A “Caf-kaesque” Cafeteria Experience

By: Gabby Price  |  September 22, 2023

By Gabby Price, Staff Writer 



  1. characteristic or reminiscent of the oppressive or nightmarish qualities of Franz Kafka’s fictional world. “a Kafkaesque bureaucratic office.”

(This is supposed to be weird, on purpose, intentionally) 

A solitary cherry tomato is tossed outside of its tray with reckless abandon as another girl frantically prepares her lunch amidst the chaos of the salad bar. Out of my periphery, I follow as the tomato rolls along the floor and lands by my feet, in front of the coffee station. Before I can kick it out of the way, I’m knocked aside by more loyal caffeine drinkers, attempting to prepare their cup of coffee. I scramble for a space in line, desperately inching my way to the espresso machine. Once I reach it, an array of options greets me. I can prepare my beverage however I choose! Excitedly, I select one, but nothing happens. I press harder on the screen, and it still fails to work. Frustrated, I shuffle slightly to my right in an effort to find a working machine. Of the many buttons, I find that only a few are doing their job. In a hurry, I feverishly throw together what I can before filing out.

The cafeteria atmosphere as a whole feels nonsensical and surreal, delirious and worn down. It’s an odd pocket of space where time loses its dimensions, and the lack of windows guards you from the outside world. It’s alienating and isolated. The light strains and wobbles, giving off the impression of a basement. A cacophony of metal chairs scrape against the waxed, plastic-like wooden floors. All sounds are muffled and dense. The walls are coated in a candy blue color that feels artificial and tense. An assortment of unsettling artwork is plastered “decoratively” on the walls. A prominent and inflated stock image of random vegetables is magnified in a bizarre and unnecessary way. 

A force outside of myself pushes me forwards; one never feels entirely present here. The selection of food, ranging from sushi to grilled chicken to bagels to soup, feels nauseating. I am trapped in a confusing system; the mysterious pricing of the food is a game played with monopoly money. It becomes habitual to place your food on the scale to be weighed, tap your card to the machine, and hurry away for the next person in line to do the same. 

Is it just me, or is everyone also wrapped in this feverish haze? The faces surrounding me blur; nothing is all too real. I fall farther into my thoughts as I dissect the scene.  The room seems to dissolve and is now entirely unhinged from reality. Girls clump together; some sit at tables with friends , others drift in and out and peruse the food. I make my way towards the exit with a heavy sense of disorientation. As I step back into the world, I am grateful to leave behind this cornucopia of food, the unsettling pocket of space and time.