After watching The Perks of Being A Wallflower and the obligatory high school lunch room scenes, I got to thinking about my own school cafeteria.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a lunch room experience quite like any I’ve seen in the movies. Even if we tried to re-create something it never came out quite right. I certainly never had lunch outside like those featured in most of the movies – at least the ones taking place in California. And lockers outside? Can you imagine that in the UK or Chicago?
My high school lunch room resembled a prison cafeteria (think Oz). I was sentenced to it for four years. Freshman year, I’d just arrived from a small Catholic school that I’d attended for the last eight years. And now here I was at a big public school and one where none of my former classmates were attending.
When I first walked into that cafeteria – at an ungodly time of 10:40 a.m. – and took in the sights, smells and sounds…I recall saying one of the following:
“Jesus Christ.”
“Feck this.”
“Feck me.”
I couldn’t believe how at home everyone seemed to be. As if this was the last day of school. How did these kids all seem to know each other? Isn’t this a freshman lunch? Am I the only freshman in here?
There were people of all different races and cultures. I wasn’t used to seeing this, although I had dated the one and only Hispanic girl in junior high. There were no groups of cheerleaders sashaying around with their lunch trays – like in the movies. That was the first thing I looked for.
I decided to take a seat at one of the long tables near some fellow male students that didn’t look “jocky” but weren’t quite misfits either. I didn’t eat the cafeteria food – I brought a little sack lunch. There was a disheveled kid sitting directly in front of me. Just sitting there with no food or anything. He had dirty red hair and one of his eyes was completely bloodshot.
“I could kill you,” he said.
And those were the first words spoken directly to me in high school.