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Greg Razran

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For the Cafeteria Lady
By Greg Razran
Saturday, October 21, 2006

Rated "R" by the Author.

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I’ve seen her here for nine years, but suspect she has been working at this cafeteria for decades. She’s gotta be at least eighty, probably a little older. With that old-fashioned name, Dorothy, she always looks neat – a sparkling-white apron; her gray hair up in a somewhat stylish bun, covered by a code-mandated net. Her face always displays a frown, the kind that makes me think she’s in pain. But I’ve also heard that some people, with age, just have that expression, and it really means nothing.

She’s always friendly to me; I’m probably one of the few people who say hi to her every time. She usually works “the bar” – restocking the tuna and egg salad trays; cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumbers; cheese croutons and viles of salad dressing. She tries to keep up, cleaning up the spills of various kinds, left by the university customers with no ill intent. She works all day, and I can’t imagine how tired she must get, having worked in food service at 16 myself, only to come home exhausted and cranky.

But on Friday, I found her behind the grill; a cool chubby black guy who usually works there was out, so they called in Dorothy. She was doing her best to keep up with the long line during the breakfast hour rush – flipping multiple sets of omelets, sausage, and hash browns, and looking after three toasters. She was sweating, frantically trying to do it all and do it well. I left the line and went and got myself a bagel with cream cheese instead, and a cup of organically grown but crappy coffee.

On the way to teach my class that morning, I thought of something I should’ve said to her right then and there, but knew I couldn’t:

Dorothy, you’ve done enough; let someone else worry about the pastry cabinet. I thank you, appreciate you, and love you, even though Marriott doesn’t. Isn’t that enough? Go home and rest. Plant you body in a comfy recliner; cover yourself with a woolen throw; drink hot tea; stop getting up at four; relax, relax, relax. But only if that’s what you want. And it isn’t, is it, Dorothy?

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Reviewed by Linda Law 8/4/2008
This is lovely. Genuine. It's those dedicated Dorothy's who give us the fond memories, and the value of how without them, we are basically insignificant... I wish you had told her your thoughts...I bet she would have smiled, and treasured your compassion and thoughtfulness. lindalaw
Reviewed by Katie Gabrielle 10/29/2007
I really liked this story!! It made me smile!! thanks so much
for sharing your talent with us today!! :) katie
Reviewed by Guy Hogan 2/9/2007
Excellent use of concrete details. A well written story of compassion. Nicely done.
Reviewed by Brett Moore 10/25/2006
Wonderful story. I have witnessed one or two Dorothys and it always boggles my mind.
Reviewed by Approximately Naive 10/25/2006
I used to say this to the old farmer that I worked for as a 17 year old. The difference between him and Dorothy, was that I wanted him out the road for other reasons that compassion. He only cared about himself. For example, a number of sheep had escaped from a field through a breach in a fence. We were to go round them up after breakfast. It was lashing with rain outside. The farmer and his sone rose and put on their oil skins. There was none for me, so I said 'There's no oil skins for me.' The farmer, without looking at me, walked away saying 'Well, your skin's waterproof is it not?'
Reviewed by Mary Grace Patterson 10/24/2006
Great story ! I hope Dorothy has retired by now.....M
Reviewed by CJ Heck 10/22/2006
Hello Greg, this is a lovely down-to-earth story which shows your wonderful humanity and compassion -- I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Very well-written.
My warmest regards,

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