The Discomfort Zone – Life Without Plastic

Kate Hicks

The next time you’re considering leaving your purse with your debit card, driver’s license, money, passport, key, and yes, Gate Card in a Subway restaurant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, remember that until the manager gets your address to overnight it to you, you can’t eat for a week. Not that I did this, of course. I’m not really that moronic, I swear. It was just an accident; one that causes me to starve for an entire week.

Okay, I’m sort of kidding. I don’t starve. I have two options while I wait for my purse to come in the mail: cash in the 2,477 beer cans sitting in the hallway of my dorm and go to Slices, or find a few innovative ways to feed myself sans Gate Card. I figure this might make for an interesting column, and as option one will only viably work for a day or two, I’ll have to go with the second choice. In the end, I discover three effective strategies for circumventing the need for my card.

Strategy One: Use cash. This is a feasible option at both the Coop and the library café. I keep a small store of emergency cash at school (tips from my summer job as a barista), and it looks like this is what’s going to buy my primary means of feeding myself. Using actual money at the library doesn’t cause too much disruption, although it’s much less convenient than handing the cashier a card to swipe. Even with a long line, it’s possible to get through this transaction without causing much of a hold up, since you’re waiting for your drink. Unfortunately, the café sucks up money quickly. I can get a bottle of water and a salad for lunch and it will cost me nine dollars. This hurts my wallet too much to continue. (Figuratively speaking, of course, since I don’t really have a wallet right now…)

The Coop, however, is a whole different bag of chips. Using cash there feels awkward. I only ever use my Gate Card here, and even the cashiers give me strange looks when I respond to the “Meal plan or Gate Cash” query with, “Um, I can use real cash, right?” During lunch on a particularly busy day, I intend to just grab one of those pre-made sandwiches and study until my 1:20. After standing in line for five minutes, during which I don’t think to grab my money to expedite the process, I then fumble in my bag to find the little roll of singles I’m using to pay for my food, which lodged itself between the pages of my English notebook. I end up taking four times as long as I should to pay for a stupid little sandwich, and the six people behind me in line don’t seem too pleased.

Muttering an embarrassed, “Thanks, sorry,” I scoot off quickly to a chair on the fireplace side to study and eat. Actually, I discover that lunch is not the best time to try and pay for food with cash. The Coop is usually hopping between eleven and one, and everyone is in a hurry. I recommend not attempting to pay with cash during that time. But then again, I also recommend not leaving your purse in Pennsylvania.

Strategy Two: Getting into Frank by talking to the nice lady in the office. This one doesn’t take much explaining. When I get up to the desk where the cashiers swipe Gate Cards, I explain that I don’t have mine, and the guy swiping cards directs me to the small office next to the bathroom. There, a very friendly woman asks for my name, looks up my meal plan, and gives me a little slip with my name and meal plan to give to the card swiper, who then lets me eat. It’s very simple, although it makes me feel like a moron for losing my card in the first place.

Strategy Three: Sneak into Frank via the bathroom. Everyone and their Aunt Sally has done this, except for me. I’m a very classically guilty Catholic girl though, so I can’t even drive through a yellow light without feeling like I’m going to Hell. Therefore, I have never attempted sneaking past the very nice card swiper because I would feel compelled to publicly confess my transgression to avoid eternal damnation. Regardless, I decide that I need to try it, just once.

I know I’ll be alone for my sneak-in attempt, so instead of a jacket, I wear a sweatshirt to escape suspicion. When I walk in for lunch at 12:30 p.m., Frank is packed, and the line is out the door. I wait until I’m inside and then fake like I have to use the bathroom. After about two minutes, I walk out. Sweating bullets for the whole twenty feet it takes me to pass the swiping area, I’m doing everything short of praying that they don’t noticed I just skipped the line. What would they do if they catch me? They can’t throw me out of school for this, can they? In the midst of my panic, I don’t notice that I’ve just breezed past the figurative gatekeeper and am now safely able to eat my lunch. Well, just as soon as I stop hyperventilating.

When my card comes in the mail on Tuesday of this week, I’m tempted to use it. Aside from causing me to embarrass myself whenever I attempt to eat, not having a Gate Card is really inconvenient. But I stick with the plan through the week and come to a new, heartfelt appreciation for that grimy piece of plastic, gross picture of me and all. Should you lose your Gate Card, I recommend trying one of the above methods of feeding yourself (although obviously option one is out if you don’t have cash readily available). Really, though, just don’t lose it. You’ll save yourself a heap of trouble, and possibly $54 in shipping.