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This is not to hurt the feelings of anyone, for some people are very sensitive about cafeterias. They are cafeteria wise, they have a cafeteria class consciousness. Such people are to be admired. They have accurate minds which enable them to choose a well-balanced meal at minimum cost. Lacking that sort of mind, I do not get on well in cafeterias. As sure as I equip myself with a tray and silver in a napkin and become one of the long procession, I lose all sense of proportion, and come out at the end with two desserts, or a preponderance of starches or with too much bread for my butter, and a surprising bill.
Those who are cafeteria wise can choose a good meal for 28 cents or 33 cents at the most. They don't take food just because it looks delicious. They "yield not to temptation." They have a plan and stick to it. Wise and strong-minded, they shuffle their way bravely to the end. It is said that in time they acquire a cafeteria shuffle which one can detect even on the street. But I don't believe it's so.
Other sections of the country have cafeterias and in some parts of the South, especially in Louisville, they are run quite extensively. But it is in the West, especially in California, that they have attained a dignity and even lavishness that makes them the surprise and delight of the tourist. Irvin Cobb says that this is the cafeteria belt of which Los Angeles is the buckle.
We have music in our cafeterias. We have flowers on the tables. People don't just eat in them, they dine. They take their guests there. Our cafeterias have galleries with rocking chairs and stationery. They have distinctive architecture. We take visitors to see them. We brag about them, and when we wish to be especially smart we pronounce them caffa-tuh-ree-ah.
Personally, I am proud of our cafeterias, but I do not get on in them. I enter hungry. I look sideways to see what other folks are eating. I decide to have corned beef and cabbage and peach short cake and nothing else. Then in the line I have the hurried feeling of people back of me, and that I ought to make quick decisions. Everyone ought to eat salad, so I take a salad. Then some roast beef looks good so I take that, and the girl asks briskly with a big spoon poised, if I'll take potatoes, and I don't wish potatoes, but she makes a great nest of them beside the meat and fills the nest with gravy and I pass on. According to Hoover or Maria Parloa or Roosevelt, I ought to have a vegetable, and so I take two. Meanwhile I have taken bread, but the woman ahead takes hot scones and so I do. I choose some thick-creamed cake, very fattening, but just this once, and then, oh, I don't know. The tray is heavy and no place to put it, and in my journeying I peek at the bill and it's over 75 cents, and when I finally sit down opposite a stranger I find on my tray two salads, and when I chose the other I don't remember.
But cafeterias are very fine for those who have cafeteria sense.