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Picture this scene:

You're 10. You enter your school's cafeteria with dozens of other 10 year olds. Try to recall the sights and smells of the elementary school cafeteria- green beans swimming in a pool of stagnant, green water, the square pizza with cubed pepperoni, the fruit cup which does not seem to resemble any kind of fruit you've ever seen in your life, the unnatural flourescent lighting, exacerbated by the fact that there are absolutely no windows.

Enter- the Lunch Ladies. Or as I affectionately refer to them, the Lunch Nazis.

Now, imagine you sit down at one of the long tables upon the "seat", which is really more like a revolving frisbee, you begin to unpack the lunch your mother so lovingly prepared for you in her 6:30 a.m. pre-caffeine stupor, when you hear "LET'S GO!!! YOU GOT 7 MINUTES! NO TALKING!! PICK UP YOUR TRASH!! OKAY NOW 3 MINUTES!!"

Holy Salisbury Steak, Batman! Are you kidding me?

Nope, this is how my kids enjoy their lunch break- under duress. And I'm not hearing this 2nd hand from kids who tend to exaggerate. I've been there. I've seen it. It's like the Guantanamo Bay of lunch rooms. I mean really, I think the school sends the cafeteria workers for training at the state prison lunchroom. They scare me. And you don't know how many half-eaten lunches I've had come home to me. And you say, 'oh you're so naive, you're kids just don't want to eat their food'. No, I've seen cookies come home, fresh-baked Nestle Tollhouse COOKIES!! Trust me, my kids would not leave those uneaten except under extreme circumstances.

Oh, and I know it's got to be difficult to keep that many kids seated and eating in an allotted time so the next group can get in. Lord knows, I can barely manage to keep 3 kids seated at the dinner table. But for the most part these kids are well behaved and the few that are ruining it for the rest of them should eat in the principal's office.

The latest in the lunchroom saga is that they are now going to have assigned seats in the cafeteria. Ugh!! Assigned seats are the worst! I have a feeling they are going to make it boy/girl alternating seating, because this is what they did to the 6th graders in another school where my friend's daughter was attending. And then, to reinforce the no talking policy, they turned off the lights. Wow, that is brilliant. How did this idea get started? I imagine something like this: "Hey I know, let's sit the boys next to the girls and then..... oh, this is good, we'll turn off the lights! That will keep them quiet." Hello???... McFly! Have you ever heard of a little thing called hormones? Do you watch the news?

Having said that, I will say that I tip my hat to the women who work in my kid's cafeteria. Although they do scare me, I'm sure they are perfectly lovely outside of their job and I don't envy what they do. But there's got to be a better way. These kids need some down time, for their mental and social well-being, not to mention their physical well-being of not having to inhale their food. I guess they could always raise my taxes and build a bigger cafeteria. Really, at this point what difference would it make. They can use the money I lose on half-eaten ham sandwiches.

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Comment by Tracy McGill on May 1, 2009 at 3:24pm
Thanks for the comment! Yes, I survived on fries and those packages of chocolate chip cookies that were hard as a rock.
Comment by Alexes Covington on May 1, 2009 at 11:04am
Hmmmm. I remember school lunches way back when. It was almost exactly how you pictured it. Middle school lunches were a joke! I always would get the fries cause I knew they were safe. You painted a really good story here. I don't envy the lunch ladies either. But what I don't get is why my 10 year old is so EAGER to help in the cafeteria for lunch?

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