Thursday, September 24, 2009

That I May Serve...

Genre: College Life

Virginia Tech's motto reads “Ut Prosim” meaning “That I May Serve” and most of the newly admitted students, myself included, get the opportunity to take up this motto a bit too literally – by joining one of the Food Courts on campus! Virginia Tech consistently bagged the “Best On-Campus Food among all US Universities” award over the last five years, thanks to four huge Food Courts serving a wide variety of cuisines and employing over 700 students at any given time. This made sure the poor unfunded graduate students (like me) got at least some job (read: money!) As I complete one month as Food Service Technician at Owens Food Court, I would like to share some observations and experiences encountered during my first “job” ever.

The most memorable moment was undoubtedly the very first minute I started my job- I was assigned the duty of serving food at Carvery – the American meal outlet at Owens. The very first customer came and demanded Scrambled Eggs. Just as I was about to put some of them into a dish, he stopped me and said, “No. I want To Go.” I wondered- “if you want to go, just get moving. Why are you telling me?”. It was then that my Manager came in and explained that “To Go” means he wants the food in a styrofoam box to take away (parcel!). New Land. New Vocabulary!

Over a period I have noticed that the Americans have some strange food habits- the most common being pretending to be health conscious. They will order, for example, Double Cheese Burger and DIET Coke! Come on, what's the point! Similarly, in an attempt to eat “healthy”, they eat a lot (and I mean a LOT) of raw lettuce and spinach and because it is so tasteless (even by their standards), they will add a dozen different fat-rich dressings like Ranch, Thousand Island, Golden Italian and what not! But what freaked me out the most is the dining schedule of the Americans – my Food Court serves Lunch only from 11am to 1pm and believe it or not, dinner time is 5pm-8pm! I used to have my evening snacks around that time back home!

One thing that I really appreciate about my job is Dignity of Labor and Equality- nobody behaves like a “boss” nor are we at any point of time made to think that we are “waiters” or “cleaners”. At busy times, even the General Manager cleans the tables along with students at Customer Service and nobody is singled out to do “dirty” job like taking out the trash. The work environment is very casual and the Managers make it a point to appreciate every single small job well done by the student employees.

While the work of serving food, cleaning tables or collecting dishes and washing them doesn't seem interesting at first, the perks of working at Dining Centers are many- first and foremost- the Meal Coupons! Every shift I work gives me one meal coupon which entitles me to unlimited free food the next day at D2 (VT's biggest multi-cuisine Food Court serving everything from American to Italian to Mexican to Chinese and Mediterranean). Apart from that, while at work, I am allowed to have as many glasses of cold-drinks as I want from the Fountain as long as I don't ignore my work for that. And then there are other perks- getting to know a lot of fellow students and of course, the biggest motivating factor for any guy to work at the Food Courts is the crowd! There is plenty of “bird-watching” opportunity and call it my luck that most of the days I work at either the Organic food shop or Salad bar- two places which are frequented by a LOT of beautiful American girls! Moreover, the girls here (especially the undergrads) smile a lot (some of them clearly fake it) but every evening, invariably I come across atleast a couple of customers (female of course!) who give an aww-so-sweet genuine smile before leaving the counter and that makes you feel that the effort you do is worth it!

From collecting and washing a thousand dishes in one evening to re-filling 66 different salad items continuously, I have done it all, and how much am I paid for it? Well, I will put it this way- my 14 hours of work at Owen's (after conversion to Indian rupees) is paying me more than the salary Wipro had offered me during campus placement last year!


  1. Aweeesomeee!!!!
    :O wow Wipro needs to read this... lolz :P :D

    N so glad to read that ur havin a fun time at VT.

    Have fun! Miss u a lot!


  2. I have heard all this from you like a million times i guess but still lolest @ "to go "episode again.

  3. @Ice Maiden

    I hope Wipro doesn't read this...they will stop coming for placements.. juniors maarenge mereko!

  4. @Jshree

    Call it the advantage (or disadvantage) of being my neighbor.. you'll always be the first one to hear my random musings and so when I tell them to others later, you'll find them stale! Can't help it!

  5. Ur earning more than a undergrad does at his 1st job... Having fun ogling at those amrikan babes... Enjoying cuisines from around the world at no cost....

    And back home, ur mom might be fretting over the fact tht her poor son has to work in a restaurant !!!!

    PRICELESS !!!!!

    Enjoy dude....


  6. yeah, i completely agree with your observation about the work culture here, no one is the 'boss!' and btw, don't convert your salary to INR. it will only give you a false sense of satisfaction! in india we get a 20oz bottle of coke for 15 rupees, here it's $1.50, which is like 75 rupees! so you should probably convert your salary to rupees and then divide that by five! (well, that's not too accurate because it would mean you are spending all your salary on coke!)

  7. @Urvish

    "Ogling" is a demeaning term..I 'interact' with them :)

    And don't you worry.. my mom knows all this and she ain't freaking out over the fact that I work at Food Court :)

  8. @Rnadom Thoughts

    Dude, you chose the wrong example for Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)!

    Here, petrol sells at $2.29/gallon i.e. Rs 45/litre and in India it is Rs 50/litre. Similarly, a large cheese pizza at Domino's costs $5 i.e. Rs 250 and in India also it is around the same rate. A burger at McD costs $1 while in India it is Rs 49. You can buy t-shirts here for $5 while in India you buy them for Rs 250, right? I got a Levi's jeans fr $14. How much does it cost in India? Definitely more then Rs 700, ain't it?

    So, with my money here, I can buy almost the same amount of stuff that I could have bought with an INR equivalent salary!

    BTW, 20oz Coke is $1 in my university and 79cents at Kroger! Don't give inflated figures!

  9. nice to see the positivity... :) hehe... n oh btw.... my studies have been awful.. but ye still goin for the match :D
    Now I hope the positivity stay!! :D

  10. @Rini

    As future managers, shouldn't you learn prioritizing work? Going for the game when there is pending work, thereby depriving a poor MS student from getting the game experience is so unprofessional! ;-)

  11. hey buddy... nice description of ur food court experience... 4 food courts sounds like funnnnn!!

    keep posting in these tid-bits... n make that to-go! ;)

  12. Oh man.. awesome :) Keep posting stuff on the life you're havin there.. good read :)

  13. @Jagged Edge

    Yes, four food-courts mean awesome variety of food on campus!

    I'll post more experiences, but you'll have to savor them here, not "To-Go"!


    Thank You! Thank You! Appreciation appreciated!

  14. I think any blog post about the food courts here will be incomplete without mentioning the amount of food that goes waste here!

    A really interesting read! :)

  15. @Sindhu

    Welcome here! :-)

    Oh yeah! Don'e even remind me about it! It pains to see the huge quantities of food thrown away at the end of every day! Just yesterday, I was at the salad bar and we had some 55 wheat buns left which we were asked to throw away! I asked the manager thrice if we should really throw away such a huge quantity when they can be very much used next morning. But they won't listen - rules say throw, so throw!


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