We went on our college tour with the same motto as the U.S. Postal Service. No matter what form of precipitation Mother Nature threw at us, we were touring college campuses, soggy jeans and saturated sneakers be darned. Our first test of determination came at 6am when we gathered to board our charter bus in the rain. After hauling duffel bags across a parking lot with enough standing water to warrant an ark, we traveled almost three hours to climb off the bus in a light drizzle. You should know that I’m only fond of the word drizzle when it applies to cream cheese icing and bundt cakes. So we squished our way across the first campus and finally crawled back on the bus to nap and to mildew simultaneously before we reached the second.
The following two days gave us a reprieve from the El Niño effect, but the temperature dipped into the 40’s, which is a hardship on anyone accustomed to living south of Macon, Georgia. We chattered our way along behind the tour guides and tried to look impressed with the grey landscapes, but it’s hard to envision the bustling student life that your hostess claims exists somewhere in the dorms when you’re faced with an abandoned quad and a family of squirrels looking forlornly through a pile of leaves for their emergency stash. Our students were hard pressed to generate questions and often stood huddled together like a group of fish sticks that had managed to escape the freezer. The favorite question asked by the tour guide always began, “Would you like to see the inside of …” And here they answered a hearty yes, no matter what noun was inserted into the blank as they saw a chance to absorb some central heating from within the buildings. I’m pretty sure that even if the question had been, “Would you like to see the morgue where we’re harvesting the organs of some of our students who died under mysterious circumstances?”, our kids would have immediately seen the wisdom in pursuing a career in autopsy.
The tour guides did a great deal to sell the image of their campus and to create an impression on behalf of the university. Each time I descended from our charter bus, I tucked a bag of Georgia pecans into my coat to leave with our tour guide as a parting gift, and I was happy to bestow this token, even when the tour guide spoke so rapidly that we weren’t even sure we were dealing with an American, much less one from the South. We felt befuddled the way you do when you call for help with your computer and somebody in Calcutta answers the phone. But the moment one of the tour guides walked up and asked, “So are you the chaperones, or are these students your children?”, I knew she could kiss those South Georgia exports good-bye. Me, the parent of a 17 year old child? Heifer. She had a lot to learn about finessing prospective students. The tour guide from Ole Miss, on the other hand, asked me if I was one of the students, so my faith in humanity was restored. She got a double portion of candied nuts for being such a good ambassador.
So after four days and seven colleges, we rolled back up to our school a little ragged, a bit cold, and a trifle moldy, but as with the U.S. Post Office, our males (and females) had been safely delivered.