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We laughed, we cried, we ate ARA -- and lived

Everybody gets to write an ARA column, so I'm just asking for my fair share after a couple of weeks back under the influence of their food. For those of you tuning in late, ARA is Boston's finest purveyor of Haute Cuisine, the fine folks who keep our dining halls running.

When I woke up, I went to LOBDELL SUNDAY BRUNCH. A feast for the eyes and palate, the LOBDELL SUNDAY BRUNCH is well known around greater Boston for being the type of food well worth traveling for. It's delicious, it's good for you, the service is friendly, and the prices are great.

As I sat gnawing my waffles, I realized just what a good thing we have going for us. We all say we don't like ARA, but in reality we should just accept how gosh-awful great our dining service is. I thought, "Gosh, I could write a column just about how much I love ARA." So I did.

Really, it's no secret. I love ARA. After eating on other college campuses, I can't believe there are crybabies who complain about any aspect of ARA. I revel in ARA. It is a corporate entity which cares about its clients. I'm tired of people plugging away at ARA like the easy target that it is, uh, I mean, seems to be. ARA has gone out of its way to give the MIT student high quality food, convenient hours, and to generally acquiesce to the demands of the customers.

For example, take the friendly service at ARA's main dining showcase, spectacular Lobdell Court. The playful and often hilarious counter workers at the deli are famous for playing a hearty game of charades with students who are trying to order sandwiches. Yes, at Lobdell you don't just order your sandwich, you order it several times, loudly, until you're reduced to charades.

This version of charades is loads of fun at noon on a busy Tuesday. Level of difficulty ranges from a simple order of turkey on rye to a complex order like ham and roast beef with muenster on an onion roll. Some hints for beginners: Turkey can be ordered by flapping your arms, and "rye" sounds like "eye." (To order your sandwich on Wonder Bread, just hold up a copy of The Tech.)

For still more fun, visit the exciting and fresh "Sweets" bar at Lobdell. In a move which managed to complicate one of the better features of Lobdell, ARA changed the Sweets bar, which up until now worked fairly flawlessly. Now instead of choosing a pre-wrapped dessert, patrons can slice their own desserts.

Sanitary and convenient, this new feature adds subtle new flavors to the already complex tastes of ARA desserts. The flavor of your sweet now depends on what the hands of the other customers have been doing, because if something was on the hands of the person to pick a dessert before you, it's probably on your dessert! Try the tantalizing new flavors Picking at His Underwear Ripple and Wiping Her Nose Fudge.

All these fine features and still there are those who insist on making fun of ARA. Finally, last week came the harshest blow yet to a fabulous improvement in ARA's policies.

When a student group asked ARA to help save the earth, the company immediately set up a program of eliminating disposable dinnerware as much as possible and using reusable plates, silverware, and glasses. We all must admit that this was a step in the positive direction, and one which we should all encourage ARA to continue. The degradation of our planet is no laughing matter.

And now comes ARA's finest hour. To continue its efforts to recycle and help save precious natural resources, ARA has embarked on a unique program which will show that recycling actually can work in a free-enterprise environment.

Apparently ARA served freshmen and parents a platter of cookies and foods on Sep. 8, and then sold the leftovers in Lobdell for $.22 an ounce to unsuspecting customers. Brilliant! ARA is recycling, just as everyone's been asking them to do. At the same time, ARA is making a double profit. This ingenious idea not only makes recycling possible, but irresistibly profitable.

Undergraduate Association Vice President Colleen M. Schwingel '92 apparently doesn't see the obvious genius inherent in this plan. Her letter last Friday to The Tech was facetious and inflammatory and made ARA's actions sound evil. On the contrary, how can we fault a corporation which cares about our natural resources enough to try to make a double profit off of them?

Not only did ARA put this new save-the-earth policy into effect, but they modestly kept it to themselves, proving that they were doing it for the environment and not for the free publicity. Don't worry, ARA, your good deeds have come into the light, and you're now getting the publicity you deserve for it. . . . You're welcome.

Shame on you, Colleen. ARA is trying as hard as it can to be environmentally safe . . . and you go and . . . you just make fun. . . .

No, I can't do it. I thought I could keep it up for the entire column, but I can't. Let me get it out of my system: ARA sucks. ARA sucks. ARA sucks. ARA sucks. That felt damn good to type.

Whoever has the power to do something about the meal situation on campus, please listen. ARA has made mistake after mistake. They serve low quality food at inflated prices. When the contract is up, take the food service back under MIT control. Give individual dining hall managers more power to decide the meals for themselves. By all accounts I've heard, the food service was better under that system. Not spectacular, mind you (I'm sure there'll still be complaints), but better.

If you must go to a contractor, insist on short-term contracts of no more than two years. Take it from someone who's worked for the government: A contractor who's under the gun is the only contractor who does the job.

But please do something. The food service situation on this campus is not acceptable as it is.

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Tech columnist Bill Jackson '93 is looking for a food taster to try all the food ARA will set aside for him following publication of this column. For more information, call x3-1541.