Dorms still the same

All the symptoms were there Friday morning as we drove to Memphis to move Joe into his college dorm for the first time: nerves on edge, stomach upset, mind racing through all the things that might happen during the first week on campus.

No, not Joe. That was me. Joe was sound asleep in the passenger seat before we even passed Myrtle. I had to wake him up when we got into Memphis. He had had trouble sleeping for several nights as the time neared when he would be leaving home for the first time.
So had Jenny and I, as we made lists of things we thought Joe might need, and then scurried around shopping in New Albany, Tupelo and Oxford, trying to make certain we had everything.
At one point, as Joe and I were loading up a cart with extra toiletries, Jenny said, “They sell toothpaste in Memphis, you know.”
As we neared Rhodes College (adjacent to the Memphis Zoo), we joined a long line of cars filled with first-year students and their belongings, waiting to enter the college gates and find the parking area closest to their residence hall.
The look of college dorm rooms hasn’t changed much since 1963, when I was moving into one at the University of Missouri: a bed, a desk, a chest and a closet.
But the rules have.
Today, men and women wander freely through the Rhodes dorms. There are few rules and no curfews. Everyone eats in the college dining hall, picking from an array of choices from stir-fry to pizza and hamburgers to vegan.
When I entered college, men’s and women’s dorms were in separate complexes; women had a curfew, men didn’t. We didn’t even share the same cafeteria with the opposite sex. And the only food choice was to eat it or leave it. (The thought of turkey tetrazzini Thursdays still makes my stomach churn.)
As I helped Joe unpack and set up his room, I noticed other subtle differences.
The college rooms are set up for wireless computer communication and every kid seemed to have a laptop and a printer; I had a portable typewriter and lots of carbon paper.
Every room has a telephone, equipped with voice mail. But it’s considered old-fashioned; students text each other on their cell phones. At Missouri, we had one phone in a booth in the hallway. But I wasn’t allowed to use it to call home. In our family, a long-distance phone call meant a health emergency or death in the family. I was expected to write a letter once a week.
But, I digress into old fogeyness.
Joe and I lugged a carload of his belongings from the parking lot into his room and put everything in its proper place. The sweat was rolling down my bald head in the 95-degree heat.
As we got back in the car to go out to lunch, a Ford Expedition with Texas plates and a long, white travel trailer pulled into the lot and a girl and her father got out.
“Where are they going to put all that stuff in a dorm room?” I asked Joe. Joe shook his head in disbelief.
Thank goodness for a Joe, not a Josephine, on a hot move-in day.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or e-mail at publisher@newalbanygazette.com.

About Chris Elkins

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