50.5 F

Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Column: Order up

The quickest way to lose your faith in humanity is by getting a job in customer service. Trust me on this one.

Now that my previous food service job of three months has fallen through and been replaced by another, I’m essentially a seasoned pro in the field. It has, after all, been over a week since my first scheduled shift in position #2.

Last Monday, a momentous occasion, marked my first day in the dish room at said new job. This night, when not spent attempting to get a handle on walking in my runway-ready non-slip shoe attachments, consisted of scraping food remnants into the compost bin, passing dishes down the cleaning assembly line and listening to 102.5 play Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” four times.

To preface, I usually try to adopt a more positive standpoint regarding people (“usually” and “try” being the operative words here), but I’ve reached a point where this has become increasingly difficult.

My awareness of people’s general ability to suck becomes especially heightened while working on the receiving end of the rotating dish return. Judging by the half-masticated leftovers and half-assed, haphazard stacks of dishes sent around that mechanism, people seem to think that the behind-the-scenes dirty work is performed by subhumans rather than fellow students.

From what I have been told and witnessed firsthand, there are few things that people won’t place on the dish return trays. This must be somewhat of a universal customers’ modus operandi since, even in my last workplace, which catered to a much more mature crowd, trash and recyclables would consistently wind up in the same containers as the dishes, despite the numerous disposal areas on site. Due to recent events, my new employers even had to invest in biohazard waste bins and post gentle reminders for customers to please not place their hypodermic needles on the dish carousel.

In light of this, I suppose it’s fortunate that the highlight of my first shift was receiving an uneaten hamburger with a hole calculatedly drilled through the center and filled with overflowing ketchup. This particular burger didn’t stand out to me because it was any more difficult to clean, but rather because it represented the fact that somebody had turned their dinner into a makeshift volcano instead of eating it.

Naturally, I saw plenty of similar instances of discourtesy outside the dish room as well, like the table full of athletes who charitably decided to clear off their plates but left nibbled bread crusts and banana peels on the table. I can only imagine that this was their interpretation of meeting me halfway. And who could forget all the diners’ ambitious attempts at making towering soft serve ice cream cones only to have them end up on the floor? The obvious answer would be “the next person to come along and attempt the exact same thing,” since nobody ever seems to figure out that this feat has a success rate of about 0.1 percent.

Although patrolling the dining area has taught me that people can be horrible any time and place they choose (misplacing condiments, spilling soy sauce everywhere, gluing napkins to tables, etc) sifting through their leftovers in the dish room has given me a better platform to pass judgment –– nowhere is it easier to witness firsthand how disgusting people can be.

It isn’t the physical exertion of having to clean up somebody’s edible art that gets to me; at the end of the day, volcano or not, I’m still shoving leftovers into an open bin. The motions are all the same and, frankly, they’re nowhere near as painful as listening to Flo Rida unironically rap “I’m Bill Gates/Take a genius to understand me” multiple times in one night. Plus, I can always assuage myself by thinking “Hey, at least it’s not a syringe.”

There are a number of elements that do bother me about receiving a wasted meal, though, like the fact that the chefs work hard to make those dishes and plenty of people wait in line for them. And, as a member of Amnesty International’s mailing list, I can’t forget that there are children starving in [insert country here].

However, dealing with wastefulness and cleaning up people’s shit is all part of the job description, just like smiling and thanking them for their patronage; I knew that when I signed my work release forms. Fortunately, I have a second job, one that almost encourages me to turn right around and pass judgment on those very same people. Justice has been served.

DYLAN GALLAGHER just wants to be treated like an ordinary person. Send him an absurd amount of fan mail at dylaaaaan@gmail.com.


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