What is it about cafeterias that invokes the worst in every human discipline? Assuming of course that the only human disciplines are planning and designing. Flimsy albeit that assumption may be, its worthwhile to consider the aspects of that area meant to satisfy one of the basic needs of humanity. The purpose of this post is not to petition for work areas to allow for satisfaction of other, more primal needs.
A look at the plan for any office building would clearly show that the design of an office cafeteria has to be a separate subject in itself, called something like ‘Working Drone Nutrition Area Design’, a hybrid science combining the science of architecture with psychology. This must involve complex algorithms to ensure that the area is at 125% utilization irrespective of your attempt to delay your lunch hour till the point your bodily functions start to recede into something resembling a comatose cabbage. It turns out that the excess 25% are usually people who have entered a zombie-like state while waiting for tables to become available. No one has seen what happens to them but it wouldn’t be impossible to believe that the cafeteria staff moonlight as suppliers of crash test dummies.
It’d be too easy if all it took to get a table was for the planets to line up to spell ‘BURP’. It would take more like a political party that does not rely on divisive groupism to make itself heard. Heck, nothing’s that impossible. Having sufficiently exulted over the capture of your very own slab of formica-topped plywood, one surveys the options.
Nowhere is the disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ as prominent as on the cafeteria table. The haves = ‘Has stay-at-home-wife-who-wakes-up-to-cook-for-me’ shamelessly parades his assorted array that boasts nutrition, taste and the odd dollop of love. The have-nots = ‘Have-no-chance-of-living-past-35-coz-of-the-cafeteria-food’ meanwhile look through the menu that has all of 4 options (counting ‘extra ketchup’) and know by rote anyway before picking what they do everyday.
The effect is that the average lunch thus lasts about 11 minutes, 8 of which the haves spend screwing the lids on their stay-warm tiffins and the have-nots spending suspiciously poking at their food to check for unwarranted movement and looking at when they can back to their microsoft office document. Productivity soars! If that’s not brilliant use of psychology, I don’t know what is.