Every life has milepost days. Yesterday was certainly one of them, as we took Steffie to college and helped her move into the dorm.
Make no mistake about it. This has affected me. But whatever I’m feeling pales in comparison to what Helaine and Steffie are feeling. I can claim to understand, but I can’t.
Our day started very early. It was supposed to start just early, but Helaine couldn’t sleep. When I woke up, a few hours before my scheduled time, she was already out of the shower.
We planned to leave the house at 7:30 and were pretty much on schedule.
If you’re reading this, waiting for the moment when the wheels fell off the wagon, you might as well stop now. This day went exceptionally smoothly. Nearly everything went as planned and the college was shockingly prepared and organized.
Is this my life we’re talking about?
The trip to Long Island took around two hours. There is a ferry available, but it only makes sense if you are going to far Eastern Long Island – not us. We headed down the Connecticut Turnpike which becomes the New England Thruway at the New York State line.
As we passed over the Throgs Neck Bridge, I realized that at some time Steffie would be making this trip on her own. I wanted to let her know about some tricky exiting.
An hour and a half into a two hour trip is too late to start. The best way is to let her drive it some time, with me in the passenger’s seat.
As we pulled on campus, a uniformed guard moved toward the car. Before Steffie went to her dorm, did she have her 700 number?
Sure, it was under a room and a half’s worth of stuff!
Steffie and I set out for the Student Center. This was actually a good thing, because she was able to get her student ID, which she would need for virtually everything else.
Next stop, the dorm. Steffie’s room is on the 6th floor of a 13 floor tower. The building is poured concrete, with some brick and cinder block. I would suppose if you’re going to build a structure to hold hundreds of 18-22 year olds, you’d want to make as little of it flammable as is possible.
The concrete looks like it was poured into wooden molds, so the grain pattern of the wood is still visible on the building’s exterior. I’m sure some architect somewhere will wince when he reads this, but I like that look. At least dull, drab concrete is given some modicum of texture.
Another campus cop, dressed like a park ranger, was near the dorm, directing traffic. He asked me if I could squeeze into a spot, which I did. The rear hatch of the Explorer was poised at the edge of the sidewalk. Perfect.
We walked inside where Steffie registered for the dorm, got a sticker added to her ID and a key for her room (don’t lose it – replacements are $150). Then we moved back outside for the surprise of the day.
The college had a small fleet of wheeled bright orange carts. Instead of hand carrying a car’s worth of stuff, we filled up the cart (twice) and rolled it to the elevator and then the sixth floor.
Steffie’s room was ‘prison modern’. It’s small room, with large window. The floors are some sort of easily cleaned, plastic derivative. There were two desks, each with a hutch, two dressers and two large standing hanging closets.
Near the door was the outlet for high speed Internet and telephone access. It, and the cable TV/phone jack, were the only real mistakes of the room. In order to bring the Internet to the desk across the room, you’d need to run the school supplied Ethernet cable across the floor… or go out and buy a fifty foot cable (which is what I did).
I thought Steffie had overpacked… and maybe she did… but she managed to squeeze everything into her half of the room. Once she put some photo montages and other personal touches on the wall, the room began to look homey.
While Helaine and Steffie fixed the living space, I tackled the electronics. Her computer quickly connected to the school’s network. Her two speakers and subwoofer sounded great on her desk.
At one time a student would pack up a small stereo system for a dorm room. There’s really no reason to do that anymore. Steffie’s laptop will serve as her stereo. It’s loaded with all the MP3’s that are in her iPod, and then some. Plus, it will play CDs.
All this time, while the unpacking and set up was going on, Steffie was alone. Her roommate, coming from Kansas, had not yet arrived. Half the room was warm and fuzzy. The other half was Cellblock-G sterile.
Being on the sixth floor and facing west, the room has a great view. The building in the center of this photo is North Shore Towers (where my friend Peter’s parents once lived), about eight miles away.
As the afternoon moved along, we realized there were a few items we had forgotten, so we headed out, looking for a ‘big box’ store to load up.
When I went to college, there was an old black and white TV in the common area in the basement. With its rabbit ears antenna, we could only get a few fuzzy signals. The was Boston’s Back Bay, where even a rooftop antenna brought ghostly signals and where cable wouldn’t be introduced for at least a decade or more.
Today, there is cable TV in each room! Steffie has multiple channels of HBO. Hey, we don’t have that at home!
We had decided to wait on getting her a TV until we got there. And, quite honestly, there wouldn’t have been room in the car.
First stop was Best Buy. It must have been a cold day in hell for me to walk in there, because Best Buy and I just don’t get along. I don’t want to go into the whole story, but my last trip to a Best Buy, much closer to home, ended with me screaming at the manager, “OK then, call the cops.”
We found an off brand 20″ TV for… Oh, go ahead, guess. I’m waiting.
The TV was $87.99. How is that humanly possible?
Forget the labor and parts. How can you ship a weighty box halfway around the world and build a Best Buy on the profit from this thing? I’m not sure how is possible. The TV has remote control and input jacks for a DVD and/or VCR.
The remote came with batteries!
We also picked up a little DVD player. Sure, the computer can play DVDs, but this is what she wanted… and again, it was dirt cheap. The DVD player was $31.99.
Here’s what I can’t figure out. How can this TV/DVD combination sell for less than the frames for my eyeglasses? There’s some disconnect here… or the ability to make a boatload of money producing cheap frames.
The TV fit nicely on top of Steffie’s dresser. The DVD player needed to be turned into one corner. It’s not optimal, but it will do. It’s a dorm room, after all.
Next stop for us was the theater for a lecture on fire safety. I had already given Steffie my own cautionary tale about fire alarms and dorms. It will go off often. She still needs to leave. She can’t take the chance it will always be a false alarm.
There was another paragraph here about the lecturer, his demeanor and his warmth. I have removed it because I don’t want to be sued. ‘Nuff said.
Evening was approaching and Steffie’s roommate was still a no show.
At the lobby of the dorm there was a short list of who wasn’t there. The list grew shorter as names were crossed off. Not this one. She was top of the list and still missing in action.
We went to a barbecue on the intramural field. There were previously warm hot dogs and cheeseburgers (with unmelted cheese on the burgers) and we ate away.
Time was running short. Helaine and I had to return to Connecticut. We didn’t want to leave Steffie before the roommate arrived, but we had no choice.
Our goodbyes were tearful. Steffie put on wide sunglasses, but tears still poured out. Helaine was no less emotional.
After being with Steffie virtually every day for 18 years, we would be separated. Helaine will be seeing her in a month. It will be longer for me.
If you would have asked me how Steffie would fare in college a year ago, I wouldn’t have had a ready, positive answer. It’s different now. This last year has seen her mature a lot.
She has said, and I believe her, that she’s ready for college and the college experience. I think she is.
It will be interesting to see how she ‘plays with others’. As an only child, Steffie has had her own bedroom, bathroom and playroom. Now she’ll be sharing a room with one girl and a bathroom with a floor of them.
There are so many things to learn in college. Classroom work is only one part of a very large experience.
Blogger’s note: Steffie’s roommate arrived, alone, right after we left. She had packed light with more being shipped over the next few days.