The Great Cafeteria Coup – I’m Entitled!

At 14, in the bustling halls of Westwood Junior High, I was pretty much convinced that the rules didn’t apply to me—especially when it came to the sacred territory of the school cafeteria.

It was a Tuesday, branded forever in my memory as the day of the “Great Cafeteria Coup.” The usual lunch line snaked around the corner, filled with hungry, impatient kids, but I decided I wasn’t just any kid—I was a kid with a free period just before lunch, and that made me special, right?

With a swagger in my step and a mischievous grin, I bypassed the line entirely. Dodging a seventh-grader and a couple of eighth-graders, I slid right to the front, grabbed a tray, and began piling it high with the day’s special: cheesy lasagna and garlic bread. Victory tasted like extra cheese and a hint of rebellion.

My triumph was short-lived. Mrs. Lerner, our eagle-eyed lunch monitor and occasional math substitute, spotted me instantly. With a frown that could wilt flowers, she marched over. “Young man,” she began, her voice a mix of disappointment and disbelief, “what do you think you’re doing?”

“I… um, I was just…” I stammered, realizing too late that my great plan had a flaw: it was visible to everyone, including authority figures with zero tolerance for line cutters.

“Back of the line. Now. And you can think about why everyone’s time is as valuable as yours while you wait,” she instructed firmly, pointing to the tail end of the now even longer line.

Red-faced, I shuffled to the back, enduring the snickers and pointed looks of my peers. It was a long, humbling walk of shame, made longer by my growling stomach and the tantalizing smell of garlic in the air.

The consequences didn’t end there. I was also handed a one-week duty of helping the cafeteria staff during my free periods. This meant donning a hairnet and apron, and learning the art of dolloping mashed potatoes without creating a splatter painting.

The lesson was clear and served up on a not-so-silver platter: Entitlement can lead to more than just a bruised ego; it can put you in a hairnet. Over that week, I not only learned how hard our cafeteria staff worked but also got a firsthand look at patience and fairness in action. People respected the lunch line not because they were followers but because they respected each other’s time and rights.

By the end of my cafeteria duty, I was a changed man. Well, boy. I’d learned that rules are in place for a reason, and sometimes, they’re what keep the cheese on the lasagna and not on your face.

And that’s how I went from line-cutter to line-defender, one scoop of responsibility at a time.

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