Joco Opinion

June 17, 2014

Snarky in the Suburbs: Before embarking on college life, here’s a list of helpful life hints

Sherry Kuehl: My son and his peers are woefully undereducated in the arena of real life.

I have a son who has recently graduated high school, and while I’m proud of his academic knowledge (a.k.a. book learning), I feel he, along with his peers, are woefully undereducated in the arena of real life.

This has prompted me to compile a list of skills I need to make sure my son knows before he heads off to college. Not wanting to hoard my treasure trove of wisdom, I’ve decided to gift you with my To Do list.

How to change a toilet paper roll: Forget about the score you made on the SATs. If you want to really impress me, change the toilet paper roll. It requires a minimum of fine motor skills and is really quite self-explanatory. The brown cardboard toilet paper shell is not an eye-catching, long-term accessory for the bathroom. It simply means it’s time for new roll of TP. I think every student before being handed their diploma must demonstrate that they know how to complete this, apparently, arduous task.

How to have a conversation: Put down your phone. I know it’s going to be a struggle and you might experience the shakes and some symptoms of withdrawal, but power through and do it. After your phone is no longer your main focus, look another human being in the eyes (C’mon don’t give up, you can do it), maintain eye contact while asking your fellow carbon life form a question (because usually a query is an excellent ice-breaker) and proceed to have a give-and-take of at least six complete sentences.

How to pick the quickest line at the grocery store: You will use this skill almost every day for the rest of your life. First, any line with a male cashier is a big no. Sorry guys, but you’re slower than your female counterparts at the whole scan and go. Second, avoid any cashier that seems chatty. Making conversation slows down the scanning and bagging considerably. Third, don’t judge a line by the number of groceries in the cart. Judge the line by the grocery. A bunch of produce that needs to be weighed is a time suck.

This statement might lead you to believe that getting behind the canned good shopper is a good thing. No, canned good shoppers are usually buying bulk and will be locked and loaded with coupons. Coupons are the black hole of checkout lines. Not only do they have to be scanned but also you can count on at least one being denied, which will lead to at least a five-minute confab with the store manager.

Grooming in public: No tweezing and for the love of hygiene no nail-clipping outside the four walls of your bathroom. Also, NEVER go free range with foot grooming. Sadly, I’ve seen many cases of people (mostly women in their 30s) committing this egregious act at public pools and even at the Leawood July Fourth fireworks celebration. I kid you not, last year, a woman on the blanket next to mine got a Pedi egg thing out of her purse and began going to town on her heel calluses. I almost barfed as her foot funk was being jettisoned into the atmosphere.

How to properly answer the phone: It’s a little hard to believe but 18-year-olds still don’t know how to answer a phone, mainly because they don’t use their phone for audible conversations. So to review, you answer a phone with a “hello.” For style points you might want to add a friendly lilt on the O. It is most definitely not huh, what, yeah, or uh-huh.

How to order off a Panera or Corner Bakery menu: This advice applies to any restaurant where you stand in line to place your order. Now, usually these lines are long enough to give you time to peruse the menu and make a decision. Do not get to the front of line and then suddenly get stumped by what you want. There is no place in the adult world for menu performance anxiety. Also, asking if there’s fair-trade cream in the baked potato soup is a sign that you’re at the wrong restaurant. Remember, it’s all about keeping the line moving.

I could go on but life skills are best taught in bite-size chunks. You don’t want to overwhelm or even scare your emerging adult with information overload. For now, I’ll be grateful if mastery is achieved on replacing the toilet paper roll.

Freelancer Sherry Kuehl of Leawood writes Snarky in the Suburbs in 913 each week. You can follow her on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, twitter @snarkynsuburbs and read her blog at She's also written a book Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School.

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