It’s hard to get a high-school diploma without experiencing the kind of education you can only get from time spent in the school cafeteria.
You learn basic principles such as: If you can’t identify it, don’t eat it. A packed lunch is always better when some of its components have been traded with friends. Where you sit often says something about you.
Some things change over time. Nutritional fads and programs influence the offerings. Increasing enrollment and scheduling issues might have you eating lunch at 10:30 a.m. or 2:30 p.m. Brown bags and metal lunch boxes give way to fashionable, temperature-controlled sacks.
Other things, however, seem to withstand the test of time. The cafeteria has always been a key setting for the social dramas of school life to play out. And the chicken pattie that the lunch lady plops on your plate probably isn’t all that different than the one your mother ate when she was in school.
Below, we asked members of the York Daily Record/Sunday News Teen Takeover staff to share some of their best tales from the cafeteria.
Hopefully, it will make you nostalgic for pizza day, not the food fights.
Usually the most exciting part of lunch is having a break from the normal, monotonous school schedule. Every now and then something interesting (aka a fight) happens.
I do not support fighting, and I don’t really like fights, but somehow, I always end up being very close to the people who are fighting. Case in point: Last year, I was innocently debating between buying a soup or salad when a fight broke out right next to me. I had to step out of the way while the two girls ferociously punched and scratched each other.
These girls fought their way across the section of the cafeteria where food is sold and ended up in front of the slushie machine. The fight became so intense that the machine toppled over, drawing cheers and gasps from the audience seated in their orange plastic chairs.
I was just thankful that I had avoided injury once again.
— By MARIA STAYER, York Suburban Senior High School
Nothing out of the ordinary happens within the walls of the Central York High School cafeteria. Besides the excitement of nacho day or spicy chicken pattie. The half-hour lunch period consists of dull discussion about teacher conflicts, student issues and crappy food.
This is where the philosophy comes in.
Eat and go.
All that I want to do at lunch is eat and go rest for the last hour of my day.
— SETH BLACK, Central York High School
Cafeteria food scares me. For four years, I have never once purchased a single item from the high school cafeteria. Don’t get me wrong — I have nothing against those who prepare it and serve it. It’s just, watching other students eat massive amounts of it every day sickens me.
The amount of food that high school students eat each day proves why the obesity rate is so high in America today. For 30 minutes each day, teens shove as much food as they possibly can down their throats. Maybe it’s just a pet peeve that I don’t like watching these people consume so much that isn’t healthy for them. Yeah, that must be it.
— ANNIE SWADE, Susquehannock High School
Life in the high school cafeteria is usually pretty much the same. We sit at the same table every day, in the same seats, next to the same people. Most of us even have the same generic lunch every day: PBJ with an apple and a juice box. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when, out of boredom, someone wondered if their half of a PBJ would stick to the wall.
How long it stayed, we’ll never know. It remained glued to the wall as we left for our next class.
— By LEAH SPANGLER, William Penn Senior High School
Once upon a time in the York Catholic High School cafeteria, my group of friends and I were sitting at a table filled to capacity.
For lunch that day, my one friend had yogurt that is notorious for exploding when the top is pulled back.
Toward the end of the lunch period, my friend inconspicuously peeled the top of his yogurt back and sprayed six people across the table with Yoplait strawberry yogurt. The explosion was beamed diagonally. He even got a little on himself.
There was yogurt in hair, on faces and sweaters.
Now that is definitely against the York Catholic dress code.
— By ALEX BISHOP, York Catholic High School
The cafeteria is the premier social spot of any high school. For a half-hour, students are free from teachers’ lectures and academic pressures and can instead enjoy freedom that only lunch can provide. Some view lunch as a purely social time to catch up with friends and relax before the afternoon begins.
Some though, view lunch for what it really is — a time to eat.
Students cannot wait to get to lunch. As soon as the fourth-period bell rings, signaling the start of lunch, you travel in the hallway at your own risk.
The halls are filled with hundreds of students sprinting to the cafeteria. They jump down stairwells and push to be the first in line. Holiday meal days cause students to run faster than they do at a sports practice.
If you stop at your locker, forget it. You’re not getting lunch anytime soon. The promise of food brings even the shyest of students on the run to lunch. So, lace up your sneakers, line up at the door and prepare yourself to push. It’s lunchtime.
— By ABIGAIL STOLLAR, Spring Grove Area Senior High School
There is something so juvenile about two cafeteria tables throwing food at each other.
Sometimes, the two “stronger” tables find a “weakling” table and toss its superior food at its prey. But of course, in high school, these actions aren’t juvenile at all because high school is much more sophisticated. High school table wars are “The Lion King” mixed with jihad.
As if to prove my point, the seventh bean of the afternoon hit someone at our table.
Who threw that?
Ah, yes. Those guys.
So what are we going to do about it?
Shared glances. Nothing.
Well, nothing can come of nothing.
More timed stares.
Oh, no problem guys, I’ve got it covered.
Bean number eight.
Before I could use my witty confrontation skills, the chair beside me shimmied backward. Cherub — the angel of angels of the group — has decided to go over to the table belonging to those guys.
In the spirit of West Side Story, I accompany her.
At our approach, the beans hit the table. Apparently, much to my surprise, this particular cafeteria is owned by those guys. And who knew we were a bunch of fat barnyard animals and ladies of the evening?
Don’t worry. The lion tamers of the cafeteria were so proud of the little cherub who could that there were no detentions slung out amid all the verbal waste of those guys.
— By ALY OWEN, Dallastown Area High School
The smell of spicy chicken cordon bleu drifts down the hallway, enticing students in their classrooms. Their mouths are watering, imagining the blend of Swiss cheese, ham and a chicken pattie, smashed in a bun. They’re counting down until the bell rings.
Ten, nine, eight.
Students close their notebooks.
Seven, six, five.
They’re on the edge of their seats.
Four, three, two.
They’re slyly making their way toward the door.
One. Guys are in the lead, racing toward the front of the line. Pushing, shoving, throwing punches.
Girls, especially those in heels, don’t stand a chance. The weak get pushed up against rows of lockers. Fear widens their eyes. Those who pack lunch lag behind, shaking their heads in disbelief and awe at the Great Lunch Olympics.
Finally, in a matter of seconds, the dash is over and the lunch ladies are being bombarded by orders for one, two and sometimes three spicy chicken cordon bleu sandwiches.
On every lunch menu in the school, you can find stars, highlighting and comments such as “yum” next to this cherished item. And each time, without fail, the lunch dash creates havoc and chaos.
As a senior, I heed the warning given to freshmen to beware of the spicy chicken cordon bleu lunch dash: Stay back until you are fully trained to compete.
— By CHAE KLINE, Eastern York High School
A few Thanksgivings ago, my school was serving turkey. Most of my friends ordered the special, a meal that included turkey, mashed potatoes and a brownie.
I, however, was one of the few who did not.
Sitting at the lunch table, I noticed an odor and looked at my friends’ lunches. Obviously, the turkey patties were not cooked enough.
As the day went by, people began to get sick. More and more people went home as the day went on. Every 10 minutes, the janitor was called to a different room or hallway to clean up the remains of the bewitched turkey.
The next day, I went to school and there were only seven of us in our class.
It just goes to show — never order the special.
— By CORINNE ELLIOTT, Christian School of York
What was, to the best of my knowledge, an April Fool’s Day proposition, turned out to be one of the most memorable moments of my — and probably other students’ — school careers.
While it is one of the most cliched school pranks, it is also one that few possess enough blind courage to carry out. This day, however, a few then-seventh-grade students found that courage, and it prevailed in the face of Central York Middle School administrators.
Now, you must understand, 400 teens versus three or four administrators is akin to battles depicted in the movie “300.” Yes, the administration won, but not before a bloodbath — of ketchup, of course.
You must also understand that our cafeteria was divided by grade — sixth, seventh and eighth. Most of the action was in the sixth- and seventh-grade area. Surprise, eh?
The lack of participation by the isolated eighth grade appeased a previous misstep by the Class of ’08 a few weeks earlier, which was a littering of fliers passed out at a class meeting.
Although I’m sure the administration did not smile upon the behavior then, I hope they can now. I know that those who planned and participated in it and watched it do.