A Day in the Life: Cafeteria Edition

posted by Momo Fali on October 21, 2009

I work in a school cafeteria. Okay, I’ll just say it. I’m a lunch lady. Stop laughing before I shove my mole in your face.

If you want to read why it’s the best job in the world, go here. If you don’t want to read that, just know. It is the best. I enjoy the work, I get to see my kids and the people I work with are fantastic. I really love my job. If it paid better I would call it downright perfection instead of referring to it as glorified volunteer work.

There are four of us permanently stationed in the cafeteria. There is my neighbor/friend/manager, who knows all the ins and outs of everything. From when to place the produce order, to the intricacies of the computer program, to which kids like to try to sneak an extra dessert.

I am Worker #1. I sometimes help with the computer work and lunch count, I do a lot of the food prep, serve the kids and help clean up.

Worker #2 arrives at 10:30 and helps with serving and clean up.

The last employee is the prefect. She controls the kids. She keeps the volume low and the mess to a minimum. She is the one who dismisses the children and keeps things orderly. She also has a different parent volunteer who comes in to help her every day.

With the exception of a couple of burns on my arms, nearly running out of taco meat and a few burned French fries, this has been a stress-free job. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, my neighbor/friend/manager went to a funeral and left me to work the computer in her absence. Because I would be doing that, a parent substitute came in to cover for me in the kitchen. Keep in mind, lunch begins being served at 11:15. Here’s a recap:

* At 10:30 Worker #2 arrives and says she has a migraine. She never complains and is always reliable and would never leave me hanging out to dry, so I know it’s the real deal.

* At 10:31 we determine the parent substitute can’t be the only person serving, as the entree is chef salad. The server has to ask each student if they want cheese, ham, pepperoni and/or croutons and add them to the bowl of lettuce. One server = Kids not eating until sunset.

* At 10:35 I begin calling every parent I can think of who might be able to come in and sub for Worker #2 so she can go home and have throbbing head and nausea in peace.

* At 10:45 I give up on finding a substitute.

* At 10:50 I call my pharmacist and ask her this hypothetical question. “Say I have a migraine and I took one Excedrin Migraine at 5:30 AM and another one at 10:15 AM, would it be okay to now take a pleurisy pain pill left over from when I had pneumonia?”

* At 10:51 pharmacist says, “No.”

* At 10:55 I run up to the office where there is a parent volunteer covering for the secretary, because the secretary is also at the funeral. I ask the parent if she can come volunteer in the cafeteria after she finishes volunteering in the office. She says, “Yes.” Yay! Problem solved!

* At 11:00 I explain the situation to everyone. The permanent prefect will help my substitute in the kitchen and they will both serve the kids. The volunteer who is scheduled to come in will be joined by the volunteer who will be coming down from the office. They will control the kids. I will work on the computer as planned. Got that? No? Me either.

* At 11:07 we realize that half the chairs are being used at the church for the funeral. Three of us make a beeline for the music room and steal all the chairs.

* At 11:10 I realize the mouse on the computer isn’t working.

* At 11:11 I beg a teacher to help me. She finds me a new mouse. I doesn’t work either.

* At 11:12 the mouse starts working and we all come to the realization that the parent prefect who is scheduled to come in, is not going to show up.

* At 11:13 the other volunteer comes down from her office post and tells us she has never prefected in the cafeteria before.

* At 11:14 I consider taking an Excedrin Migraine. Or five.

* At 11:20 my neighbor/friend/manager stops by after the funeral to check on things and sees that all hell has broken loose.

* At 11:30 my neighbor/friend/manager returns from running home and changing her clothes. Then she jumps in and starts serving the kids. You know? While I work the computer…as planned.

And would you believe that at the end of the day she actually said that she feels comfortable taking a day off now? Clearly, she dipped into my pleurisy pills.


  • Melisa with one S

    I recommend snuggling some mini-liquor bottles into the school, you know, should this ever happen again.

  • Piper of Love

    I imagine there are some Murphy's Laws at play in this entire scenario. Perhaps consider sending a strongly worded letter to the Murphy Law Firm? It won't help at all, but at least you can speak your mind.

  • WeaselMomma

    I want some of whatever grows in her garden.

  • Aunt Juicebox

    rofl You know, my mom misses working in the cafeteria so much (which she got paid for, did for 20 years and now gets retirement checks from) that she's been volunteering at my nephews' school this year. She's out of her mind to be doing it for free.

  • Oh My Goddess

    I would suggest an emergency PTA fund named: Dominoes Pizza Delivery.

    What a scene and congratulations on doing so well!

  • Mama Dawg

    Is there a no liquor lawa at your school? Yes? Well then, shoot, I'm out of ideas.

  • AlisonH


  • ♥georgie♥

    LMAO@ I work in a school cafeteria. Okay, I'll just say it. I'm a lunch lady. Stop laughing before I shove my mole in your face. I was not LMAO at the lunch lady part but b/c you threatned to shove your mole in my face

    OMGAWD I had tears rolling
    I think i need a pleurisy pill

  • Jaina

    I think you deserve a day of paid vacation for all of that. Whew!

  • anya

    Oh man! You jinxed yourself, you know. As soon as you say it's the best "anything", the universe will beg to differ and do shit like that. Kiss of death, every time.


  • Irish Gumbo

    You can still get pills for pleurisy? I thought that disease went the way of 'dropsy' and 'bloody flux'…

    My mom and her mom were lunch ladies for many years, and they are pretty cool ladies, so you are in good company 🙂

  • Heather

    You, my friend? ARE MY HERO.

  • laura

    your other pharmacist friend says a beer after a day like that is good and give me a call…..

  • Amy

    OMG I'm stressed out just reading it! I've never worked in any kind of food service and I think it would be so hard! And I think I'd sort of suck at it too.

  • Bad Momma

    Too funny that we both had Lunch Lady stories today! Ours turned out quite well.

    I need to get you a Lunch Lady Action Figure, cause that's what you are! Lunch Ladies rock!!!

  • Esther

    Wow! You can tell a story, lady. I don't know whether to break out into applause or to curl up into the fetal position and suck my thumb.

  • ShallowGal

    Your school serves Chef salad to order for lunch? I need to transfer my kids.

  • Carolyn...Online

    Well of course it went like that. That is exactly what I would have expected. Nothing is ever smooth in the lunchline. I think that's one of the Laws of Nature.

  • geeksinrome

    jesus! How many croutons did you have to pick out of your hair at the end of the day??

  • Oh My Goddess

    I have something for you over at my blog!

  • Janie at Sounding Forth

    You're amazing~

  • The Devoted Dad

    So, after a day like that, where do you hide your flask? -Jason

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