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Life according to Dean, O-Hill's card-swiping philosopher

In 1985, after being asked to leave Virginia Commonwealth University and after hitchhiking for two months around the country, O-Hill card swiper Dean Caulfield wanted a job in anything other than foods. After a brief stint working at Memorial Gym, Caulfield found himself in foods, first at Cafe North and shortly after at O-Hill. But Caulfield has since established himself as more than a card swiper -- he is a friend to many students and a University institution.

"Foods jobs were the only offers I was getting at the time," Caulfield said.

Some people might let this get them down. Not Caulfield. He decided to make the most of his job, which is not unusual for him. After 14 years of swiping cards, this 38-year-old from Maryland still brings to his job the philosophy that shapes his life.

"My basic philosophy is 'make the most of the present you are in,'" he said. "Everyone has a philosophy. Some people are just more in tune to it than others."

As a self-proclaimed libertarian anarchist, Caulfield is tuned in to his philosophy. He describes his beliefs, which some people might consider non-conformist, as "living with an adventurist soul." Caulfield acted on this philosophy when he hitchhiked across the country for two months, relying on other people to give him rides because he did not own a car. He never has owned a car.

"I don't believe anyone has the right to tell you how to live," he said. "I'm not advocating 'no government.' That's not really what being a libertarian anarchist means. Self government is the most stable form of government."

Caulfield said he believes that eventually the government will become obsolete. Americans, he said, must first live under a democracy before they can learn of better ways to maintain order.

Communism, he said, was also something the world had to experiment with as part of the learning process.

"Communism starts from the viewpoint of the masses, not the individual. Anytime you start with the masses and not the individual, you will have problems," he said.

If Caulfield sounds educated, that's because he is. He attended VCU, but he was asked to leave in the first semester of his senior year because of poor grades. Caulfield had been a chemistry major before changing to psychology.

"My first time through college was purely academic," he said. "I was more concerned with learning than with getting a job, which translated into no concern for grades. I guess I had a little too much fun."

While he says he has no regrets about leaving school, Caulfield said he someday could return to school as a student if the circumstances were right.

However, this does not disqualify him from continuing his education through books. Indeed, he said his personal philosophy and political views have been shaped by reading. One of the authors he studied extensively when he was in his 20s was Robert Antoin Wilson.

These readings gave him a philosophy, libertarian anarchism, that many people deem alternative. But Caulfield warns against lumping people into political categories.

"Putting people into groups is counterproductive. When you categorize people, you miss the subtleties behind their personal philosophies. Opportunities are then missed," he said.

Extended one step further, this idea pertains to the hazards of labeling people has criminals, he added.

"Criminal behavior is a very subjective term to begin with. The more laws you have, the more criminals you have," Caulfield said. "The government can make laws to inhibit behavior, but the government cannot end criminal activity, no matter how many police you put on the streets. Sooner or later, you will have someone who says, 'I want to do this, and no one is going to stop me.'"

But even this libertarian anarchist, who believes no one can tell a person how to live, thinks society has a certain amount of responsibly to integrate outcasts into society before they turn to criminal behavior. This, Caulfield said, might have prevented the tragic school massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., last spring.

"People should be aware that when they do mean-spirited things, individuals might act out," he said. "The students at Columbine couldn't gain acceptance with the regular society, so they found their own little society to find acceptance."

Like the Trench Coat Mafia at Columbine, Caulfield said he felt like an outcast in high school. While his teen years were when he began to develop his personal philosophy and political views, he said his high school days were also a time of great depression. This period of emotional trauma later influenced his philosophy.

"When you are faced with tragedy, you can either wallow or learn," he said. "I did have severe bouts with depression due to my adolescence, but that's what makes me who I am today."

And who is he today? Caulfield is a devoted card swiper who blends his other two passions -- baseball and music -- with his job.

"Dean is a very intense worker. For someone to be as involved as he is and to be the card swiper is very unique. He takes his job to another level, which is good for the students," said Mora Sims, unit director for O-Hill and Caulfield's colleague for the past 12 years.

As Sims noted, Caulfield is far from the average card swiper. He implemented a baseball scoreboard in O-Hill, which he updates. He also brings music into the dining hall's foyer every Sunday.

"Music is my heart and soul," he said. "I like classical, blues, jazz, anything."

Caulfield was rewarded for his enthusiasm by being given more responsibility at O-Hill. For the last few years, he has served as chairman of O-Hill's safety committee. The job allows him to conduct safety training. He also has initiated a new safety program, which is still in its planning stages.

Aside from added responsibility at work and aside from his personal philosophy of living every moment to the fullest, another incentive for Caulfield to work intensely is the satisfaction he gains from serving students.

"If I am any different from other people who work in foods at the University it is because I care. I'm in the customer service industry. If I show a little concern, I am bound to get a little bit out of that," he said.

Caulfield now has no plans to leave his job at O-Hill, though he realizes that the time will come for him to leave.

"It's gotta happen sooner or later, but I won't leave until the opportunity is just right," he said. "But right now I am just making the best of where I am"


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