I have lunch duty. It is the most rediculous, thank-less, pitiful task that comes with being a teacher. I meander around the cafeteria half-heartedly reminding kids to throw out their garbage. Take off their hats. Put their cell-phones away. Stop giving me the middle finger as I walk away. Only to have to do it all again on my second, third time around. Hard earned, tax paying dollars have me baby-sit sixteen year olds and observe their daily eating habits. Sometimes I stop to chat. Be friendly. Attempt to rid myself of the acquired Gestapo title.
It is during these times of short-lived interest that I have begun to notice something rather unsettling.
“Hey, Mrs. Shannon,” they grin, braces swimming in what appears to have been blue slushy.
“Mrs. S, up top!” one of them calls, one hand outstretched while the other clings to a frisbee sized soft pretzel. “Miss- we got any homework?” Another inquires between bites of a chocolate chip cookie that I’m positive if I were just a bit closer I would be the first person on record to inhale diabetes. Finally, after a cheese whiz assault on my new sweater I ask the question no one seems to be concerned with, “What the hell are you eating?”
Needless to say they were much more enamored with my choice of vocabulary than the concern I expressed for their dietary needs. They giggled. Standing stone-faced I tried to atriculate that partially hydrogenated soy what-have-you is no laughing matter. That there was enough dye in one of those blue slushies to breathe the life back into my stone-washed jeans. And, do you even know what cheese whiz is? It’s not cheese. That only leaves one other option.
Apparently, I am making jokes. I try to make suggestions. There are some beautiful apples over there, wouldn’t you rather have that? Carrots are a beautiful color- a natural color, why don’t you try them? How about bringing some real cheese from home? Something with a decent name? Cheddar? Or Gouda, perhaps? They giggle. They think I’m hilarious. I’m imagining the next job assignment for lunch duty would be to grease the doorways. I’m picturing my students bloated faces and bodies bouncing in the halls, taking turns coming through the doors. And they think this is funny.
With all of this emphasis on physical education, why isn’t anyone teaching these children that carbohydrates are only one part of a balanced diet? Apparently I was wrong to believe that it is common sense not to eat if you are unaware of the contents. Bemused, I walk away shaking my head. “I’m afraid,” I call after them, “you’ll begin eating the wrappers soon.” They giggle again as they pour neon orange goo down their throats. Oh, little do they know how validated that fear truly is.