Tales from the Cougareat - Y Magazine
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First Person

Tales from the Cougareat

Art by Travis Foster

Waiting in line or between bites of lunch, students make memories in campus’s food hub.

Wrong Number

By Brooke Walsh Taylor (BS ’08) | Bountiful, Utah

I misplaced my ID card, and because I needed it to buy food at the Cougareat, I had to tell the cashiers my ID number until I found it. One day as I was checking out, a cashier asked me what I had ordered. “A Caesar wrap,” I told him, “and I’ll need to give you my number.” His eyes lit up. “Okay!” he said enthusiastically, a wide grin spreading across his face.

Suddenly aware that he was expecting my phone number, I reluctantly told him, “Oh, um, I mean I need to give you my ID number.” “Oh. Oh, I see. Right. Um, okay,” he said. I quickly told him my ID number and got away as soon as possible to avoid the giggles of the people in line. Truth be told, I probably would have gone on a date with him if he had actually asked me out, but I think we were both a bit embarrassed by the awkward exchange.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

By Shauna Hoyt Dayley (BA ’99) | Highland, Utah

One evening at the Cougareat Taco Bell, our boss told me and my coworkers—all of us new employees—that after the shift was over we could have free food. We were ecstatic! After we closed, everyone started making their food. I made a burrito then watched as everyone else made burrito after burrito, taco after taco, giddy at the prospect of not having to find something for lunch and dinner for the next week. So I made a couple of extra burritos to take home as well. Soon there were bags of food and several large cups of soda waiting on the counter while we finished cleaning.

That’s when the boss came back in to see how we were doing. With eyes as wide as saucers she asked, “What is going on in here?”

“Um, you said we could have free food after the shift,” someone ventured.

“When I said you could have free food, I meant you could make one thing and eat it!” she responded.

Moral of the story: Never tell hungry college students they can have free food and leave it at that.

On the Scent

By Megan Gould Larsen (BS ’06) | Chandler, Ariz.

Approaching the first anniversary of our marriage, I was a graduate student in chemistry and my husband was in the throes of the accounting program’s junior core. Time to see each other was hard to come by. A few days before finals, we arranged to meet in the Cougareat for a quick lunch between classes. As I walked to my husband’s table, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the smell of his chicken curry. Barely acknowledging him, I walked right by and sat at a different table. He looked confused, but picked up his food to join me. I shooed him back to his original spot. The smell of something that I normally loved was so powerful—and so terrible—to me that I couldn’t sit at the same table! So we spent our hard-earned lunch date sitting two tables apart, grinning at each other. Sure enough, our suspicions that I was pregnant were confirmed two days later. I hold a special place in my memory for that dreaded chicken curry!

Whistle While You Work

By Jennifer Nielson Sudweeks (BA ’90) | Raleigh, N.C.

My favorite Cougareat job was in the dish room. Granted, hours of endless dishes arriving nonstop via conveyor belt might not seem like a blast, but my coworkers and I invented games and gimmicks to make it fun. The Cougareat played a radio station featuring a predictable rotation of soft pop hits and oldies, and we often played “guess the next song.” It was usually safe to go with Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, or Madonna. If Michael Martin Murphy’s “Wildfire” came on, we would let the dishes pile up and belt out the lyrics at the top of our lungs. We held myriad contests: fastest silverware sorter, hottest dishes touched, cleanest muffin pans. Often, one of our many admirers would send a love note down the conveyor belt and we would gather round to analyze it. Oh, and we also washed piles and piles of dishes.

Working in the dish room showed me that any task, no matter how tedious or potentially disgusting, can be made fun with creativity and a good attitude. I also learned to be a quick and efficient dishwasher, which makes me popular at family gatherings and ward dinners.

Bad Luck Charm

By Suzanne Sanders Tillmond (BA ’89) | Las Vegas

BYU football was having a great season—that is, until I would watch. My roommates banned me from watching any scheduled game, so I immersed myself in my studies while everyone else cheered the Cougars on to victory. One Saturday I was studying in the library, left deserted by game fans, and I headed to the Cougareat to get some lunch. While gobbling down my burrito, I stopped to watch the game on the TV there. Sadly, by the time I left, the Cougars had lost the lead they had when I arrived. When I returned home later my roommates asked if I had viewed the game at another apartment that day. I told them I had just watched for a few minutes in the Cougareat. The team had never recovered from my momentary viewing and had lost the game. My roommates never forgave me.


By Julia Selden Ditto (BA ’01) | Spokane, Wash.

When I was a freshman, the Cougareat’s main dining area was a sea of booths, the most sought-after of which were those lining the walkway approaching the Bookstore—truly the place to see and be seen. I stopped there one day to chat with some friends, hoping to catch some handsome boy’s eye. As I talked with my friends, my palms flat on the edge of the booth, I would periodically push myself up onto my toes. Mid-conversation, I went one toe raise too far, and the weight of my backpack tipped me forward until I was facedown in the booth with my feet sticking up in the air. My legs flailed as I righted myself, laughing, but secretly hoping to die. I undoubtedly turned a few heads that day, but for none of the reasons I was hoping for.

Crusaders in the Cougareat

By Lyndsey Payzant Wells (BA ’06) | Sammamish, Wash.

One day while my friends and I ate in the Cougareat, the whole area was suddenly filled with hooded people running and yelling as they headed for the doors. I looked up from my steamy bread and asked one of the caped crusaders what was going on. “’Tis a dragon hunt, M’lady!” he yelled as he sprinted by, his chain mail belt clinking. Ah, of course. We were witnessing the notorious Quill and Sword’s version of a flash mob, right in the middle of the Wilk. Only at BYU!

Off-Campus Adventures

You packed up your desk, closet, and memories of freshman year, leaving the comfort of the dorms to venture into the world of off-campus housing. You rounded up seven of your closest friends to hunker down in a four-bed, one-bath house. Or maybe you tried your luck with new roomies on condo row. Whether you traded pranks with a neighboring apartment, learned to tame your 40-year-old thermostat, mastered the art of the equitable and effective chore chart, or made a friend for life, we want the highlights of your off-campus years. Deadline: Dec. 4.

BYU Magazine pays $50 for stories published in First Person. Send anecdotes (of up to 300 words) to firstperson@byu.edu. Submissions may be edited for length, grammar, appropriateness, and clarity.