Legend of the Disappearing Lunch Lady

“Do you remember when Ginny the lunch-lady disappeared, just randomly? She was the one who… um… like, sat at the register and charged you for everything.
Well, right after she disappeared, Cheyenne [informant’s friend] told me, that Ryan [Cheyenne’s best friend] had told her, that she had asked Jibali [a school administrator and mentor] if it was because she was having an affair with Kal [the head chef] and he didn’t say no… Actually, I think that she said that Ryan said he [Jibali] may have even implied nonverbally that she was right.”

This contemporary legend was shared by a high-school friend of mine whom I called him to ask if he could think of any folklore from or our time in together. I actually remember helping spread this story myself, back in those foolish years, and overhearing other people I was not even friends with spreading it further, with the chain of informants modified. Here is direct evidence of multiplicity and variation. Like many legends, this one is very specific to a place and person. However, it follows a very common format and themes. In fact, my younger sister, still attending that school, informed me of an almost identical legend regarding a completely different adult at the school who also left her position suddenly. First, its format is a perfect example of the “friend of a friend” principal. Because Cheyenne did not just tell the informant that she heard a rumor that Ginny had had an affair with Kal, and instead provided specific sources whom the informant also knew personally, he was much more likely to believe her story. Because Cheyenne’s claim has a source beyond herself, she gains vernacular authority. Second, this type of legend clearly reflects the sexual concerns of young high-schoolers as they reach puberty and begin to hear about and become participants in sexual behaviors. Spreading legends about the adults at the school having affairs is an easy way to start exploring the adult world, and externalizes worries or fears they may have about the own imminent promiscuity.