Monday, June 30, 2008

College advanced

I had no idea how much college life had changed until No. 2 son’s orientation last week. Now I’m concerned he’s going to miss out on some important character-building opportunities.

For one thing, he’ll never develop the fortitude necessary to wait in line for hours to sign up for classes and then survive the panic of finally reaching the registration table only to learn your final required course is full or meets at 8 a.m. on Mondays. What personal growth comes from registering online in your PJs or from the local Starbucks?

My son also might never experience the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of fighting off classmates to grab the last copy of an obscure textbook that costs as much as the average U.S. weekly salary. I doubt he’ll break a sweat punching in Mom’s credit card number so his books will be waiting in his dorm room when he arrives on campus.

There’s no need for him to learn restraint to avoid the “freshman 15” extra pounds from an unlimited variety of cafeteria offerings if he takes the free advice of a nutritionist who’ll walk him through the dining hall to point out good choices. Apparently “eat your fruits and vegetables” sounds better from an expert than your mother.

My boy also might never learn patience from waiting for a campus shuttle bus. For a fee, Sprint’s RAVE system lets students use cell phones to check the shuttle’s progress. That way they can avoid the major inconvenience of looking out a window or enduring the mild temperatures of Washington, D.C.

But what I’m most concerned about are the life skills he’ll never acquire from doing laundry on campus. In my day it took planning to scrape together enough quarters and snag an empty washing machine at a reasonable hour. Then you waited in a dark and depressing laundry room until your load was done -- or took the risk of missing out on a dryer and your clothing disappearing while you ran up and down several flights of stairs to periodically check the progress of your laundry.

I’m not going to spoil him by paying for a laundry service. Instead he’s going to be spoiled by something called eSuds. It’s the college’s computerized laundry system that lets him check a Web site to find out if a washing machine is available in the laundry room down the hall rather than tire himself out by walking a few feet to check on his own.

If all the washers are in use, eSuds sends him an e-mail or text message when one becomes available. No need to search for quarters or beg from friends – the machines operate by swiping a campus card. And he won’t have to waste any of the 153 hours he’s not in class each week by checking whether his laundry is done because eSuds sends him a message about that, too.

Now that’s a service I’d like in my life -- and not just for laundry. Wouldn’t it be great to get an e-mail or text message notifying you there’s no traffic or lines at the grocery store? Or how about a warning when someone’s in a bad mood so you can avoid them until there’s an update that things have improved? Imagine the possibilities. I’d gladly trade building character for such convenience, wouldn’t you?


Pat Remick said...

From Kim...
I laughed out loud at this one as we had a similar experience in Vermont. We do not have the luxury of eSuds notification though. Our laundry is FREE. Danny’s comments, “so I can go wash just one shirt if I want to wear it and it’s free? Cool.” Mike quickly corrected him by saying that the laundry, the counselors, the tutors (and now the nutritionists), are not free; instead they are included in a fee called Tuition!

Pat Remick said...

A comment from PJ...
You went to a College that had Washers and Dryers? My poor children had to bring their laundry home every week and have me do their laundry. Next you will be telling me they served food at the school. My poor children had to walk to a McDonald's or Wendy's for nourishment.

Not having gone to college, I was also disappointed that they could only go to the library in the middle of the night. Consequently, when I called them in the evening they were never in their dorm.