Without a doubt, one of the most stressful exercises of Week One involves maneuvering through Stav Hall, more affectionately known as the Caf. It’s like the most intense game of Monopoly you’ve ever played at 4 a.m., as people dive for the last brownie or piece of pie … well, not exactly, but it’s terrifying enough to be bottle-necked through the cash registers and into a world with new rules.
While the Caf can be a social experiment in lemming-like behavior, it doesn’t have to be. Before you pass Go, before you collect $200, we’ll help you avoid being yelled at and run over because you don’t know what you’re doing. Armed with your Ole dollars and tray or without your tray if you choose to go trayless to help prevent water and food waste, enter the Caf.
Your first left includes the home line, the tortilla line, and the pasta line. These are great places to pick up your basic staples, if that’s your style. However, the grill, bowls and grains lines hold unexpected surprises if you can navigate the foot traffic properly. Grains is always a good place to find surprisingly tasty vegetarian or alternative dishes. The Food Lane also includes the sandwich line, the salad bar, the toasters and panini-makers, the drinks, cereal, and desserts.
Once you know what awaits you inside the Caf, you can tell that it is not uncommon for first-years to become frozen in their tracks. If this happens to you, go directly to jail. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200. Take cover by the cereal until the stampede passes.
To avoid first-time Caf trauma, use these tips to facilitate a quick, easy Stav experience.
You don’t have to go to only one line. In fact, most students head to multiple lines, picking and choosing their meals. It takes a little longer, but saves you time in the long run, and people who mosaic are generally more satisfied with their meals.
4:30 p.m. dinner is a best-kept Stav secret. Early dinner means a completely different crowd of people, and all the best desserts haven’t been taken yet. Going to dinner right when the Caf opens is like getting a head start halfway around the board while your friends are lounging in jail.
Chocolate soy milk is the best unkept secret at Olaf: many students prefer it over regular chocolate milk. I once felt guilty being at the front of a five person line for the chocolate soy milk. I looked back and asked, “Are any of you lactose intolerant?” They all shook their heads. Point for the chocolate soy milk, and point for you!
Make friends with the Caf workers and Bon Appétit staff. It’s like making friends with the Banker – you never know when he’ll be able to bail you out. Our Stav staff – headed by the legendary Randy Clay – are definitely worth getting to know. If the same Caf worker always swipes your ID for dinner or memorizes your bag lunch order, remember his or her name.
Don’t be afraid to go to meals by yourself! It’s not embarrassing; on the contrary, no one is paying as much attention to you as you think they are. You have to go it alone when your schedule demands it, and look on the bright side: no one has picked over the desserts yet.
After you get your food, drinks, desserts and second desserts, enter the seating area and decide where to sit. The rules here are flexible depending on what you’re looking for, whether it’s the conversational round tables, a long rectangular table for large groups, a date table also appropriate for that date with yourself and that reading you forgot to do or the booths.
You can choose what properties you lay claim to. Some people are booth-fanatics because of the view; some like it for the privacy and lack of noise for homework. It’s more fun when we can all rotate around Stav and see different people, so don’t get in the habit of sitting in just one spot. You’ll miss out on all the other places.
When you’re finished, you place your tray to a constantly rotating machine, where Oles often yell “Thank you!” to the workers, who call back, “Welcome!” Then, take time to peruse the infinitely exciting and often hilarious comment board just outside the Caf entrance. Here, students scrawl notes to the Caf staff about how they liked or didn’t like the food, requests for their favorite dishes or desserts, and nutritional queries. Randy Clay answers most of the comments with his dry, straightforward humor. The best question I ever saw was “Are grapefruits gluten-free?” He didn’t even answer that one. He has also been known to respond to queries for dating advice.
After all that, now you may pass Go. Now you may collect $200. By now, you’re either more confused about the Caf than you were before, or more panicked that you’re going to get run over by the swim team on their way up from practice. If this situation arises, the duck-and-cover method by the cereal always works.
Best of luck!
Photo Credit: Manitou Messenger Archive