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Dorm life: good, bad or ugly?

Sunday, September 18, 2022

So, having earned an associate’s degree from our local community college, my son Gideon is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechatronic engineering from my old alma mater.

This only child who had never really spent the night away from home is cautiously adapting to dormitory life. (“Dormitory”: from the Latin for “Who needs Latin? We have panties to raid and fire extinguishers to discharge!”) So far, he and his roommate are coexisting amicably. But I have seen enough “roommate from hell” stories online to know this is not everyone’s college experience. (Atheists have terrible dorm anecdotes. Who wants to hear about the “roommate from a postdeath state of nonexistence”? But I digress.)

Numerous circumstances can create friction between roommates. The recurring complaint about “failure to observe boundaries” figures into one of Gideon’s favorite anecdotes about my college days.

I remember following my friend John back to his dorm room. (Perhaps this was the time we failed to get into a soldout showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”). John generously offered me some potato chips. While I was munching, his roomie Ralph (a future lawyer) walked in and let it be known that he was the actual owner of the aforementioned snacks. Ralph dryly quipped, “Huh. It says right on the bag, ‘Goes great with dips,’ and you were drawn right to them!”

Yes, ground rules must be set — about borrowing, bedtime, thermostats, hygiene, visitors, decorations, TV/stereo volume and the like. And still there are problems. (“Were you raised in a barn??? Those pastel earbuds are throwing off the whole feng shui of the room!”) I can think of at least two freshmen who assumed it would be fun, fun, fun to room with their high school compadre, only to have things head south in a hurry. Suddenly, BFF started standing for Butthead Facing Fury.

I always took the luck of the draw when it came to roommates. I have not been in contact with any of my roomies since I graduated, but I still cherish my memories.

Ken pulled off the lofty goal of being both a comic book nerd and a ladies’ man. I remember Ken playing a Richard Pryor LP, which had the Pied Piper effect of drawing neighbors into the room one by one, until we had a full house. Of course, that’s not saying much for a dorm room. You can’t write home, “Dear Mom and Dad, I’m feeling claustrophobic” without opening the window or hallway door to have room to write “claustrophobic.”

Nate was a gentle soul who had issues with my politics, my lack of rhythm and the audacity I displayed in not being born in Philadelphia. (What can I say? I won “rebellious fetus of the trimester” three times in a row.)

At least I didn’t have to room with the guy who lived in my friend Jack’s dorm. Jack dubbed him “Sieg Heil!” because he could often be seen alone in his room doing a sort of goosestepping dance to loud polka music. I suspect Sieg! was next to worthless in late-night study sessions. (“I know nothing! I see nothing! I hear nothing!”) I hope Gideon continues to enjoy dorm life, earns his degree and lands a respectable job. I hope he finds plentiful chips for his electronic projects.

And that Ralph doesn’t show up with a ceaseand- desist order. *Sigh*

Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”

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