This story is loosely based on real-life events!
It’s Hallows Eve and there is a sharp cold wind and the trees are whipping back and forth. As you make your way over to the dining hall, you feel as if something is off. The usual excitement is instead replaced with apprehension. You feel a tingly sensation in your gut. Could it be the mac and cheese from lunch, or is your body telling you something?
The Leadership team is trickling into the kitchen for the highlight of the day: food recovery! Your volunteers gather ‘round for the run of the mill food safety training. As the recovery schedule progresses, there is still this feeling of uncertainty. Something is off. You feel the vibration of your phone in your pocket and it’s a message from the Recovery Coordinator. The notification on your home screen says, “The reusable containers are MISSING!”
Time slows down and the sound of the person reading kitchen safety guidelines muffles in the background. You look up to see your Recovery Coordinator across the room. The sheer panic in their eyes makes your heart to start pound. You’ve only heard the stories of this horror from previous leadership, but you thought it was only a myth. Now, you’re experiencing it first hand. The containers are missing. How? Why now? Who has them? Are they safe?
You don’t want to alert every one of the news, because that will cause pandemonium, but you also can’t stay silent for much longer because the food safety training is almost complete. You are now Sherlock Holmes. The case is for you to solve, and what you do next will determine your legacy. You will either be the one who found and saved the containers or the infamous leadership team who let the unspeakable happen.
You move to the side to speak with the chef in the kitchen, trying not to show the anxiety boiling up inside you, you say, “Houston, we have a problem. Our reusable containers are missing. Would the kitchen have some pans to spare for today?”
The chef, who already makes it a little hard to recover because he would rather not have students in his kitchen, barks, “How did you lose those containers?”
The chef’s look of disdain leaves you with a frog in your throat and a knot in your stomach. You take a shallow breath and say, “I don’t know.”
Your answer does not satisfy the chef he scoffs under his breath and rolls his eyes at you. However, you muster up the courage to say, “We will find them. It is possible we left them at the Partner Agency. The process can be a little difficult at times. But, if you want compensation for the pans today, I will check with the national office about reimbursement.”
The directness of your answer left an impression. He did not expect you to come with a candid response, but it prompted him to grab those aluminum pans. With a bit of reverence, the chef says, “We actually have a few to spare. And don’t worry about the reimbursement. I apologize if I caused any offense. You all do great work and I am sure you will get your containers back from the Partner Agency.”
It is a win, but the reusable containers are still missing.
The recovery is complete and no one is too suspicious about using aluminum pans. Due to your excellent recruitment of volunteer drivers, you do not have to drop the food off at the Partner Agency today.
While the team goes on the delivery, you call the Partner Agency to ask about the pans.
“What do you mean? We already gave you the pans. After your last drop off we sent the pans back with someone.”
“Do you remember who?”
“Is that my job?”
“Thank you for your time. I will continue the search.”
What a phone call! If anyone tells you it is easy to lead, they lied. You just want to get ready for the FRN costume contest with your chapter, but the pan incident is hindering the fun. If dining doesn’t have the pans and your PA doesn’t have the pans, then where are they?
You continue your search for the containers. Hours, days, weeks go by and you keep searching. Where are the containers? Were they stolen? Who would do such a thing?!
You take time to think about your call with the PA, and you remember they gave the pans to someone, but who? Finally, you text the leadership team group chat.
“I think I might know where they are…” The text you never saw coming.
“Where are they???”
You and your team meet at the South parking lot on campus. There is an odd smell in the air, but you think nothing of it. Who is the culprit? Who has the containers? A volunteer steps forward. “I think the containers are in there.”
She points to the trunk of her car. Flies are swarming. Could it be? The volunteer grabs her car keys. Pressing the trunk button, the latch pops the trunk. An awful stench hits all of you in the face. The anticipation of the trunk opening makes you all lean in, and to your horror… The containers are crawling with maggots. The sound of them squirming leaves you to gag profusely.
You ask, “How did you not notice the container in your trunk all this time?”
She says, “This car is old. Any sound it makes, I think it is the sound of an aging car. On top of that, I rarely drive, unless it’s for the Friday trip to Chipotle.”
You don’t know if you should be surprised or let out a laugh. All this time, your containers were in the trunk of a volunteer’s car. You let out a deep sigh of relief because the horror is over. Well, for you at least. Your volunteer, not so much.
Thank you to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for the inspiration!