6:45 pm, Tutto Pasta on State Street

A couple looks out the window onto State Street while a half-eaten piece of turtle cheesecake (one plate, two forks) sits on the table between them. He places his hand on her knee while she laughs at a comment he made about a passerby.

Gena McDonald and Darquel Tibbs are at Tutto Pasta for their third date. The two have known each other since high school, but just recently started dating. Owner Pam McCord sees many couples like McDonald and Tibbs at Tutto Pasta, voted the “best date night restaurant” by readers of the Daily Cardinal in 2012.

McCord says she loves interacting with her customers, especially when she gets to help them do something special. She changed the menu for one man as a part of his proposal, has accommodated wedding rehearsal dinners for couples who had their first date at the restaurant and even let one man rent the entire downstairs.

She also enjoys seeing students on first dates.

“Sometimes you see them and they just don’t know what to say to each other,” McCord said. “So if I know a couple is on their first date, I like to put them upstairs by the railing. It’s my favorite date spot.”

It won’t be the last date for McDonald and Tibbs.

“We really enjoyed our night,” says McDonald.

– Sara Schumacher

5:30 pm, Memorial Union Stiftskeller

Joe Wagner has finished a full day of classes, sat through a two-hour meeting and is now tending bar at Der Stiftskeller in the Memorial Union, one of Madison’s most iconic places to get a beer for UW students and Madisonians alike.

“People come here for the atmosphere,” says Wagner, a supervisor. “People come here to talk with their friends and listen to music.”

But Wagner doesn’t get to enjoy it the same way that other UW-Madison students do. He is bartending until the place closes tonight.

“It is a bummer when you see your friends going out and I work till midnight,” he says.

Wagner is a senior and has been working at Der Stiftskeller for two years. He’s gotten a real understanding of how the crowds work.

“Adults want to drink a good beer and drink it slowly with friends,” he explains. “Students want the cheap stuff.”

Which does he prefer?

“I have Celiac disease,” he says. “But we have a gluten-free beer that I get sometimes.”

– Sara Schumacher

3:30 pm, UW-Madison Gordon Dining and Event Center

3:30 pm, UW-Madison Gordon Dining and Event Center

How do cashiers at the new Gordon Dining and Event Center occupy their downtime between the lunch and dinner rushes?

“I think about stuff,” says student worker Noah Sevett, who’s manning a cash register for his 2:15 pm to 5 pm shift.

He’s isolated from many of his coworkers — and, at times, even customers.

The Gordon Dining and Event Center, which replaces the old Gordon Commons, is the main food hub for thousands of UW-Madison students living in the Southeast dorms. Thus, cashiers have their hands full during prime lunch and dinner times. A “flood of students” creates a constant line, Sevett says.

But that’s a hard scene to picture at 3:30 in the afternoon. Only a few hungry students are trickling into the extensive complex, which offers 12 dining venues and seats 600 people.

3:30 pm, UW-Madison Gordon Dining and Event Center

Management doesn’t allow their workers to pull out a book and study to pass time, Sevett says. Cell phones aren’t allowed, either.

Once in awhile he shoots rolled up receipt papers into a cup, but even that isn’t very satisfying. He can only dream of the possibilities on this slow Friday shift.

“Sometimes I fantasize about putting Pac-Man or Sudoku [puzzles] on here,” Sevett says, pointing at his cash register’s screen. “But that’s never going to happen.”

– Preston Schmitt