Next week our son Robert is graduating from KU. We are celebrating. Not his graduation with a job, but something else: He survived college.
College life is hazardous. Let’s review.
Let’s begin with kids driving packed cars long distances on dark ever-bending highways while their phones ring and ping all the way. The last four years Robert took road trips to destinations Google maps have yet to discover. Places in Alabama, Texas, Colorado, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and some big events that invite stupidity — Kentucky Derby, SXSW festival and other destinations disclosed only when his debit bill arrives. Typically they drive all night just to ensure he disrupts his mom’s sleep patterns as much as possible.
The most dangerous drive of all? I-70 to St. Louis. That’s not an opinion; it’s an accepted fact.
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When he finally calls home, I ask the same question: “Where are you now?”
There have been other challenges. Every month these days there is another super bug, super virus, new strain of MSRA that for some reason strikes large populations of boys sleeping on couches, rugs and beds whose sheets were last changed when Nixon was President. Even the bedbugs packed up and left.
One medical journal reported that college freshmen living in dormitories were more than seven times as likely to acquire the infection leading to meningitis than college students in general. You think Ebola started in Africa? Think again. The next time you are in Lawrence, visit the bathroom at the Wheel. Like a human petri dish for dudes with bad aim.
If it wasn’t the outbreak, it was the cure — Watkins clinic on the KU campus. Don’t set foot there unless your will is current.
There were other challenges admittedly not life-threatening but still worrisome. In the old days, college kids using bad judgment would regain their senses the next day, readjust the rudder and do better the next time. These days — well, it ends up with the chancellor holding a press conference.
Adding to the stress mix: For three of the four years our son lived in a, well, um, a fraternity. There, I said it. An institution that’s experienced a string of bad PR unparalleled in modern times. It’s remarkable that we long for the days when Bluto and Otter were emblematic of fraternities.
Parking tickets. Between the meters on Mass Street and the KU campus, it’s a trap for anyone who dares to leave their car for more than 30 minutes. You get a ticket on the windshield and it presents an escalating fine scale that doubles every 12 hours. If it falls to the floor of college dude’s car and then discovered by mom three months later? Consult your bankruptcy attorney.
Senior house. Two words that most parents hope to never have conjoined. A senior house for the uninformed, is a place where seniors move to help the transition to college years 4, 5 and 6. Our son’s home has, officially, nine occupants. Unofficially? Unknown and unknowable. These homes sandwich Tennessee Street; all within walking distance of the Hawk and Wheel. They share five things: 1. Wraparound porches with oversized couches purchased on Craigslist; 2. Coors recycling centers. 3. Ping pong tables for competitive events not sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee. 4. Fire escapes that are more pop art than safety avenues. 5. Absurd Wi-Fi connections.
And then you have the odd turn of events that only happens at college. Like the day someone declared, in a loud scream: “There’s a loose pig!” Yes, a pig was running between speeding cars on Tennessee Street. Naturally our son went into action, dodging the traffic, ultimately snaring Porky and keeping it in his bathtub until it was eventually claimed, via Twitter.
On sunny days, Robert and his buddy would ride their skateboards down the parking garage adjoining the student union. Dodging exiting SUVs only amps the thrill.
So yes, we will be thankful. I hope the mood won't be spoiled by a parking ticket.
Freelance columnist Matthew Keenan writes twice monthly. His book “Call Me Dad, Not Dude, the sequel” is sold at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Visit his blog at matthewkeenan.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.