Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Back to School...Way Back

As my child heads off for college in a couple of weeks, my mind wanders back to August of 1978, the year I began my long strange journey through college into young adulthood. I can't help but compare - it's my only frame of reference. As I try to relate funny or perhaps comforting anecdotes, I realize that's it's all so different. For example:

- There was no internet. Computers were something that the government stored in giant, secret places.
- Term papers were typed on typewriters. If you were well-off, you had a correcting typewriter. Most of us didn't. Carbon paper and Liquid Paper were our friends.
- There were no cell phones. If you left your dorm room, you could not be reached. Dorm rooms did not have answering machines.
- Microwaves were not common. In fact, we suspected they may be nuclear. Instead, we used hot pots and actually consumed Cup-O-Soup.
- Only the wealthy had refrigerators in their dorm rooms.
- There was only one meal plan and it didn't include Pizza Hut, Chick-Fil-A or Taco Bell.
- College kids did NOT have credit cards. We paid cash - if we had it, that is.
- If you had a car, it was very old and you only paid .63 per gallon of gas. Your responsibility was to drive your friends everywhere because you had a car.
- Cable TV was something for people in rural areas who couldn't get regular TV. The rest of us only dreamed.
- VHS and Beta recorders and players were just on the horizon. If you missed a TV show, too bad. If you didn't see a movie, too bad. You couldn't rent or own movies.
- We purchased LPs and lugged them to college along with turntables and stereos with speakers larger than coolers.
- We all listened to the same radio station - the one that played hits.
- If we were really cool, we actually owned a cassette tape or two.
- The drinking age, which was 18 in some states, factored heavily in school choice.
- When you researched a paper, you went to the library and looked in the card catalogs and the guide to periodicals. If you were successful, you might spend many hours looking through microfilm.
- Registration consisted of standing in an un-air-conditioned hall or gym with a blank look on your face while teachers at tables told you that the classes you need are closed.
- If you took pictures, you had to wait at least a week to see them.
- If you graduated from college, you may be the first in your family to do so.
- A college degree gave you a great shot at a decent career.

Fortunately, some things, no matter what the year, haven't changed:
- Teen hearts are still fragile and easily broken.
- Studying for a test still takes hard work and time.
- Mail - real mail, not e-mail or voice-mail, still brightens a college student's day more than anything.
- Home cooking is still better than dorm food every time.
- Getting a roommate is still a crap shoot.
- Hit songs are still loved and sung-to-death by everyone, no matter how many choices we have.
- Profs and teachers still love the kids who ask a lot of questions.
- There are still suck-ups and brown-nosers.
- Most kids still start college with absolutely no idea what they'll do for the rest of their life.

Most importantly, the one thing that never changes, year-after-year, is the fact that once you leave for college, your life is never the same again.


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