I Don’t Remember it Like That

We dropped our daughter off at college last Sunday. I’d always heard that it would be like a flashback to my own college days. I guess you could call it that.

She is going to a much smaller place than I did. There was no mistaking where you were going at the University of Michigan. Or when you got there. Or the thousands of people around wherever you wanted to be.

This place is in a residential area not far from where I grew up. There is no real signage except on the freeway right below. The freeway that has been closed for construction for the summer and will be until November.

No problem, right? You grew up there. True enough. We found the school with no trouble. And a parking lot. Was it the right parking lot? It had to be – it was the only one near the dorm. Yep – one parking lot, one dorm. No rushing memories yet.

We went inside. While she registered, we sat on a sofa. There were a few other kids filling out paperwork. No pandemonium. No feeling of being lost in a crowd. Hmmmmm. I was channeling high school more than college.

But wait. Something did feel familiar. Ahhh – a large building in the late summer with no air conditioning. The strange mustiness of a building that has been unoccupied for several months and is now full of sweating people.

Paperwork done, we went to the third floor. Where she had to talk to another person. She got a checklist for the current room condition. Once she filled out the form, she could have her key. I just had to identify myself and get a key. One point for large bureaucracy.

We went down the hallway and found her room. The girl at the end of the hall said it was open. It was not. Luckily her roommate was on the other side of the closed door. As we waited at the door, I noticed the girls in the room across the hall watching us. Open doors, people watching. That’s familiar. A little creepy, but familiar.

The room looks a lot like the one I had. But smaller. Dorm rooms are not known for their spaciousness, but this was the smallest double I had seen at any school. I swear that the girls could lay on their beds, hold out their arms and touch each other. I thought private schools were supposed to be more luxurious than the public ones. I guess this is part of the reason hers isn’t particularly expensive.

The roommate did remind me of some of the girls I knew in the dorm. Very sweet. And very aware of the strategic advantages of being the first to the room. Her side of the room was totally decorated. She had two rugs which covered two-thirds of the room. (In her defense, I don’t think they make rugs for half a room that size.)

The closets are on her side of the room, next to each other. Next to her desk. She took the one that is closest to my daughter’s side. It’s more easily accessible. The sink is on my daughter’s side. She took all the jewelry hooks she needed.

Actually I understand all of that. Don’t appreciate it. But I understand. The girl has never shared space with a stranger before. She doesn’t realize that parents can turn feral in defense of their offspring.

But that wasn’t the strangest part. Trying to make conversation, I asked about pictures she had pinned up of a dog and a bunny. I knew the dog was her pet. What about the bunny? She said they owned a rabbit farm. Some rabbits were pets and some were for sale.

This one? He was for sale. You have a picture of a rabbit you ate? Yes. That’s strange. OK, he can be a pet. So you are a little sick putting up a picture of a meal-to-be or you think you can freak me out by telling me your family raises rabbits for sale. Either way, I’m glad I’m not your mother.

We finally brought the stuff up. In the hot, humid weather. They had handcarts, but most of the people didn’t bother to take them back down when they were done. So it was an obstacle course. Did I mention the hallways were also strangely narrow for a dorm?

Downstairs I held a door open for a couple of guys with a sofa. It was the second one they brought in. Some of the people in my dorm built lofts for their beds and used the room as social space. With the size of the rooms and the size of the sofas, I’m guessing these guys have a very intimate social circle.

Sweaty guys. Tired, frustrated parents. Embarrassed, nervous students. They were right. It was beginning to remind me of college.


Cash? What’s That?

When we were trying to get pregnant with my daughter, I went to a fertility specialist. For those of you who have never been through the process, it can be expensive. Very expensive. And insurance doesn’t cover some of the procedures. Some insurance covers very few of the procedures.

As a result there were a variety of signs when you check out. “Personal checks are subject to a fee if returned.”  “We accept Visa, MasterCard, Amex,…” Basically you could pay with anything except the child they were helping you conceive. It was stressful going there. One time I was leaving and the receptionist asked whether I was paying by check or credit card. I answered, “Do you take cash?” We both laughed after I said it, but she did say that it rarely happened.

I was reminded of that day on Thursday. My car had finally died. I become extremely attached to my cars. We learn each others’ quirks and peacefully coexist. I calculated it out and discovered that I keep my cars an average of 7.5 years each. The number is a little skewed by two of them being totaled (neither accident was my fault, before you ask) and not having the money to replace this one any earlier. Nevertheless, I am not one to go car swapping.

Unfortunately, the engine leaks oil, the transmission sounds like it may be going, and the wheels are shot. I lost control coming home the night my mother died and ended up in a snowbank. It wouldn’t have been so hard on the car if I had not taken out the guy’s mailbox, slid across the road and ended up back in his small culvert. My husband rescued me, but the car looks like it had a fang where the front quarter-panel was torn back.

But I still loved it. I lost control more times on the ice and snow this winter than I had previously my entire life because of the tires. I still wanted it. The air conditioning went out several years ago. Not a problem. I like having the windows down. (We don’t discuss the really hot, humid stretches we sometimes get.) The heat went out this winter and aggravated my frostbite. My husband told me it was the blower motor, and he could fix it. I forgave the car.

Then the starter went. And it was cold. If we took it in, the mechanics would hand us a list of repairs that would practically rebuild the car. If my husband fixed it, he probably would have discovered a litany of things we didn’t know were wrong. It was time to bite the bullet.

I hate car shopping. My husband tells me to look for a few types of cars I might want, then he does the research. All is well until he starts asking me what extras I want. The luxury package? The technology package? The standard package? Does the luxury package come with its own mechanic? If I don’t take the technology package, does that mean they use parts from the 1980’s? If it’s a standard package why is it separated at all?

On Thursday, we stop by the dealership “to look”. I hate this part. Generally we have to look at 150 cars with basically the same features until we find the “perfect” one. I knew I had chosen the correct car when we discovered less than 10 of them on the lot. And only 3 of them came with options that added less than $4,000 to the base price. Oh yeah, there was one that was dung-colored – that one was never in the running.

So we went inside. And waited. My husband had gotten the referral from Costco (they really do sell everything). Apparently there are only 3 salespeople “certified” by Costco. Our guy came in, introduced himself, asked what we wanted, and proceeded to extol the merits of the brand. Finally my husband told him that we think we found what we want on the lot.

We took it for a test drive. It’s not love at first sight, but I could definitely see potential. My husband drove it. Before we get back to the dealership, we’d decided to make it part of the family.

My husband is very good at getting the best price he can. So he talked to the guy for a few minutes, and the guy disappeared to see the “Sales Manager”. He came back with good news. Not only could he give us all the discounts available, they are willing to give it to us at the employee price. It was almost exactly what I had in mind.

The sales guy was excited. The first question he asked was how much we are going to finance. We weren’t. We’re going to write a check. Oh. Obviously we have given an unusual answer. It didn’t cross my mind that since dealerships do their own financing these days, we were probably costing them money. Hmmmm. Maybe I should have asked them about financing before I got the price appeared to be running through his head.

He disappeared to get the paperwork started. My husband told him that we are in a hurry and can’t wait too long. It will only be a few minutes. He reappeared 10-15 minutes later, rustled some papers and said that he needed to get some other paperwork. This happened several times. We were getting more irritated.

Finally, we were taken into an office to sign the paperwork. I looked at the first one and ask about the cost. Oh don’t worry about that. It’s going to the government; they don’t care about the rebates and price breaks we give you. That’s comforting.

Looked at the bill of sale. Told her it was the wrong figure. She looked puzzled. Disappeared. Came back and said that she has been doing someone else’s job since that person was let go. Some one put the wrong stock number on the form and it created the mistake. Uh, yeah.

Got everything signed. Gave them the check. (The Sales Manager came in for that part.) She told him that someone mixed up the MSRP with the selling price and that’s why she had to redo the paperwork. That sounded even worse than the first excuse.

The next day, we met with our financial adviser. He told us that dealerships have different procedures and paperwork for cash sales than for credit sales. Since they rarely handle cash sales, they are less familiar. Since we were there late Thursday night, the “A” team had probably gone home. That answer makes sense.

Too bad we didn’t have him with us on Thursday.