Snack Talk with Yolanda Martinez




   The grating, ear-piercing sound of the school bell circulates throughout campus as students quickly flood out of classroom doors, charging toward the Snack Shack and Epicurian headquarters to beat rush-hour lunch traffic. In the blink of an eye, students begin filing into what remotely resembles a lunch line, eager to receive their Epicurian meals. Other students, perhaps intimidated
by the swarm of drooling savages in the lunch line, or simply seeking a lighter bite instead of a large meal, start cramming into the already congested Snack Shack, ignoring the “Please leave your backpacks outside”
sign on the entrance, which is more of a formality than anything else.

   This is where Yolanda Martinez, the Snack Shack cashier, plays a pivotal role. Without even having to look up, she recognizes any purchase and inputs it into the computer with warp speed. In less than five minutes, the line has dissipated into nothing.

   Unphased by this turmoil that unfolds at 11:07 a.m. daily, Martinez waits for the arrivals of the few latecomer students and faculty members who are sprinkled throughout the remainder of lunch. Although Martinez has grown accustomed to the hectic daily rush,
she prefers the more placid intervals throughout
the day.

   “I prefer mornings, but I have to stay here until 3:30, so I’m happy all the time,” Martinez said.

   Anyone who has made a quick stop to the Snack Shack at lunch or in between classes knows that Martinez brings a lively, vibrant personality to a job that can seem monotonous and tedious at times. In addition to being caring and dedicated, Martinez is genuinely interested in brightening up the students’ days, and she does that by bringing a quirky, infectious personality
to Pinewood.   

   “One day they were out of milk, and she apologetically said ‘Oh, no, no, I’m sorry. They will have it by next week’ and she was just really nice about something that’s not her fault,” freshman Nicole Saltzman said.

   Whether it’s asking how your day is going or simply giving you a warm smile, there is never a dull moment in Martinez’s day. In fact, both students and teachers alike find Martinez to be an animated and good-natured member of the Pinewood community.

   “Yolanda is kind, personable, and humorous,” literature teacher Tom Carter said.

   Her motivation to stay positive and energized throughout the day is simply her love for being able to work in such a welcoming environment.

   “I love everything.  I love the students, you are all so nice. I feel like this is my house, and I am so happy working here,” Martinez said.

   While many know Martinez only as the Snack Shack cashier, she has a rich story. Martinez grew up on a ranch in Oaxaca, Mexico, and her father was a cornfield laborer while her mother cared for the large family, which included 10 children. Martinez fondly reminisces about her childhood, remembering how every aspect of daily life was family-oriented.

   “I had so many sisters and brothers. My poor mom! I remember one time, when it was my birthday, my mom bought me a big cake, and I remember it was so good,” Martinez said. “She didn’t always have enough money for my brothers and my sisters, but I was the last one, so she always had something for me.”

   As an adolescent, Martinez moved to the United States and dropped out of high school after six months in order to support her family back home, as well as her unemployed mother, who had accompanied her during the move. The first job she landed out of high school was a fry cook at Jack-in-the-Box. After that, she worked at several other jobs before working at Stanford University and the Four Seasons Hotel. A few years later, in 2012, Martinez joined Pinewood.

   Martinez’s family-centered upbringing has translated to her present day situation. Because she spends such long hours away from home, including a three hour English night class two times a week, she cherishes the time she does have with her husband and her sons Nicolas and Angel, who are 10 and 8, respectively. Also, even though Martinez lives in Palo Alto, she makes it a priority to make the six hour drive to San Bernadino to visit her niece at least twice a month, as well as the
five hour drive to Anaheim to visit her brother just as often, since she feels blessed to have family members who live in California.

   In addition to spending time with her family, Martinez has a variety of other passions. She is an avid romantic music aficionado, though she does not have a favorite singer or band. Martinez also dedicates every Sunday of the month to going to church, and her favorite vacation spot is Disneyland in Los Angeles.

   So although many think of Martinez as the beloved the Snack Shack cashier, the black uniform doesn’t tell all about her or her affection for her second
family – Pinewood.

   “Every night, when I go home,” said Martinez, “I tell my husband and my kids, ‘Today I saw my family’
because you guys are all my kids.”