Help Me Help You

by Kathleen Gold | 10/24/97 5:00am

Maybe you recognize the line--"Help me help you" --from "Jerry Maguire" Yes, I promise it's relevant to what I have to say here. I am the student Area Manager of Home Plate, and business is booming. (As you might have noticed by the crowds packed into Home Plate right after your afternoon class.) That's great--I'm glad we're so popular--but that's not why I'm writing this article. The problem is that we are rather severely understaffed this term. Every area is struggling to maintain the usual high standards - and for a college dining service they are really quite high. But even the best of intentions can't add extra hours to the day, and we all have classes to attend and homework to do and personal emergencies that are as important to us as your responsibilities are to you. Unfortunately, that means that we are often short workers from a shift which is already missing people because of the worker shortages. Occasionally that means the salad bar runs out of eggs or carrots or - heaven forbid - lettuce. Sometimes it means there isn't any plastic silverware out, or that the bakery goods aren't put in the case.

Now you're asking, "What the heck does that have to do with me?" I'm getting there, bear with me. What I propose is this--for every minute that I have to clean up a mess that a customer has left behind (i.e.: abandoned salads and sodas, slopped over soup or dressing, etc. . .), that's one less minute I have to refill that salad bar, or wrap those brownies we all love so much, or even to restock cups and silverware. So when you leave a mess because you're in a hurry or because it doesn't occur to you to do otherwise, you only slow the whole process down and make it near impossible to give you the service for which you are paying. I know what it's like to be in a hurry, and I know that some days just everything seems to go wrong. We all live very fast-paced lives here at Dartmouth. We are all pushing ourselves to the limit. Please recognize that the workers you see in Thayer have concerns similar to yours. We're not just nameless, faceless drudges who exist to fulfill your every dining desire.

I also work the grill in Home Plate. Unlike the Food Court grill which has no counter space and therefore cannot set up many orders at a time, we do have space and have a coded system to coordinate the food on the grill to the orders you have placed. Just because we are capable of taking many orders at one time does not mean that you may walk up to the grill, shout out an order, and walk away to get something elsewhere in the area. First of all, chances are I haven't even heard you (the roar of the hood vent is pretty loud), and second, it's just plain rude to shout and walk away. Trust me, we take orders as quickly as we can. Some days that's a little slower than others depending on the experience level of the student worker helping out at the grill. And I'm very sorry that we often have run out of stir-fry or fried rice by the time you come in to eat. Our grill full-timer Mike Tully (isn't he awesome?) leaves at 7pm and the student workers are not allowed to make stir-fry. Believe you me, you wouldn't want to eat stir-fry that I made anyway.

If all my frazzled rambling here isn't enough to convince you that we would like to make your "dining experience" in Home Plate as painless as you'd like it to be, then do me a favor and try out my suggestions for just one week and see if there isn't an improvement in service and speed in replacing and restocking items. Don't abandon that salad that you just don't want anymore--think before you take-- return the steak sauce to the condiment bar after you're finished, and take the extra five seconds and push in your chair when you leave. These all are very little things that don't take very long to do or to think about, but when a hundred people don't do them and the student workers must, it retards the level of service that we are able to provide. One last thought--please, please, please take the garbage and silverware off your trays before you dump them at the dish drop. If you wonder about the necessity of that, just ask one of the green-shirted supervisors for a tour of our dishroom during a rush. Thanks for your attention.