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April 28, 2006

Feature Story

Restaurant Family/ Peterson

On a busy Saturday morning, customers wait in a restaurant doorway for an open table. A busser in a green t-shirt and brown ponytail rushes to clear dirty dishes and wipe tables clean. Waitresses nearly collide with each other and customers in their hurry to bring steaming plates of eggs and pancakes. The sound of laughter mixes with the clank of the dishes being washed in the back.
"Mom, table 33 is clean and ready," said the young busser. "Do you want me to menu them for you?"
The older waitress with a matching ponytail smiles gratefully and nods, then rushes back to the kitchen for another order.
Sheri Fisher, age 17, works nearly every Saturday morning with her mother Diane. She also shares this shift with her brother, Mark, who works in the dish room, and her grandmother Joann Kent who is also a waitress.
Because of the limited availability of jobs in their small town, it's not uncommon that they choose to work in this friendly, busy restaurant.
"They're all good workers," said Sean Steiben. "We'd hire more of 'em if there were any!"
Diane's husband commutes to work every morning and Joann's husband has retired several years earlier. Joann says that she can't stand to sit at home and loves chatting with her neighbors who she sees often at work.
"I've been working here for over 30 years," said Joann later on. "I taught my daughter everything she knows about waiting tables."
She enjoys a cigarette and flips through an old magazine at the scarred break table at the back of the restaurant. She is wearing black sneakers and complains about her aching feet.
Back in the restaurant, the breakfast rush has died down. Diane and Sheri are at work, carrying dishes, restocking napkins and re-arranging tables in preparation for the lunch crowd. Diane smooths a few dollar bills before putting them into her black apron.
She chose to come back to work five years ago after being a homemaker. Just like Sheri, she started her career here cleaning tables.
"I like the money," Diane says. "The hours aren't the greatest, but we're going to need the extra cash to help with college."
Just like the other waitresses, Diane has to share a portion of her daily tips with the bussers.
"My mom tips me fairly just like everyone else," said Sheri. She hopes to save this money to put towards college at the U of M next year. She's interested in possibly becoming a grade-school teacher.
In the back parking lot, two young teenage boys wait for their afternoon shift to start. As Joann exits the backdoor, carrying her purse and waitressing apron, she spots them and stops by for a quick chat.
"Hi Grandma, did your shift go well?" said Mark. She pressed a handful of dollars into his hand and told him to "spend it wisely."
"My Grandma is so cool to work with," he said after she left. "She always brings me money or candy."
Mark just started at the restaurant as a dishwasher this past year, and hopes to work his way up to fry cook by next year.
"The brother and sister don't get along so well some days," said Darlene Hart, a fellow coworker, with a laugh. "But other than that, they're all a fun bunch to work with."

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April 5, 2006

Taxi Program/ Peterson

It's gotten easier for UMD students to find a safe, reliable ride home after a night on the town, thanks to the new Bulldog Taxi Program.
The Student Association-run program began in early March, and provides students with $2.00 cab rides per person/ per ride. Hours start at 9:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m. every day of the week.
"I feel like it will keep people from driving drunk," said Renee Sawinski, a UMD freshman. "I know I will take advantage of it- I already have last Saturday!"
Students can sign up for no cost at the Student Activities Office located in the Kirby Student Center. You will need a U-card, as well as your age and current place of residence. This information will be used to keep track of the number of students using the program.
"I didn't have any form of transportation when I when I first went to college," said Ryan Souba, a UMD senior. "This would've been so useful back then."
Students will receive a taxi pass to verify that they are a member of the Program.
"I feel much more confident leaving campus knowing that I can count on the taxi service to provide me with safe transportation," said Kristine Bergren, also a UMD freshman.
The conditions of the Bulldog Taxi Program has been in constant debate since the beginning of last semester. The hard work of the Student Association seemed about to go to waste when the cab company suddenly disagreed to the set conditions. The arguments arose due to a disagreement over insurance requirements in the beginning of this semester.
The university requires an insurance coverage of no less than $1 million combined coverage expense per accident associated with the university. The cab company requires at least $2 million.
"A general council staff of lawyers and the cab company have each had to bargain," said Jeni Kiewatt, Taxi Program Director and student at UMD.
An agreement was reached earlier this semester, bargaining down to UMD's standards. The Student Association has been busy working to stir up student support and interest.
"We've had a table set up in Kirby for most of March," said Kiewatt. "We hope this will help to advertise the Bulldog Taxi Program."
The certainty of keeping program is unstable, according to Kiewatt. A big factor in determining the longevity of the Bulldog Taxi Program is based on reports from the cab company and UMD's board of lawyers. The main factor is based on the amount of student support.
"The program is tentative for now," said Kiewatt, Taxi Program Director . "But with enough support from students, I think this program will be here for good."
For More Information: Stop by the Student Activities Office located in the Kirby Student Center or email Jeni Kiewatt at kiew0015@d.umn.edu.