Thursday, March 14, 2013

Unsung heroes: the daily challenges of dish room employees

by Denae McGaha, Guest Writer

     Although many view the Anderson University Center  Commons as merely a resource for daily meals, it is also home to the often-unsung heroes of the PLU experience: the dish room employees.

    Students come into contact with the dish world on a daily basis, but few know the inner workings of it.

    When asked about the duties of the dish room staff, first-year Dominique Jackson laughed at the question. “I don’t want to know,” she said.

    First-year Robin Thimbriel said she wasn’t sure, but guessed the dish room employees separate the trash and then wash the dishes. The employees gave a similar answer.

    However, they also said the process, while simple, is not as clean-cut as it sounds.

    A look inside the dish room yielded views of a handful of staff members diligently clearing and sorting the items appearing on the conveyor belt known as the accumulator.

    Dining staff worker and first-year Robert Layton said the atmosphere drastically changes at busier times such as the dinner rush, when the room becomes “loud and very humid…very warm.”

    It is under this pressure, Layton said, employees must perform basic tasks such as sorting dishes from trash or compost and loading the dishwasher. However, they also face food compilations and messes beyond simple leftovers.

    First-year Dayton Campbell-Harris said he once left an original mixture on his plate for the employees to clean that was complete with ketchup, potatoes, pepper, mac and cheese and spinach leaves. 

    People place more than jumbled food on the accumulator, too. Athletic ice packs, discarded recyclables and forlorn trash have all appeared in the dish room.

    Dish room employee and sophomore Chris Erkkila said that “mystery smoothies” and other strange concoctions become more common during dinner. 

    “People [can] go wild,” Erkkila said, “and they forget there are people working back in the dish room.”
    However, the employees also said they were grateful for some diners’ consideration.

    Layton said he recalled seeing a smiley-face made out of a condiment mixture that “lifted [employee] spirits.”

     Erkkila said others will yell “thank you,” which is “nice to hear sometimes.”