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Thursday, February 15, 2001

Yesterday I spent my lunchtime exploring the campus a bit. I headed down Serra, up Galvez, past the coffee stand where the largest coffee was only $1.50. The funny thing there was that it was the same size as what Starbuck's would refer to as "Venti" but somehow calling it a large shaved 65 cents off the price. Then I headed up toward the bookstore and post office. I stopped in at the post office and picked up 25 one cent stamps. I really hate postage hikes. Actually, the US postal service just annoys me as a whole.

The last time I went to the post office, I had received a package I had to pick up. So I went there, waited 10 minutes for a parking spot, then waited 20 minutes in line during which time they announced that they had no more one cent stamps. Now the person behind me was there just to get a one cent stamp because her phone bill that was mailed the day before (on the first day of the rate hike) had been returned to her home. Here is a highly efficient organization. They sent the carrier to her home to pick up the mail, sent him back to give it back to her, sent her to the post office (during business hours when she was supposed to be at work) to fix it only to find that the post office wasn't prepared to deal with the situation, so she had to wait in line to get her mail individually processed by a postal clerk. All of this for the sake of one penny. Frankly, if the post office is going to raise rates, I'd rather it was by some increment that isn't just a nuisance. In the meantime, I told her she should just tape a penny to the damned envelope with a note to her carrier about the post office being out of stamps and let him deal with it. She was tempted. Finally when I got to the front of the line to pick up my package, not only could I not get the one cent stamps I wanted, but the post office had lost my package. They said they could bring it to me in the next few days when they find it. So I waited in line for a total of 30 minutes and was unable to effect any of the transactions I needed to make with them.

But back to the story about Stanford. I walked into the post office here and was able to buy one cent stamps individually from the machine. So I dropped a quarter in the machine and got back 25 one cent stamps. It still seems like a big waste of resources to me, but maybe it makes sense somewhere in the collective postal mind. Next I went across the plaza and was handed a Valentine's lolipop with a condom attached and a flyer for the pro-choice group on campus. Ahhh.... college life. Having gotten rather hungry, I trudged into the pseudo-cafeteria. It looked like no cafeteria I'd ever encountered before. First, they have a Jamba Juice (Yay!) right here on campus. Second, there was a Java City espresso bar. Then there was the actual cafeteria portion. It was divided into about 8 different stations where you could get everything from a Thai Chicken Wrap to a Mexican combo meal (enchiladas, tamales, etc. plus rice and beans), to a Terriyaki rice bowl, to a full American dinner (chicken or meatloaf, mashed potatoes, vegetables), to something from the short order grill, to your favorite selection from the salad bar. I tried a Mexican Classic chicken burrito from the place serving various types of tortilla wrapped concoctions. It was as good as anything from a burrito shop like Una Mas, but it was bigger and cheaper and came with a free soda. Go figure. I sat down and consumed my monster burrito (or at least most of it) while reading my book on change management and listening to the conversations of students. It was then that I thought to myself that I had fallen into something far too cool. It's all the up sides of campus life without the nasty down side of being perpetually broke, although I'm fairly certain that's not a real problem for a lot of the students here.

So with that wonderful feeling firmly planted in my head, I wandered back across the plaza where an increasing number of information tables were congregating. I started walking past one and noticed it was an advertisement for the Vienese Ball. I looked up from my journey to find myself face to face with my sister. Or at least my sometimes sister, Miss Ophelia. Miriam had missed half a day of Dickens at one point to be on the Vienese Ball planning committee, so seeing her there wasn't a real shock to me, but I seemed to have surprised her. I told her I worked here now and told her about my new job. She told me all about the ball and why I should spend $95 for tickets (choke!). I declined and told her I'd think about it. My suspicions about student's financial situations seemed to be confirmed.

With an even lighter spring in my step, I headed for the office, but then decided to poke into the bookstore for a minute. Bad idea. Now this bookstore was unlike any campus bookstore I'd ever encountered before. Most campus bookstores have rows of books that are organized by what classes they are required for. This bookstore was more like a Barnes and Noble or a Borders. Richly colored wood shelves of books were complemented by warm comfortable arm chairs. I think the upstairs must have been the more traditional textbook section. I'll have to confirm that suspicion at some other time. The process of walking the first floor front to back took me over 20 minutes, and that was only because I knew I had to get back to the office. I could've easily spent a couple of days in there. The history of science section alone could absorb several weeks of my life. Anyway, not wanting to risk getting fired and driven away from this magical place, I pried myself away to go back to my desk. On the way back, I stopped for a large coffee to wash down my burrito. By the time I returned to my desk, I was more pleased with my lot in life than I could imagine. I think I'm gonna like it here!

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