Ask any on-the-go college student how much gold is worth, and the answer will probably be "25 cents."
This is not a reflection on our public school system or a sign of a plummeting world economy. Rather, it is testimony to the almighty quarter - the Washington-emblazoned token that allows students creature comforts such as clean socks, emergency phone calls, and of course, Big Grab bags of Cheetos.
From dorm basements to the Memorial Student Union, University of Arizona students are rarely far from vending machines full of 60-cent candy bars and miniature bags of pretzels. Vending machines are the mechanized buffet of convenient, preservative-loaded snacks that cater to almost any craving.
Kapil Chhibber, a management information systems and finance junior, was very direct with his feelings for vending machines.
"Vending machines are, like, essential," Chhibber said as he drank from his can of Diet Pepsi. "It'd suck if we didn't have them."
If students didn't have these dispensers of semi-nutritious food, they wouldn't be able to satisfy all sudden hunger urges.
With the departure of Taco Bell from the union grounds, really cheap Mexican food can be hard to find. But, frozen burritos and tamales, for no more than $2, can be bought from the machines on the lower level of the union. And if all that quick-frozen spice leaves you with bad breath, minty gum is also available for 50 cents.
One of the campus' foremost electronic food servicers can be found near East Fifth Street, between the Biological Science West and the Veterinary Sciences buildings.
This brick-enclosed compound of snack and beverage machines boasts ice cream bars, chili cheese dogs, Gardenburgers and a large latt - squirted into a paper cup before one's very eyes. All neatly secured behind glass (or is that Plexiglas?) waiting for hungry students with pockets full of spare change.
But with all the convenience and variety comes certain inherent dangers. A Web site named "Vending Machine Deaths" warns of the average 15 deaths per year from impatient junk food fans tipping insolent machines over, crushing themselves.
In conjunction with a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association, the site suggests every vending machine carry the following message. "WARNING: Tipping this machine or any other unstable object weighing in excess of 1000 pounds onto yourself can result in serious bladder injury or death!"
Business sophomore Stephanie Albright did not suffer a punctured bladder, but she did have a bad experience with some sour milk from one of her residence hall vending machines.
"It wasn't very cold, and it was just nasty," she said.