While we live in a privileged era of good dining hall food, it’s easy to forget about the people working so hard to supply it. It’s easy to take for granted that little smile and greeting before swiping, as well as the person sweeping up the chunk of cantaloupe we dropped on the ground or the extra scoop of potatoes put on our plates at the Gluten Free stand. I’d say we’re all pretty much in agreement that our dining hall staff is top notch. However, even the most hospitable person has their breaking point. That’s what I sought to find out last week in my ultimate social experiment. I was going to see how many Goldfish packets I could take from the Fresh Food Co. before a staff member stopped me.
My beginning parameters were simple enough: take two at a time every time I got up; and thus, my experiment began. I had two that I had grabbed earlier, so I stuffed those in my front bookbag pocket. Next I walked back up to the Goldfish bowl, waited for some students to finish pouring their soup, and grabbed the bags. Then I used the bathroom and grabbed two more on the way back, and that put me at a total of eight. By this point, the first pocket I kept the Goldfish in was filling up, and I had to switch to the big pocket with my binders (crushing be damned).
After sitting down it occured to me that this was getting far too easy. The staff behind the booth was far away from where the Goldfish were, and I seriously doubted anyone else was watching. In order to give this experiment any kind of value, I would have to up the stakes. My new rules would be only one bag at a time, and every five minutes. However, despite this extra challenge something still haunted me: I still wasn’t sure if the Goldfish thievery result would mean anything at all about the staff’s hospitality. I decided to resort to outside help. I interviewed a handful of lone students, who didn’t happen to have earbuds in, on their experience with the Core staff, and I wasn’t surprised to find the feedback overwhelmingly positive.
I added on an interview per every round to my rules, and set forth to seek answers with a voice recorder app on my phone on one hand, and a bag of Goldfish in the other.
“I like all the staff, they’re very friendly. It’s hard to get a couple people's’ attention, but they’re very nice and helpful.” said Lexie, a sophomore on the general experience at Core.
“Everyone’s really nice, and everything seems like it’s up and running all the time. There’s always food, so that’s good.” said Brett, a freshman.
“The staff is really nice. They always keep it clean.” said Cassidy, a freshman.
“One day I was dying of hunger and I couldn’t find any cheese, and this one lady offered to help me find some.” said Lexie, on specific stories about the staff.
“One time the guy that makes the burgers… he was just serving em up and was really cool about it, so that was nice.” said Brett.
“A staff member has come up to me and just had a normal conversation, which I thought was really nice.” said Cassidy.
By the time the three interviews were finished I was stuffing thirteen packets in my bookbag, and the bowl was getting close to empty. So far no one had even acknowledged my project, and I was getting worried. Is the staff really nice enough to watch some awkward kid go up and take multitudes of Goldfish bags without saying anything? Did they even notice? If they did, do they even care? These questions and more were racing through my head when I went up to the bowl for what would be my last round. I looked in and, lo and behold, there was only one more bag of Goldfish left. I grabbed it and began the walk back to my seat when I suddenly made eye contact with the lady watching the door. It completely brought me out of my groove and I stumbled over my own feet, before deftly turning my back and going back to my seat. The moment was short, but it told me everything I needed to know. We both knew what was up, and neither of us were going to do anything about it. And that was all that I needed.
This left me with a grand total of fourteen packets, or just everything the bowl had until it was emptied. I thought the experiment was over, but when I went back to get my umbrella I saw that within the 5-10 minutes it took me to come back, the bowl had been refilled. Does this mean they were watching me the whole time, and let me overload? Or did they happen to see the bowl once it emptied? Did I actually discover anything today or am I just a selfish jerk with a rare article idea in the midst of writer's block and a craving for Goldfish? While my results were ultimately inconclusive, we could all agree that the staff at the Fresh Food Co. are looking out for us. They’re trying their hardest do to accommodate us students no matter what, because they know we have our own work to deal with too.
The $2010 per semester probably doesn’t hurt either.