Keeping the Love In-House: A Look at Valentine’s Day from Behind the Front Desk

Past the era of scissor and glue hearts, college freshmen throughout the years have found their own ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day away from home. Be it flower deliveries or cupcake surprises, the check-in desk in freshmen dorms are often a site of butterflies. Lizzie Hughes, the front desk manager at Hayes-Healy residence hall, has the inside scoop on first year love.

Hughes has been working at Hayes-Healy since 2011, and had the early shift last Valentine’s Day, but she rather enjoyed her time behind the counter. For the exercise and sports science junior, Valentine’s isn’t about the extra work that comes with flower deliveries, but rather, about being a part of something bigger: love.

Even a 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. shift had its perks, as students got to the desk early to rent out kitchen equipment to bake something sweet for their crushes. “I think the experience as a whole, seeing the parade of boys borrowing pans to make breakfast and carrying flowers in in the early hours of the morning to surprise their Valentine, was very sweet,” she said.

While flower deliveries and packaged surprises make for happy students, behind the front desk, it’s all work. “We get crazy amounts of packages all day every day,” said Hughes, “but Valentine’s Day does have quite a few deliveries.” Perishable deliveries, like flowers or food, are no problem for USF’s trained student staff, however.

According to junior Maddie Vanden Branden, desk worker at Loyola Village residence hall, Valentine’s Day deliveries follow standard protocol. That is, workers like Hughes and Vanden Branden will call students whose perishable packages have arrived, and hold onto them until they are ready to sign for them.
Flowers aren’t the only special Valentine’s delivery received at the desk. “I was definitely surprised by how many Edible Arrangements were delivered,” said Hughes.

While deluxe fruit baskets are probably healthier than a box of chocolates, Hughes finds joy even in the mundane. “Getting to see a little bit of everyone’s anticipation and excitement when I would call a resident to tell her she had a special delivery waiting at the desk was really heartwarming.”
Also a common inquiry at front desks this holiday season: where to grab a bite. “A week or so before Valentine’s day, I always have people coming down to ask where to go out to eat,” said Hughes. For anyone making plans, Hughes recommends Zazie in Cole Valley. “Great food and romantic!”
According to Hughes, the most romantic dorm building gesture she’s ever witnessed was last year, when a female Hayes-Healy student walked down to the lounge, only to be surprised by her non-USF boyfriend.

Though Hughes can’t remember the students’ names, she won’t be forgetting the experience. “He had coordinated with her roomie and surprised her when she came down to check something in—and I just sat here behind the desk crying because it was so cute.”
Her favorite part of Valentine’s Day, however, is simply the excitement. “I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fact that Hayes is a freshman dorm,” said Hughes. “It’s really sweet getting to be a little part of these residents’ first grown up Valentine’s Day.”

Though Hughes does attribute most of the holiday excitement to the enthusiasm of first year students, Valentine’s day is seen all around campus. “What I see from behind the desk on Valentine’s is really just a snapshot of what is going on in the building and around campus.”

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