I’m a man of simple pleasures. Spending four years at this school has taught me to enjoy the little things in life, from time spent playing drunken Mario Kart with my roommates at 3 a.m., to out-of-towners asking where “The DP” is, to bikini clad vixens at Sands on an abnormally hot January day. You can’t buy these things. They just come with the beautiful package that is Isla Vista living.
Yet, despite the fact that I live off simple pleasures, there are a number of things in this town that get me uncomfortably agitated. Ironically, most of them are small nuances that should easily be ignored. But sometimes, when the day’s been hard, it’s raining out and your laptop just broke, the littlest of annoyances jut out at you like the first girl in elementary school to have noticeable breasts.
When you work on campus, you tend to walk around it a lot more than you would otherwise. This has been great for me, in that I actually get a mild form of exercise after binge drinking four to five nights a week. I also see a lot more of campus because I actually walk through it when I go somewhere, rather than just bike around the perimeter like I’m in some rush to get to a lecture I don’t want to go to anyway. Senioritis is kicking in, that’s a sad truth. But I digress.
The problem with being on campus all the time is that I feel obliged to eat here more often. And while the choices are slightly better than most would expect – Coral Tree Café has some great tasting, healthy options – most of what’s offered leaves me feeling greasy and abused, which isn’t to say I don’t like that feeling. In fact, I seem to gravitate toward it on a near daily basis, which is why it only took me a week to break my New Year’s resolution of not having Panda more than twice a month.
There’s one on-campus dinner though that blows the other options out of the water, and it’s Woodstock’s “4:20” deal. Between the hours of 4 and 5 p.m., you can get two slices and a drink for $4.20. Presumably the marketing brass at Woodstock’s believes that they can ring in all the stoners and cheap bastards on campus in one fell swoop. They seem to know what they’re doing. That is, until you order a side of ranch with your meal, and the total price spikes over $5, leaving you frantically searching for an extra quarter or dollar bill.
Wait a minute, you think to yourself. Two slices of pizza and a drink cost me $4.20. One small side of mass-produced ranch that probably came in a bin larger than the alleged ranch tank Rosie O’Donnell had in her house back in ’92 costs 50 cents? This isn’t right. Not at all. Still, you sucker over the money and buy the damn ranch, because after all, the pizza tastes a whole lot fucking better with it. And once again, the man wins because they know you want the ranch, and they know you’ll fork over 50 cents for it.
This same logic helps explain why restaurants can get away with charging you $2 for a small Coke, when they get trainloads of the soda streaming in like a menopausal woman’s hot flash. Not that any of this makes me less upset. I’m here on a college budget, and whatever extra cash I have lying around goes to alcohol and Bill’s Bus fairs. When I want some good pizza with some tasty ranch, I don’t want to waste 50 cents on it.
Yet, I do. Again. And again. And again. In the long run, this extra expense won’t eat up my checking account, but it will destroy my psyche, which is currently fragile given the recession we’re in and the miserable job market I’m soon about to enter. If I can’t beat a local pizza joint, how am I going to beat out a bunch of graduates with polished CVs for a job?
I try to close my eyes and clear my mind of overpriced ranch, but every time I do, abrasive visions of that evil ticket-maid who patrols the streets of Isla Vista wielding a ruler to measure the distance of cars’ tires from the curb swarm into my mind like a million locusts devouring a field of corn. As she takes my pizza order my head pulsates, and I scream out loud. I’m going to need another gin and juice.