On being a part of a cartel


So by now we all know that mental computation is not my strong point.  So I must have completely taken leave of my senses when I agreed to start volunteering at the local High Schools canteen. For a start, it was nothing like a shift at the primary school, where one would just turn up and get to work. I had a list of can and cannot do’s to work through, according to Horatio.

I was not allowed to yell out “Yo Yo WASSUPPPPPP” when I spotted him or any of his mates. I was not allowed to speak to ANY of the girls whatsoever. I was not allowed to dab or insist that others dab before I served them. All of my fun things I had discussed with him were shut down. NOT EVEN A FIST BUMP! My outfit had to be approved. Once I promised to uphold the “family name” we were right to rock and roll.

Now this is not a small school. It is massive and there were six of us working the shift. I was delighted to discover they sold a fair amount of crap food so the whole shift cost me about $20, as I ate sausage rolls and garlic bread. And because Horatio would turn up with his posse and they are gorgeous teenaged boys with cheeky smiles, and how can one say no to that! There was also an incident involving a teacher who looked like she was about to burst into tears when I informed her that we had sold out of chicken rolls. I totally sympathised, thinking she had been teaching all day and the one thing that she was looking forward to, was snatched away from her. I placated her with some sushi instead.

Now the whole day reminded me of a story from my youth.

I was a teenage hustler. Let us begin.

At the age of twelve I was sent away to boarding school as my parents were intelligent human beings and could see that I was turning into a troubled youth. So they threw some money at the problem to make it disappear. I took to boarding like a duck to water as we had rather shady supervision. Oh the stories I could tell! And I do cover off quite a lot of it in my book Primary School Confidential, which you can order here. (if you would like to no pressure or anything, #justsaying)

Lumped in with thirty country kids, it was always a very exciting day when Mrs. Albert was on tuck-shop duty. Mrs. Albert was the mother of one of the day girls and a kinder, more lovely women you would not be likely to meet. Being boarders, we were often taken out by her and her family, or would have sleepovers at their place. Anyway, she always took pity on us, a lovely trait inn which we were only to happy to take advantage of. I would use the word exploit, but I think that it is a strong description with evil connotations.

Oh, who the fuck am I kidding here. It is the ONLY appropriate word. We exploited Mrs Albert in the following scam.

Ok, so the first girl would line up at the canteen with a fifty sent coin, making sure she was in Mrs. Alberts line. Once she reached the counter, said girl would hand over the money and request a Paddle Pop. Mrs Albert would fetch the icy treat, return to the counter and say…

“Oh don’t me silly! Put your money away…. It is my treat!”

So the girl would return to the group with the money AND the ice cream, only to hand it over to the next girl who would repeat the exact process.

“Oh don’t me silly! Put your money away…. It is my treat!”

Eventually, that one fifty cent coin would be offered to and refused by Mrs. Allen until we all had a Paddle Pop in our belly’s. We did this for YEARS. As I explained, I am crap at maths but I do know that each day she did her duty, she was out of pocket to the tune of $15. And now that I am on the other side of that counter, well I can see she must have known what was going on. Lovely Mrs. Albert.

Now, can we talk about what to do when a kid hands over a one hundred dollar bill for a meat pie?

Did you ever scam anyone?

And feel free to add your judgement about how this canteen sells Kit Kats! Everyone loves that debate! Isn’t it practically a federal offence these days?

  • Tracey

    I don’t remember our school canteen selling paddle pops and feel like I have been severely disadvantaged in my life as a result.

    I would have been too scared to run a scam like that.

  • Janice

    Oh my goodness…my boarding school was too strict for any shadiness. They had the FBI, the Mafia, Hitler, CSI, Cop Shop, Matlock Police and even Division Four on Staff 24/7!!!!

  • Maggie

    If there is a hell (and I am probably going there) I won’t be too stressed because I have served in both Primary and Secondary tuckshops for 15 years. Hell on earth. I blame tuckshop for instigating my mid-week drinking!

  • Thank god I went to school before political correctness (or dieticians with power) were a thing. I happily spent my entire weeks pocket money on fudge sticks (ice creams) and cheesies and in high school we had Pepsi, cookies and lollies galore….. maybe I should blame them for my sugar addiction in adulthood…..

    I now do a stint in my kids primary school tuck shop, and because it’s only open 2x a term we go bananas on the junk food- jelly, cakes, cookies, pizzas and hotdogs- it’s a preservative palooza!

  • Donna

    I’m embarrassed to say my primary school canteen (aka a desk in a cupboard) was run by an elderly short kind rotund nun whom we scammed at every opportunity. Terrible behaviour.

  • Heidi D

    I have been a canteen mum. I was apparently incredibly embarrassing because I insisted on manners & would also hang out of the canteen window & shout to be heard above the din to tell the kids to be quiet because we couldn’t hear anyone to serve them. I won’t say a thing about the canteen food choices, back in highschool my lunch was a packet of twisties, preferably chicken, a chocolate yogo & a can of coke

  • Louise

    Do high school canteen every Tuesday. I’m with Maggie!!!

  • I scammed every school canteen. I had 3 kids at 3 different schools for awhile. They all thought I was doing canteen duty at one of the other schools and hence I managed to do ZERO canteen at any school!! Winning!

  • Michelle Scarsbrook

    I do canteen once a month on a Monday at the high school canteen. It’s more about a group of mums catching up and lunching during recess and lunch more than serving the boys (we’ve got a 2 hour gap in between) Garlic bread and chocolate milk are on high rotation. I really feel for the teachers after lunch when you get a good mix of hormonal sweaty boys and garlic bread.

    Many a time I’ve had $100 note for a packet of red frogs (50c for 5) and a large chocolate milk ($3) and a garlic bread ($2.20). I can’t imagine handing over to any of my boys a $100 note on a Monday morning.

    Back in my day (1980/early 90’s) we used to get custard tarts once a week. We’d take it in turns to buy them and clean the canteen out of them. The canteen at my high school was outsourced very unusual for the times and those ladies were real canteen ladies with tuck shop arms, scary hairy faces and hairnets. There was no scamming them.

  • Bee

    iced finger buns with butter, Sunny Boys and Glugs and sausage rolls. Yum. I loved canteen duty at Primary School. Loved the little ones who were all big eyed at the counter trying to think about what they want and how much money they had. all so cute. I would always give extra biscuits and put more filling than I should in things.

  • Wendy

    We used to eat sausage rolls on a bread roll with tomato sauce – carb overload! Also a packet of cheese or chicken twisties on a hamburger bun with sauce – divine! I hope I get to help in my daughter’s school when she starts next year – it sounds like fun!

  • Kate

    I think a few year levels ahead of me at my high school we had some serious scammers who must’ve put Jack Sparrow to shame as they actually closed the tuckshop down…. we never had one for years post about year 8… except for one or two special times when they opened it for a cake stall or such thing. These day that school has a proper cafe with a barista and accounts that are billed to the parents directly (prob got sick of breaking the $100 bills).