Doc Seidman Says…..
…..From time to time I enjoy eating in the campus cafeteria. This means one of two things: they serve pretty good food, or I’m a loser. I would like to think it’s the former; however, sometimes it feels like the latter.
I often tell my students how much I enjoy eating the cafeteria food. They look at me in utter disbelief. They cannot believe that someone who is seemingly in his right mind would want to eat there. Whereas I think discussing my dining habits would cheer them up, it only seems to depress them. In my years of being on college campuses, I can probably count on one hand the number of people who enjoyed eating there, so I guess I count as one of those fingers.
I can never seem to understand why campus cafeterias are so unpopular. To begin with, there always seems to be a wide selection of fun food. Do you want tacos? Always there. Fresh subs and salads? Covered. How about pizza? It always seems to be available. French fries with cheese and gravy? Omnipresent. With such great choices, why do students dislike eating there so much?
I’m guessing it’s the atmosphere. Students see each other all the time: in class, the dorms, the fitness center, and walking around campus. With such constant visibility, I would imagine they are sick of one another. Perhaps they feel that if a meal should be enjoyed it should be shared with those people you choose to be with and not those you don’t.
It might also be the trays. Eating with a tray is certainly not a status symbol. (I learned that the hard way. One year for our anniversary I took my wife to a cafeteria in which we had to put everything on a tray. Bad idea.) Moreover, when you are walking around balancing all these plates and drinks on a tray, you do not look cool. I know that when I am walking to my table carrying my tray, I often worry how clumsy and uncool I seem. My biggest fear is dropping my tray, or at least having a plate or two go flying off it. When that happens, I won’t be reminding anyone of DiCaprio or Bieber. Conclusion: trays are a turn off. I doubt that any real romance has been started by the silverware dispenser of a college cafeteria while carrying trays. But I could be wrong.
Perhaps it’s the dining furniture that turns them off? No matter how things change, campus dining tables and chairs seem to remain the same. There is nothing fun or exciting about dining area furniture. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I’ve seen students enjoying their food any which way: sitting on the floor, stretched out on a sofa, sitting in their cars, or even standing in an elevator. (I can never figure this peculiarity out. How hungry does someone have to be standing in a crowded elevator munching on steamed vegetables and cookies?) Rarely do students eat on a designated chair and table. As such, the student cafeteria experience must feel unwelcome to them. It probably reminds them of grade school, middle school, and high school. Not fond memories, I’m sure.
There’s more not to like about campus dining as well. Sometimes students sit at the same table, under the same poster, advertising the same club or activity. The first time it’s probably o.k., the second time it’s tolerable, but after the fourth or fifth time, it must be absolutely nauseating. The music probably does little to lift their spirits too. Sometimes while I am sitting there eating I hear a song or group I like. As we all know, if the teacher enjoys it, there is no way that the students do. Even if it’s a group they might like, as soon as they see me bopping my head to groove, it becomes unlikable.
So after all that, why do I enjoy the experience? What prompts me to take my meals there from time to time? Usually I eat by myself. Sometimes another faculty member wanders over and we eat together. It would be fun to have students join me on occasion, but I realize that eating with me is grossly uncooler than enjoying the same music as I. But even though I end up eating by myself 95% of the time, it doesn’t bother me.
And as for the food, I enjoy it. And why shouldn’t I? I get dunk my cheese fries in gravy and slurp it down with a diet soda. I can’t do that at home anymore. It remains a guilty pleasure I can only enjoy at school; even if I always find myself sitting under the poster for the Sigma Phi fundraising event.
I don’t really care what the students think. I think dining on campus is cool.