what were they thinking?

Honest and truly, what WERE they thinking? Will I ever know? I don’t understand college students. Or college professors, for that matter. Does it have something to do with college? I know, I know, it’s just because they’re people, and some people are idiots. Or they’re completely thoughtless. Isn’t that supposed to be the reason that children do stupid things? At least they have the purported excuse to NOT thinking before they act. Once you’ve reached a certain age, you’re suppose to think now and then… right?

My co-workers and I spend lots of time on the “What were they thinking” question, as well as the next most popular, “How did they DO that?”. The first one is annoying, the second one can be quite hilarious… after you’ve cleaned up the resulting mess. Every parent can commiserate with us, I’m sure, and they’re probably glad that someone else is dealing with their college age children, for once.  : )

The other day, I was cleaning up the tables at the end of the day, and reached one of the corner booths. There was a large pile of condiments sitting in the center of the table. Mustard, ketchup, hot sauce, buttermilk ranch, mayonnaise, and even packets of pepper and salt. I let out a huge sigh, and then picked up the pile in both hands, where I could barely hold them all without dropping some. I walked back to my boss’s office, and showed him, demanding, “What were they thinking?”. He slapped his hand to his forehead, and sighed. Then, I carried it out to the show my co-workers, and they just rolled their eyes.

Was it an accumulating pile, every group of customers adding to it, in the last hour? Did someone decided they needed fifty packets of sauce for one sandwich, and then change their mind? Were they playing a game? Practicing their counting skills? If I had taken that many sauces, at least I would have put them in my to-go bag, and thrown them away. What was the purpose? We’ll never know.

The day after that, I was told that I had missed the biggest soda spill EVER. No kidding, they assured me, it went from the registers almost to the front doors. Technically, that meant it had been the longest spill ever, not the biggest, but I digress. Had they used a large cup? No, it was a normal size. Our floors are level, why had it run so far? Of course, being the random problem solver that I am, I immediately tried to figure it out. If it hit the floor at just the right angle, the force of hitting the floor would have put sudden pressure on the liquid just like a plunger does on the water in a toilet. Or the water in a super soaker.

At the very end of the day, I had my own “special” spill moment, too. When that student spilled their small cup of coffee all over the counter, I assured him it was fine, and happens all the time. I would have told him that, even if I’d known how far that liquid had gone. It’s not like he did it on purpose. But how does one small cup of coffee, loaded with cream and sugar, spread over the entire counter and under everything? We had to move the brewing machine, the organizer that holds all the tea and two of the large coffee canisters, because I didn’t want any sugar or milk left on the counter to go bad.

Just like every parent that marvels at the “skills” of their children to cause destruction wherever they go, I marvel that these students have never lost any of their skills. Of course, if I think about it, I haven’t lost my own skills at messing up.

Two days later, I punched myself in the nose. One of my co-workers happened to be looking in my direction, and saw it happen, though the rest didn’t. While he just shook his head in disbelief, I sat down and laughed until I almost cried. I was just trying to get a piece of tape off a box, and it wouldn’t budge. I was determined to get it, and when it finally gave… WHAM. The other cashiers were very sorry they had missed it, but glad I hadn’t broken anything. Some of the grad students missed it, too, because I was still giggling when they arrived a minute later. Too bad for them.

Oh, I did mention that the college professors are not exempt from this, didn’t I? I had almost forgotten. That’s when the ranting can get serious. When you have a bundle of PhDs to your name, does that mean you don’t have any room left in your brain for common sense? Or thinking about others? I think it has to be the former option, because I like most of the college teachers and don’t want to think the worst of any of them.

But why can’t anyone tell that the ONLY drains on the counter are under the soda machines? You know, the ice melts and goes out the drain, but those drip trays under the coffee and tea? Those are not drains. They’re to catch minor drips and keep things from getting messy. But I’ve sat and watched a college professor almost overflow their coffee cup, and then pour all the excess into a drip tray. You do that two or three times, and no wonder we find large spills on the counter.

Yes, I know that everyone doesn’t do this. The graduate students that drink coffee regularly don’t do this, so kudos to them. I think they need to give lessons to the professors and undergrads on how things should be done. Coffee & Cleanups 101 for the Completely Negligent or Thoughtless.

I’m sorry, I had to get that out of my system. When I get right down to it, I know that how a college student or even a college professor behaves or cleans up after themselves often just shows how they were raised and what they were willing to learn from it. So, the next time a parent asks you “What were they thinking?” or “How did they DO that?”, give them some encouragement to get back into the fray, and do an awesome job with their child. There are more people out there that will thank them, someday.  : )

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