Cafes are beautiful places. They are filled with quaint tables, steaming mugs of bitter drink, laptop laden students…I can’t help but feel camaraderie with the baristas and the other patrons from the shared participation of the customer in some of the small work of transporting the drinks, garnishing them to taste, and busing them after one is finished. No matter how many times you visit a restaurant, you will always be a guest. In a cafe, you participate and thus, you can belong.
Sometimes, dorms have a lot in common with restaurants. The dorms are, in a real sense, a service package; students pay exorbitant amounts of money so that they may live in functional rooms and be guaranteed certain benefits and services as a result. Like restaurant waiters, we must listen to our residents and show them how carefully we have listened by being responsive. Often as an RA, much like as a waiter, our residents will forget or not realize how much our work contributed to their experience. Sometimes the tips don’t reflect the effort we put in, or even our successes.
There are many lessons about humility, patience, and dedication that come from the solemn kitchens and dining rooms of restaurants. And yet, when we can, we want the dorm to have the soul of a cafe and not a restaurant. Cafe’s afford their patrons a degree of liberty–the customers may come, may go, may order, may sip, may loiter, may reorder and reorder. But in exchange, the customer will do little tokens of service for the maintenance of the cafe.
It is in this spirit that I have decided to have the plastic dish busing bins in my new kitchen as part of the organization system.
The rules will be simple; our kitchen will give you its heart. It will be beautiful and full of food and charm and nourishing support, and in exchange it will ask you to gently wipe its counters, to bus your dishes to the bin instead of leaving them in the counter or on the sink, to gather in groups and to wash the dishes with soapy water when they are full.
In return, you will belong.