How to survive a meal at the cafeteria


Raphael Bernardo
PhD, JD, NBA, WNBA, Fraud

I know. It’s hard.  There are tons of important decisions to make each time.  Many decide to “wing” it and just go with the flow, but there are way too many risks involved.  Be part of the few, the loud and the not-lonely.  Or just learn how to socialize during meals without messing up.


Finding a seat: Fountain Trick

You got in line for food and looked around.  Nobody was there.  Go a little further and stand in front of the soda fountains.  Still nobody.  Take your time getting a drink, and if you still can’t find anyone, stay in front of the fountain, drink your drink, and get a refill until you can find someone to sit with.

Finding a seat: Ice Cream Trick

There is nobody you can sit with in the area behind the fountains, and you have too much Mountain Dew in your stomach.  There is still hope.  Go ahead to the Frozen Yogurt machine and put ice cream in your cup while looking around.  Get a second and third ice cream if nobody is there.  Same concept as the fountain trick.  Don’t do either of these if you’re a diabetic.
Meet new people

You’re probably wondering, “Why doesn’t this guy just tell people to sit with people they don’t know so they can meet new people.”  Oh, yeah.  I forgot.  Feel free to join people sitting alone at the date tables near the sandwich station and the study tables in the back towards the backpacks, especially people who don’t look like they are undergraduate students (ex. professors, parents, visitors).

We’ve got a Situation One: Kinda invited to another table

Once you find somebody to sit with, walk towards the table.  Oh, no!  As you are walking to that table, people sitting at a table on the way there say, “Hi.”  YIKES!  Do one of the following:

a) Sit with them for a bit, and leave your tray there while you “get more food.”  Then move to the table you were originally heading.
b) Sit with them the whole meal.
c) Say, “How’s it going, man,” and move to the next table.
d) Pretend not to hear them and pass by them.

We’ve Got a Situation Two: Uh, what’s your name again?

Now you are sitting down, but you don’t know the name of your friend because it’s been a year too long to ask.  Maybe you have too many names of characters from the Iliad in your head, and his name got blocked out.  Maybe you just got out of an intense test, study session, World of Warcraft session, or psychiatric session and are just out of it.

To resolve this situation say, “What’s up,” and then nod your head as you say “man,” or “dude.” If it’s a female, you’re out of luck.  When he or she leaves for more food, either quickly text somebody you know for his or her name or ask the person next to you.  But wait, you don’t know that person’s name, either.  Get more food and ask the original person whose name you didn’t know what the name of that person sitting next to you is.  Then beat him back and find out the name of the first person.

We’ve got a Situation Three:  The Christian side-hug offender

Some girls require hugs, and not Christian side-hugs.  That’s inappropriate!  When the girl gives the hug motion (two arms moving towards you), politely explain to her that you already sat down.  You can give her a Christian side-hug later when you have more time to think about what to do.

More Tips:  

Conversation starters for UD: “How was that essay?”, “How was that test?” and “I see you’re reading a book.”

Look smart by pretending to be philosophical.  When you don’t understand something ask, “Why is that?”, pause and look up so it looks like you are thinking of something complex.  Then say, “Wow, I never thought of it that way.”  When you have no clue what’s going on, just put on the don’t-disturb-me-I’m-pondering face.  The only time this doesn’t work is during standardized tests.

Joke:  I tried to sign Rebecca Black for a CD contract.  I couldn’t sign her because it was Tuesday, and she wrote “Friday Friday” on the sheet.

Hey.  Don’t forget to check out  It will be ready in ten years.


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