The Lunch Lady

For thirty-five years I’ve served lunches to these grimy little kids. When I first got the job I swore up and down that I would only be there for a year. I just needed to get back on my feet after my husband left me. I mean, I was going to be an airline stewardess. You know, travel the world and see things! But I’m still here, serving vegetables. We have a different vegetable every day. Corn on Monday. Green beans on Tuesday. Potatoes on Wednesday. You know how it goes.

But these kids just walk on down the line, not worried about too much except who they’re going to sit next to in the lunchroom. In about 1980 I started hearing cuss words in the line. 1985 brought about a lot of pushing and shoving. In 1995 I heard my first f-word in the lunch line. Lately, every day it gets worse. Now every other kid is saying the f-word — and if they’re not saying it then they’re thinking it. I’ve got a permanent wave in hair from this hairnet, and my feet are always sore (even though I wear these orthopedic shoes now), and my hands are always dry from the powder that they put in the gloves we’re supposed to wear.

Well anyway, yesterday I’m working in my line. It was Thursday so I was dishing out steamed carrots. A blonde girl in the fourth grade held out her maroon lunch tray. “Could I have some carrots, please?” she asked me, with a smile. “Absolutely,” and I dished her out a scoop of carrots. “Thank you very much ma’am.” This little girl made eye contact with me and thanked me! I could have done without her “ma’am” but I hadn’t had a “thank you” since 1998. Maybe this isn’t always horrible.