by Dan Galemba | 6/25/01 5:00am

I refuse to get sucked in. I will not waste time arguing about something I just want to consign to the dark recesses of memory. We only have one sophomore summer. So, let the administration make up new definitions for words and laws hundreds of years old, let it be as completely and unabashedly blatant as possible in signifying the beginning of the end of the Greek system, let it try its best to taint this special term by making so many students waste it defending themselves. As for me, I'm going to seek out what sophomore summer epitomizes to the very core rather than reverting to the same old debates, debates in which I have spent more time than I care to admit participating and for which nobody has anything to show except lots of hostility and even more hopelessness. I'm going to explore new things, meet new people and perfect my Teva-tan. I will manifest in my own actions the uniqueness inherent in the very concept of sophomore summer. It's a time to break the mold.

So now I will turn to an issue much more troubling and pervasive, an issue that deeply affects us all, now more than ever. What's more, it's an issue that we rarely see discussed openly, even though it is far more important than the trivialities that always manage to make headlines and fill the op-ed pages. Of course, I'm talking about the outrage that never goes away and indeed always seems to get worse: Dartmouth Dining Services' pricing.

The first group frustration any of us faced with DDS was probably the closing of Westside (but don't worry, you can still find an all-you-can-eat meal on campusif you're willing to shell out $9.50). Other frustrations we encounter happen on a more individual level so they go undiscussed, but I have no doubt that everyone experiences them. For example, does anyone find it perplexing that one should pay over $25 for eight replacement cartridges for a razor? Or $1.50 for yogurt you can find being sold in the grocery store at four for a dollar? Or as much as $6.09 for a little box of cereal?

The only way the wool can be pulled over the eyes of over four thousand exceptionally intelligent Ivy-League students to an extent such that they tacitly accept the prices they face on a daily basis is by having them think that they're not actually spending real money. Enter the handy little ID card. Just swipe it through and be on your way with your wallet just as full of cash as it was before. The college banks on us thinking we're not spending real money as impetus to consistently raise already-high prices at a rate leaving inflation gasping in the dust. But perhaps that should not come as a shock at an institution which squeezes us all dry in every way possible, DDS and otherwise.

So maybe the $1.50 we spend on a bottle of delicious Dartmouth water isn't real money. However, what is real money is the lump sum we pay at the beginning of the term to cover it all. I only knew what this sum actually was when I made my first purchase of the term, a $.75 can of sparkling water, and saw that my balance was down to $774.25. I stood perplexed looking at the cashier for a minute, trying to count backwards in my head as to how, if my balance had started at $750, it could have gone up. After some detailed calculations worked out on paper, I finally figured out that the only explanation was that a term of DDS was hiked up yet again, this time without anyone even knowing that an increase had been implemented. And that $775 is real money.

To give you an idea of what $775 for a term of DDS really means, when I was still living at home in my family of four (three of which were men), ten weeks of groceries cost only slightly more. Think back to high school and recall your family grocery bill, and then you too will be left wondering how anyone in his or her right mind could possibly believe that you alone could consume $775 in regularly-priced food over such a short span. Of course, it's impossible (except for the athletes who eat way more than that). So the only conclusion to be made is one that was obvious to begin with: we are not facing regular prices.

But it's not just the fact that we face such exorbitant prices that helps us deplete such a large amount of money; the DDS cashiers help out too. One time at Food Court I had just gotten my card swiped and was about to walk away when I looked and saw that my sandwich and salad had somehow cost $21.07. Despite the long line behind me, I inquired as to how I had been so overcharged, to which the cashier responded, "I accidentally put the last two people on your card too. Do you care?" In what kind of world would somebody not care about spending over twenty dollars for a measly sandwich and salad? I told her that I indeed did care, to which she groaned and made me fill out a card to get my money back, which I am sure she proceeded to throw away since the money never did reappear in my account. I have had similar experiences, such as being charged $8.00 for a bagel and orange juice, that have led me to believe that incidents like these happen all the time. Next time you're a little suspicious about why you got charged so much, more likely than not, you got charged for something you did not buy and the cashier just didn't feel like telling you about it.

DDS is always an adventure, whether it's because you never get charged the same price for the same sandwich or because during the summer hardly anything is open at all. It's all well and good seeing it as one big game, a game funded with play money, but always remember: this is food we're talking about, and hardly anything could ever be considered more important. Though it may be an adventure rife with inexplicability, with something new to face at every turn, we still need some consistency and logic in our food prices, because in the end, playing with food just leaves everyone messy.

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