Saturday, May 31, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Dining Services

At 5 p.m. I arrived in the Foulke-Henry Courtyard wearing a white button-down and a shapeless black skirt. Over the next four hours, about 10 undergrads including me would help feed about 600 people their dinner.

Here at the 10th Reunion, we set up a special kids dinner of chicken nuggets, mac & cheese and green beans. "There's better food over there," I said to one man about to take food from the kiddie section, looking a little surprised at what his Reunions fee was buying him.

The grown-ups got a buffet dinner of steak, lemon chicken, pasta, cornbread, salad, vegetables and a whole table of cakes. During the meal, two students focused just on making sure this table was always filled with cakes.

It might seem silly to have students standing around, watching and waiting to refill buffet trays, but 600 people eat a tray of steaks pretty quickly. I was lucky to have hardworking co-workers and the Dining Services professionals helping everything run smoothly.

One of the best parts of the night was cleaning up the tables. This was by far the grossest and most annoying part of the shift. Plates full of chicken skins, half-empty cups, greasy spoons and well-used napkins all passed through my hands.

How could this be so great?

Well, more than once an alum would pause, look me in the eye and say very emphatically, "Thank you so much for doing this." Some even said, "Hey, I worked Reunions too when I was a freshman/sophomore/junior." A few went further, asking my major, residential college or hometown.

I guess that's what Reunions is all about. Even the kid cleaning the table behind the scenes is part of the community.