along, your stomach feels like a vortex that could suck down any calorie in its path. You’re thankful you get to save a meal swipe because your shift comes with free food. You speed race around the stations, balancing five plates of food at once–all for you. You wolf it down and don’t care about being graceful–you only have fifteen minutes to eat, check your phone, and use the restroom.
When everyone leaves, it’s time to clean up the mess. If you clean the counters and compost everything quickly, you get to go home sooner–so you go fast. You cross your fingers that the dish room isn’t short staffed because if it is, your student manager is probably going to pick you to go in there. When everything is sparkly, clean, and sanitized, your student manager calls it a night and you can clock out. You’re excited to get some sleep and dream about payday. You take a bow, head out, and in that moment you almost forget that you have another shift coming up in just two days.