Ian checks the old-fashioned mail every day, looking for his college roommate assignment.
Word is, the envelopes were mailed out of Baltimore yesterday, so everyone in the Mid-Atlantic states should have his or her assignment today.
Ian has not had a roommate since 1998, when Malcolm learned how to climb out of his crib. At that point we got rid of the crib, turned the nursery into a single bedroom for Ian, and sent Malcolm to the bunk-bedroom with Hugh. As the eldest child, Ian has enjoyed having his own room for all these years. He’s written on the ceiling, put whatever he wanted on the walls, and decorated the floor with mountains of clothes. Having a roommate will be quite a switch.
MICA offers a fabulous new glass dorm, with outdoor patios on the upper floors and stylish cafes. Here, most of the rooms are singles – and each single has its own private art studio attached. But this dorm is for seniors – and you get in by lottery. Freshmen at MICA all live in a brick-dormed setting called the Commons, with one entry point and a center grassy yard. It’s safe, secure, and communal.
Ian’s wait for the roommate news makes me remember my own pre-college summer. My mom gave me great advice, which was “Go for the suite. Each has four rooms with a bathroom in the middle, and six girls. You’re bound to really hit it off with at least one of your roommates.”
Liking the odds, I marked my preference for a suite. I’ll always remember receiving a phone call from one of my suitemates, Sally, who told me she was calling on her father’s WATS line from Lancaster, PA. I didn’t know what a WATS line was but didn’t want to admit that. A few times I said “This is getting expensive so we should hang up” and she said “No, it’s a WATS line.” I ended up agreeing to bring my stereo, which was a basically a plastic close-n-play, because Sally’s stereo is “like a piece of furniture.” Funny how I remember her exact words.
Because I was always extremely independent, I took the train from Jefferson City MO to Columbus OH by myself, then a taxi to Denison, arriving in Beaver Hall at dawn on Labor Day. The Jerry Lewis Telethon was my entertainment until the hour was decent enough to knock at my suite door and meet the roommates.
The girls in my suite were fine. I went on Fall Break to Chicago with one and Spring Break to New York City with another, but they did not become my closest friends. I really loved the girls who lived in the suite exactly one floor below, and I was constantly visiting them. To this day, two of them, Lindsay and Missy, are among my closest friends.
So my mom was right, the odds were way better in a suite. And the kicker? My suite in Beaver Hall was exactly the same one my mom lived in when she arrived at Denison in 1948, as a transfer student from Colorado Women’s College.
Ian’s dorm life will be radically different. No dorm-mothers. No unlocked campus doors during the day, or ever. No long lines to use the shared telephones in the hallways. Probably not even any blaring stereos, close-and-play or “piece of furniture” or otherwise.
But the hopes and anxieties about roommate compatability remain unchanged. Let’s hope today’s mail brings good news.Meanwhile, please share your memories of college roommates – horrible or happy.