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Davis, California

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Column: Tasty talk

Working at the Segundo Dining Commons is like being a Niners fan: It’s great, but sometimes you just want to stick a fork in your eye.

No, really. Working at the DC is awesome! It incorporates two of my favorite things: fun people (like Joe the Singing Cook) and food (like waffles topped with four inches of whipped cream). The hours are flexible. The managers are nice. If there’s anything to complain about, it’s … well, you.

You, the student, the DC patron. Okay, I know it was your friend who squirted ketchup into the flower vase, not you. And of course you always bus your table … unless there’s a fire drill. Or there’s too much to carry. Or you forget. Or you just don’t feel like it. It’s not like you’re some kind of raging jerk.

After working at the DC for a few months, I’ve started noticing the little things that can make or break an employee’s day. Here are a few points of dining commons sense to help you reduce the incidence of fork-related eye injuries:

If the fro-yo machine is dispensing an elastic green goo instead of orange sherbet, then you might want to tell an employee about it. However, pick anyone besides the guy bolting a massive plate of food. That guy is on a break. And not in the Rachel sense of “on a break,” but in the Ross sense.

Now, let’s say you’ve gotten as far as committing to bus your table. Great! You get a gold star. You start stacking up your plates, cups, forks, salad bowls, soup bowls, Tibetan singing bowls and so on. As you wad up your napkin and drop it into your cup, you hear a faint, anguished cry. That is because even though your über-compact Fiestaware tower looks nice and neat, the prisoners of the dish room die a little inside every time they have to fish a napkin out of a cup or go searching for utensils under a pile of carrots and noodles.

(However, you may be able to revive these weary men and women by making smiley faces on your plate.)

CRASH. Some poor dude just dropped a stack of plates on the ground. Before you start applauding with the rest of the classy and thoughtful people around you, consider this – a round of public mockery might be the last thing that person needs.

Maybe it’s one of our workers with a developmental disability, who’ve had a rough time since childhood and just wants to do a good job. It could be yours truly, having a really hormonal day and hanging on to sanity by the bent tine of a fork. It could even be my boss, Calvin, in which case I give you permission to point and laugh. (Haha! Please don’t fire me!)

Lastly, unless you were raised by wolves – or possibly the Weasley family – you know the magic words are “please” and “thank you.” When there’s a line from the Bistro to the chocolate milk and the food service workers are hard pressed on every side, when the preceding four people in line have said, “Can I have butternut squash and a potato and no steak but the gravy for the steak on the squash but not on the potato?” or “Can you carve the Mona Lisa onto the skin of a potato, slather it in sour cream, give it a 30-minute deep-tissue massage, and have it sent to that girl over there with the pigtails?” – when all this is going on, it may be difficult to get your own special order without receiving an involuntary death glare from the server.

However, whenever a UC Davis football player asks for a triple helping, I always end up smiling rather than charging my eye lasers. Why? Because I’m crushing so hard on the entire football team that I’d drive to South Dakota to watch a three-hour game, defying brutal snowstorms and ditching multiple days of class.

Er … did I write that out loud? What I meant to say is the football team makes me smile because they are so darn polite. Even though it takes two-and-a-half linebackers five seconds to clear out all our plates, the “pleases” and “thank yous” from every last one of them makes me tickled they came by.

You, too, can evoke these positive feelings in food service workers by simply using good manners, cleaning up after yourself and winning the Great West Conference championship.

BETH SEKISHIRO will be accepting paper napkin love notes and doodles via dish return from 5 to 9 p.m. on most Fridays. For a more reliable but less adorable channel of communication, e-mail her at blseki@ucdavis.edu.

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