Thursday, February 19, 2009

Touring the College Crib

If you are hosting, say, more than 250 prospective college students and their parents to your campus, and you know, perhaps, that you will be touring them about the buildings and landmarks and leading them in and out of dorm rooms, don't you think it would be wise, maybe, TO CHOOSE A DORM ROOM (OR TWO) THAT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE IT HAS BEEN DECORATED AND CLEANED BY A THIRD-WORLD COUNTRY?

"And this is my room," our very courteous and cute and 19-year-old guide said. "My roommate knew we were coming by, so there shouldn't be any surprises. He cleaned up his part of the room this morning." And the door opened, and I think I gagged a little. One bed was up on stilts with a dusty and clothes-covered mushroom chair wedged beneath it. The mini fridge was nicely adorned with a cable box and a bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup on top. A desk may have been under the piles of clothes and empty cups. The sink in the corner sported a decaying bowl of long-forgotten Spaghetti-Os, and I'm pretty sure the hand-scrawled sticky note by the door frame offended everyone who happened to see it before exiting.

"Well, that wasn't so bad. These dorms have held up pretty well," one mom mumbled as we retreated down the hallway.

"Wasn't so bad? What are you talking about? It was like Cell Block H."

And we went back and forth about how filthy/not filthy it was and how surprised we were at each other's assessment.

Now I'm no solid housekeeper, and I'm sure I offended many roommates back in the day with my lax maintenance skills, but I at least knew to clean up a little if we were having guests — strangers, even — popping in. Even if y0u're a total slob, you can at least fake it for one day. Half a day shouldn't be that hard.

Sure, a young person is certain to lower his standards of living when first on his own. My own husband once lived in a trailer by a swamp. When he returned to school from Christmas break one year, he entered the trailer, only to find that the carpet had sprouted mushrooms. Sadly, I am not making this up. I've never thought to ask how (or if) he got rid of the mushrooms. Yet I married him anyway.

The apple apparently doesn't fall too far from the tree, I learned, when I recently ventured into my teen-ager's bathroom last week to, you know, help her out. I lasted 20 seconds. The overflowing trash can. The shower stall that I won't begin to describe here. And the ceramic dish, turned upside down on the floor, having trapped a spider some weeks ago. At some point, a mom has to let things go. And I did. I walked away. The poor spider never had that chance.

Back to the tour. Walking out of the dorm, I asked our guide where he was from.

He was smiling from ear to ear, as if he was about to explain the mysteries of the universe, like he had been waiting all morning for someone to ask this very question. "Baltimore!"

There. Secret revealed. That explained a lot. His parents may never see the deplorable conditions he is living in, seeing as how he is more than 700 miles from home and, maybe, from parents who would have expected better. They probably trained him better than this back in Maryland and are telling their friends how responsible he is and that he is absolutely thriving in the college environment and is a model dorm resident. What a wonderful way for them to live.

Poor kid, living so far from home. Poor blissfully happy college kid with impeccable manners, proud as heck of his undeclared major and having the time of his life, with nobody telling him to clean up his filthy college dorm room and his Aunt Jemima syrup.