College - The Material World

August 26, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

It was move-in day at college (the one my son is going to, not Montclair). The stuff of modern college life lay displayed on the sidewalk awaiting transshipment to the dorms.


Necessities have changed since I went to college way back in the previous century. It’s not just the computers and printers instead of typewriters, iPods instead of stereos, electric guitars far outnumbering acoustic. But televisions, once a luxury, are apparently nearing the level of a necessity (how else can you play your Wii or other games?) .

Cleaning supplies are much more in evidence. Even the boys were packing Dust Busters and Swiffers.

There were some things that surprised me but that the frosh took as commonplace.


Nearly every kid (or his or her roomate) came with a refrigerator (1). Microwaves (2) were nearly as common. And several kids brought cases of water. Yes water, as though this college that parents are paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for were some third-world country where the stuff that comes out of the tap is dangerous to drink and you have to bring your own supply. (The Aquafina in the above picture, as you surely know, is merely Pepsi’s filtered version of that same tapwater.)

Of course, there's water, and there’s water.


And despite the cleaning-supplies thing, the cluster of stuff on the sidewalk sometimes announced the student's gender loud and clear.

That object circled in the upper right is a teddy bear, and the movie poster on the left is for Breakfast at Tiffany's (apologies for the bad angle of this photo). The pink sheet set is unmistakable. And it reminded me that just a few days before this, I had heard another girl, one about to head off to a different school, say that she had chosen bright pink sheets. Also a yellow rug, green towels, and maybe something orange. “I’m trying to have a theme – citrus.” When I asked about the pink, she immediately responded, “Grapefruit.” I guess she’d thought about this one before. I couldn’t imagine having this conversation with a college-bound boy.

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