Joyce Ross checked her hair net one last time to make sure every strand of hair was secured. The last thing to put on was a pair of plastic gloves. Joyce never liked the plastic gloves because it made holding onto the food scooper a lot harder. She much preferred latex gloves, but the school district mandated that plastic gloves were the way to go because they were cheaper and they did the job as far as food safety was concerned.
The ringing lunch bell was Joyce’s cue to remove the aluminum foil that was covering all the hot foods. Joyce has worked on the cafeteria food line for many years. Today was her day to scoop side dishes. Over the years, Joyce enjoyed her job as one of the school lunch ladies. She even came up with a way to have fun with her job. Ever since the district mandated glass partitions between the students and the food servers for hygiene reasons, Joyce began to really sling food at the students’ plates. Joyce was a petite woman, so in order to scoop food onto the plates, she either had to stand on her tiptoes to reach above the glass partition, or stand on a little box, which caused her hips to hurt after a long period.
So, Joyce, with the help of her physics major nephew, came up with a method of slinging food onto the plates. She would first compact the food into the scoop until it became a dense ball of food. She would then deliver the food over the glass partition with an overhand motion much like a tennis serve. In the beginning, the food ball would hit the plat with such force that it would cause the food ball to explode, creating a sloppy, greasy mess on the other side of the glass. It took a little trial and error before the dense ball of food did not explode on contact.
It was Wednesday, which meant that it was mashed potatoes day. Now, mashed potatoes were an interesting food to sling because so much water is used to make it that it was virtually impossible to make a dense ball out of it. Also, because it was so wet, the mashed potatoes would get stuck into the scoop, so trying to compact the food further into a ball only guaranteed that it would not leave the scoop. Joyce considered dipping the scoop into a bath of hot water. This worked out very well, so she became an expert with dipping the scoop into the water, scooping and slinging mashed potatoes, and then returning the scoop back into the water to prepare for the next sling. It was a sight to behold.
Then one day, Terry Stillwell, one of those kids who thought he was smarter than he really was, one of the those students who called the teacher by their first name and asked how their weekend went … in other words, he was a teacher’s pet and a kiss ass. When Terry saw Joyce slinging mashed potatoes, he made a bet that Joyce would not sling a scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy at the same time. He bet Joyce five dollars that she could not sling the potatoes and gravy combo without causing a mess. Joyce asked Terry to lay down the five dollar bill. When Terry did so, she asked to reiterate the conditions of the bet: that in order to win, she had to successfully place a scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy onto his empty plate. And, that she could not cheat by mixing the gravy into the potatoes. They had to be kept separate. When Terry nodded, Joyce quickly went to work.
Joyce dipped her scoop into a bath of hot water as usual. However, instead of going for the gravy in the hot table, she reached down below to the small refrigerator, and pulled out the tub of prepared gravy. At such a cool temperature, the gravy had solidified into a solid chunk of gelatin. She placed a chunk of gravy jelly into her scoop, and the pressed the mashed potatoes on top of it. She smiled at Terry’s surprised expression as she successfully slung and dumped the hot mashed potatoes and cold gravy jelly onto his plate. Terry stared at her for a moment, shook his head, and proceeded to the cashier. Joyce quickly retrieved the five dollar bill and stuffed it into her pants pocket. She nodded to the next student in line as she dipped her food scoop into the water bath.