Students go to the dining hall to get the food their bodies need for proper nourishment. But, food is by no means the only thing that students get at the cafeteria – they are also served with social interaction. The cafeteria is a place which some students love and which others dread. It is generally an integral part of children’s social lives from elementary school all the way into college. Why is the cafeteria so important? Because, cafeteria is not only for satisfying our hunger but it also fills our vacant time.
Going to eat generally begins with an invitation. Although it is acceptable to go down to the cafeteria alone occasionally, it is better to go with friends. Sometimes, a friend will stop by and invite me to go eat, other times I get hungry and go invite someone else. If everyone is busy or has already eaten, then I just go down to the cafeteria by myself. But, I try not to let that happen often because it creates a boring meal and makes me look bad. If someone consistently dines alone, others will assume that he or she has no friends to eat with. So, two or three of us will usually go down to eat together.
By simply staying in the cafeteria social interaction begins. I often see acquaintances that I decide not to sit with but that I say hello to and ask how things are going. By doing so, three main things are done: contact with that person is made, the association with them is kept active, and news of the person’s life is transferred. By talking about how things are going, you can learn what has been happening in the life of both the person you are talking to and the people she knows. This method of transferring information does on a small scale what mass media does for the masses; it spreads news of current events.
We are in the midst of warm air and an aroma of foods. The smell of food differs slightly from day to day, but it is generally about the same. A whiff of different sauces comes from the stir-fries noodle, chocolate and whips cream from the crepe, and hot grease from the French fries and hamburgers. Mixed in with these is the scent of perfumes and colognes along with the occasional stench of body odor. The air is filled with sounds. Gossip, small talk, clanging plates, frying grease, and dropped dishes can all be heard. Taste is certainly not the only sense used in the cafeteria. All of the senses give the student a combined impression of their dining hall. When conversations are remembered, they are often accompanied by memories of the sights, smells, sounds, and feel of the cafeteria.
After getting our food, we find a table to sit down at with the people we agreed to eat with. Where we sit is almost as important of a decision as who we sit with. Just as we are judged on whom we sit with, we are judged on where we sit. People sitting in the corners are not seen to be as social as those sitting in the middle. The cafeteria is, in a way, designed for the social interaction that it hosts. It contains large rectangular tables for big groups and smaller four to six person round tables. There are no tables made for just one person . Students are expected to eat in groups and to interact with each other. Generally, we choose to sit in one of the round tables if any are available or in one of the six person tables. Even if we do not have enough people to fill up the entire table, we will sit at it because there’s a fair chance that someone we know will join us.
The conversation that occurs during the meal continues to spread current news, define trends, and create friendships. It brings up thoughts about movies, music, clothes, classes, and many other things. Popular culture is determined through conversations such as this. No amount of paid advertising can even compare to the effect of a buzz in cafeterias. Clothing trends are either supported or attacked. Fads are very vulnerable and rarely can withstand negative comments stemming from the cafeteria. Friendships are also developed here. Conversation between new acquaintances that were introduced earlier is now available and friendships can be created.
It cannot be forgotten that we eat during the meal too. The sense of taste is engaged. A plethora of food is available to us: waffle, crepe, pancake cookie, sandwiches, hamburgers, cookies, fruit, ice cream, and the daily offerings. The variety of food displays the variety of students Taste is not the only sense used while eating. Sights, sounds, and smells are still present, but different than those found while waiting in line for the food. Conversation can still be heard accompanied by the steady hum of chewing and the clanking of forks hitting plates. The variation of scents has lessened. Instead of smelling all the foods offered, you just smell the food on your own plate. These elements add to the feelings that the cafeteria experience gives us and sometimes even act as a topic for conversation.
Finally, there is the matter of leaving the cafeteria. Generally the entire table will leave as one group. Most of the group will probably finish eating at almost the same time. Those who finish first wait for the others out of politeness and courtesy. After everyone is through eating, someone will suggest that we leave and we will all take our plates to the dishwashing counter and then leave. We quickly leave our trays and continue out of the cafeteria as a group. On our way out we talk to each other and friends that we see sitting at other tables. Often, students will plan out what they will do later in the day while talking to friends and finding out what is going on. Eventually, the group will split up and goodbyes are said. We go back to our rooms with a full stomach and a full mind.