It's like a rite of autumn around here: the back to school nights in schools, with nervous teachers explaining their policies and parents sitting there smiling, silently judging them.
I used to be the teacher up there; now I'm the parent. I try not to judge them. Last night, I got there five minutes late (which is pretty good for me) and I had to stand next to the cafeteria doors. I think all cafeterias look the same in schools everywhere - something like this:
with the student area resembling:
although that is a much nicer cafeteria than I remember from grade school. I remember broken benches and stains that we all decided were from some gruesome event that had befallen previous students -
of course, there is generally someone who looks like this:
encouraging you to eat the meal that looks like:
The sinks in my daughter's school are large enough to slaughter a cow in. And the kitchen is made of cinder blocks with dancing vegetables smiling from the walls. The onion looked a little like Osama Bin Laden.
The evening opened with a speaker from the county health department. You can bet I was listening to a forty minute presentation on the H1N1 virus. I only heard the part about 91K being spent on installing hand sanitizing stations. So then, swine flu is a virus that isn't airborne? I didn't quite get that, then again, while she was speaking, I was imagining the onion with a turban.
I can't think of a whole lot of writing that has taken place in school cafeterias, yet it's an experience we have all shared. More so than say sports which I completely bypassed in high school - yet there are lots of books out there involving sports or where the protagonist is involved with a sport.
I had forgetten all the memories I had of my grade school cafeteria until I stood in front of the window last night. I remember a lunch lady standing over me when I tried to slide an untouched lunch into the garbage can. She stopped me and ordered me to try a Swedish meatball. I was in the second grade and she was straight from the corridor of the undead. She picked up my fork and held it up to my mouth. I was too scared not to eat it, so I swallowed it and nodded, then ran. To this day, I have never been able to try Swedish meatballs.
I also remember a tremendous amount of gossiping at the lunch table. We exchanged notes, hair barrettes, phone numbers and party invitations. That time, even though it was probably only about forty minutes a day, was the best time of the day.
I'm trying to think of children's books that involve the cafeteria. Is it one of those places that you stop remembering once you get past college age? I can't think of a single title...