what’s eating me

I hate the cafeteria at my office. In the greater scheme of things, of course, it’s pretty unimportant, but on a day-to-day basis it does have a fairly significant impact on my own happiness.

At the main office for the Department of State downtown, they have an incredible cafeteria, with more than a dozen separate stations, including a fresh seafood bar, Tex-Mex, wraps, Greek, sushi, Chinese, Italian and more. Then there’s the separate deli, ice cream shop and espresso bar downstairs from the cafeteria proper. Moreover, while they’re not in the heart of the DC business district, they still are within a few blocks of a number of other eateries. Here, on the other hand, we do have a beautiful site–and I certainly can’t complain about the commute, being less than two miles from door to door–but our cafeteria sucks, and the management of it leaves a lot to be desired. And there’s nowhere within a reasonable walking distance, so if you want to eat off-campus, you have to take your car.

I finally did stop buying coffee here at all, after continually being frustrated by arriving at 8:30–only fifteen minutes after the official start of the workday–to find that they already were down to the bitter and burnt dregs of a single urn, especially when a small cup of this mostly water goes for nearly a buck fifty. Granted, I still buy the occasional espresso drink from the ubiquitous coffee shop chains, but I chafe at what must be obscene profit margins anywhere coffee is sold. And when they started charging $1.00 for an orange or banana, I stopped buying fruit here as well.

I’ve still continued to go there for lunch most days, though, despite the constant frustration. Today was not atypical. The cafeteria is ostensibly open until 2:30, yet arriving at 1:00 I found that while the sign at the soup station promised clam chowder, which is one of only two things I think the cafeteria does well, the other being their wild mushroom bisque–the soups actually are catered by Au Bon Pain, rather than by the overall cafeteria catering contract, so no real props to them for this mere soupçon of success–there was no clam chowder available. So I moved over to the sandwich line, where the special of the day was listed as cajun tuna salad. I ordered the special, to be told that they had no cajun tuna salad. I asked if she meant that they did not, in fact, have the item listed on the sign in front of her–a small letter-size piece of paper attached, non-permanently, to a small easel sitting on the counter that could readily be taken down, turned face down, turned around, etc.–and she agreed that they did not.

A couple of months ago I asked for the listed sandwich special–a turkey sandwich with a bottle drink–without paying enough attention to the price printed on the menu. It was only as I checked out and was told the price for the special that I realized that its price actually was higher than the cost of all the individual items added together. Yet the cashier insisted that I couldn’t buy the drink and the sandwich separately, since together they constituted a “special.”

Not surprisingly, I noticed today, while looking especially for them, that they’ve removed the comment cards and box.

I really should try to bring my own lunch and just boycott the cafeteria altogether. It’s too bad, then, that I’m essentially a lazy bum.