When orientation started back in August there were a lot of responsibilities and expectations thrust upon incoming freshmen. We had to rise from our new beds, make the conscious effort to put on sandals before showering, remember the codes to our rooms, find out where we had to be for daily activities, arrive on time, and of course, make sure we were presenting ourselves in a way that we believed our new peers would admire. None of these tasks were particularly overwhelming alone, but the combinations of them would occasionally wear on us. For me, it was a wake-up call: this was not Goffstown, New Hampshire. My mom would not be rolling me out of bed and sliding french toast onto my plate. It was time to fend for myself, in a sense. Though I was already a legal adult at that point, the beginning of college was the true indicator that it was time to grow up.
NOTE: This is not, of course, to say that I would ever refuse my mom’s french toast. French toast is on an entirely different level and is thus exempt from any debate involving maturity.
I think it’s safe to say that the typical American college student associates working a job as an integral aspect of adulthood. I could feel the transition from teenagerdom to adulthood occurring within myself, and beginning work at Kimball Dining Hall was nothing short of a major catalyst for this change. This post is the story of my experiences working at Kimball.
My story of Kimball is many things. It is, at times, tragic. It is, at times, inspirational. It is, at times, funny. But although these dramatic elements have cycled in and out throughout the course of two semesters of work, two things have stood out as constant. First, every shift at Kimball is a learning experience. Whether it’s a small tidbit like finding out where we keep extra napkins or a major revelation like realizing the true effort running a dining hall requires, every shift offers a lesson. Second is the value of teamwork. When work started, the freshmen (myself included) were slightly intimidated by the prospect of being responsible for the positive dining experiences of hundreds of students on any given day. Honestly, things started out on somewhat of a rough note, but as soon as we came to realize as workers that we could rely on each other to reach our collective goals, work and life became a lot easier.
I will never forget my first shift working at Kimball Dining Hall. It was a Wednesday night in September. I showed up slightly nervous and not knowing what to expect. When I found the table to which I was required to report, my shift captains gave a quick overview of all of the jobs that needed to be done that night. I had some trouble wrapping my head around all of the names of the jobs and what each job entailed. My memory is fuzzy, but I remember that I somehow ended up on the Beverage Unit (henceforth referred to as simply, BU).
Being the BU man essentially meant I was responsible for filling any and all empty juices and milks, keeping the counters around the drinks clean, and a bundle of other, smaller tasks. For one of my classes, I had to write a short story about myself, and I chose to describe the first time I ever changed a milk. At this point, I’d like to share that story with you.
Now what? My work captain had showed me how to change the milk, but she flew through the demonstration. I can’t remember if I thread the nozzle and then cut the plastic tubing, or if I peel off the extra layer before or after I take the metal piece out. Even the little diagram on the inside of the milk machine is unfathomable to me. Out of my peripheral I can see a line forming behind me. Great, they look like football players. I need to hurry up. My mind starts to wander…I had no idea so many people liked milk. I mean, honestly, how could so many people have lined up in the 20 seconds I’d been standing here staring blankly at the milk machine? Better get going, Danny.
I dive in. I bring my mind into focus and try to recall the exact procedure I should follow. I tear off the extra plastic. Nothing bad happens! I take out the old milk. Another good move. I cut off the plastic tubing. Not good. The milk is flowing onto my apron and forming a small lake around my feet. No, this definitely doesn’t seem to be the way they showed me to do this. I plug the leak with my trembling finger. People walk away in a mixture of frustration and impatience. Somehow, I get the milk to stop making my life hell and I scramble into the back kitchen. I’d like to quit. That was humiliating and I’m mortified. But, no. No, I can’t give up after one incident. Where’s the next milk that needs changing? It’s time to learn. It’s time to improve on my weaknesses.
As you can see, this single experience reflects all of the elements I mentioned earlier. It was tragic in the sense that I was a helpless freshmen covered in milk and failing at my appointed duty. It was funny (though not at the time) simply for the embarrassment factor. And in the end, it was somewhat inspirational in that I was able to use this experience as a chance to motivate myself to improve my work. So there you have it, two and a half minutes into my first shift at Kimball, I realized I had a lot to learn.
And learn I did. And learn I still do, all these months later. That night, I took a minute to collect myself and suppress my emotions, and I went back to work. Like anything else, skill in the BU is the result of hard work and practice. I learned a little bit more about the job (as well as all of the other jobs, BU is just one of many important roles that students fill in Kimball) each time I worked, and today I am confident that my work abilities exceed most expectations.
In the interest of both the reader’s and my own time, I’ll wrap up this post. I could literally write for days about the experiences I’ve had working, and as much satisfaction as that would give me, I’ll spare you my life story. I will, however, depart with a few final remarks.
I’ve met a lot of my friends through work-study. Just throwing it out there. This school is full of awesome people, so any opportunity to meet and interact with other students is one that should be taken advantage of. I’ve been able to hone a deep appreciation for the product of hard work, which in this case is the Dining Hall full of happy people with food on their plates and drinks in the cups. More than anything else though, I’ve come to fully understand what it means to be a part of a team. A team is, yes, a group of people working together towards a common goal. But in actuality, it’s much more than that – it’s a way of life. I heard this adage sometime back in middle school, but it never made more sense to me than it does now that I’ve become a part of the Kimball work-study community: Together Everyone Achieves More.