Joetopia

If Little Miss Cal Poly Student can’t use up all her meals, I’m here to help

Joe Tarica.
Joe Tarica.

It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in here, what with new responsibilities and all.

But my pre-New Year’s Resolution is to do some writing again, and what better way to start than with a long-overdue update on Little Miss Cal Poly Student?

Last you heard in June, she was graduating high school, and now six months later, she’s wrapping up her first quarter of college.

It started with move-in day in late September, continued through Week of Welcome and then onto classes, choir auditions and assorted miscellaneous settling in.

She jumped right in with an ambitious 18 units, to the dismay of more than one faculty adviser. Apparently, they strongly suggest that incoming first-year students start with 12. Nevertheless, she persisted. I am happy to report, so far, so good.

It has been a delight having her close by, even as we try to give her space for proper adulting.

She’s come home to Atascadero a few times, and we’ve been down several more, usually to deliver food or attend a university event like a football game, Parents’ Weekend, or a concert.

On a couple of occasions, she’s requested the services of the grandpa with the engineering Ph.D. for help with her chemistry class.

For the most part, the proximity seems to be fine with her, except for one thing: campus dining — in particular, when I learned that if parents visit the 805 Kitchen with their student, they eat free.

What?!

Could such a beautiful rumor be true? Would all of these college expenses have a tangible benefit for me too?

Indeed, it is.

I’ve only taken advantage of this perk a couple of times, and I’m not going to say it’s my top culinary destination in town, but if the choice is us taking her out and paying, or her taking us out and eating for free, well, you know the better answer there.

For you Poly alums, the 805 Kitchen is the current name for what used to be the University Dining Hall, long known as “the Stalls.” It seems to have somehow shaken that nickname, to the delight of university administrators, but otherwise the buffet experience is relatively unchanged.

The best improvement? They have multiple stations for fresh flavored waters, complete with citrus and cucumber slices. Blink, and you might transport yourself to a summer beach wedding. OK, maybe not quite.

The best meal there is breakfast, because who doesn’t love all the sausage patties you can eat?

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This tag-along free food situation was pleasant and relatively under control, up until two weeks ago.

That’s when our college student informed us that with less than three weeks to go, she still had 66 meal credits remaining on her account.

Yes, that’s fully paid meals, waiting to be used. Eat ‘em, or lose ‘em.

Between dining off-campus, in her dorm room or at home, she seems to average about 10-12 campus meals a week, which means that even at her top rate, she was facing a surplus of more than 30 meals.

This, we cannot have. That’s my food, and you can bet someone’s going to eat it, even if I have to go down there and drag her and her card to a different dining spot every other day.

OK, it wasn’t quite that bad, but I think by last weekend, on my third foray, it began to get a little old for her.

Also, because parents only eat free at 805, we would need to try out some other venues.

The first time was after her a cappella concert, and with grandparents and a friend, we knocked out six extra credits at Poly Deli.

Then I had to pick her up around lunch time last week so she could come home to help us pick out our Christmas tree. Let’s try Red Radish, the salad and wrap place.

Finally, while dropping her off on Sunday, post Christmas tree decorating, I twisted her arm again. Let’s go to the Avenue, I said.

She groaned saying something about her friends would probably be there. And indeed, they were, waving to her as she strolled in with Dad, Mom and brother in tow.

By this point, you’re probably all convinced I’m incredibly overbearing and have utterly failed at college parenting. I mean, who makes their kid constantly take them dining all around campus just to use up a few food credits?

Perhaps Cal Poly should add a lower tier plan for kids who always eat bananas and cereal in their room for breakfast. Or, they could just issue me my own meal card on her account. Then I could come and go and eat as I please.

On the last day of finals, she could always just march up to the counter and tell the server, “Sorry, this is going to take a while. I’m going to need 27 Poly Bird wraps to go.”

Fortunately, there are other ways to use the food.

Extra dining credits are enough of a thing that there’s a program where students can donate them to the homeless shelter at the quarter’s end. Also, older students who live off campus are always more than willing to help on-campus friends eat down any excess.

So we’ll see how much she has left and where they end up.

For my part, I think I’ve made enough of a dent in her account for now.

Anyhow, there’s always next quarter.

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Joe Tarica is the editor of The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. He’s worked in various newsroom roles since 1993, including as an award-winning copy editor, designer and writer of the Joetopia column. A California native, he has been a resident of San Luis Obispo County for more than three decades and is a Cal Poly graduate.

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