This is a diary of my trip across the US with my daughter to start her freshman year at college in New York — and my return trip, too. Read all the entries here.
It is finally Move-In Day. My daughter is nervous and excited as we make our way into Manhattan. Fortunately, traffic isn’t too bad, and we make the 26-mile journey in exactly one hour.
When we get to the building she’ll live in, the school’s staff is out in large numbers to make sure everything goes smoothly. They guide us to a curbside space where we can unload all her belongings to the sidewalk amidst hundreds of other freshmen and their families. She goes to check-in and get her room key, while my wife stands guard over the multiple suitcases and boxes, and I drive around the corner to put the car in a garage. Normally, on a Sunday, I’d play the parking game, looking for a spot on the street within a few blocks. But with 670 kids moving into her building alone — not to mention the others in the neighborhood — I choose to spend $16 bucks on a guaranteed space in the garage.
When I get back, the line hasn’t moved much. The building only has three elevators and, despite dozens of upperclassmen volunteers guiding everyone, there are only so many families that can move in at a time. We were expecting this, so we wait patiently. A couple of times, volunteers stop by to greet my daughter and ask where she’s from. When she says “Missouri” they look at her as if she’d said “Istanbul.” Hey, it’s only a thousand miles away!
After a half-hour, we finally drag the bags and boxes into an elevator and up to the 9th floor, where we’re greeted by an RA (Residential Assistant, an upperclassman who gets a free room in exchange for being the point-person for all these freshman). She points my daughter to her room. Her two roommates are already inside and, since they’ve already gotten to know each other online via Facebook and Skype, they all hug and say how great it is to finally meet in person. There’s a bit of a debate about the beds, because there’s a bunk bed and a single bed. The girls want to separate the bunk bed, but there’s a bit of a geography problem in figuring out how to fit three beds, three dressers, three desks, a microwave, and a refrigerator in the room. At the same time, everyone’s unpacking, although I’m trying to get at least my daughter to go a little faster because it’s oppressively hot in here.
That’s right, there’s no air conditioning in the building, and with the three of them plus parents (and one brother), not to mention the humidity, the room is warm enough to cause sweat to pour out of every pore on my body. The oscillating fans each of them brought helps a little, but not much. My daughter doesn’t seem to mind, though, as she has had a huge smile on her face since the moment we walked in. Still, for her sake, I hope autumn arrives soon.
After an hour, everything’s unpacked except for some winter clothes she can’t fit in her dresser or closet, so she leaves them in the duffel bag we’ll take back to Grandma’s, which she can retrieve later in the semester when the time comes. One of the roommates goes off to find her boyfriend in his dorm, while my daughter and the third girl walk with us to the main building to get her official university ID. My wife and I are thrilled to see the two of them form an immediate bond, talking and giggling all the way.
Once the official paperwork is completed, we say goodbye to the roommate and take our daughter to one final lunch at a really good diner I know in the neighborhood. We’re served by a middle-aged Greek man named George who has obviously been a professional waiter for many years — the kind of guy who doesn’t have to write down anyone’s order, yet manages to get every detail correct. He sees her college ID and says, “I’ll give you 10% off because you’re a student. Where are you from?” When she tells him, he replies, “St. Louis? I used to live in Houston!” As if that’s the next town over. The meal is delicious and I over-tip George for taking such good care of us, the capper on a prototypical New York diner experience.
On the way back to the dorm, we pass a grocery store and ask if my daughter wants to pick up a few things. She demurs, but when I remind her that I’ll pay for it, she heads inside for some cereal, soy milk, and a snack for later. We amble the few blocks to her building, where’s there’s still a line of students and suitcases waiting to move in.
Unable to access the elevators in the midst of this madness, we take the stairs — all nine flights. My pores return to DefCon 1. Once we make it to her room, we wish her roommates well and then it’s time for the Big Goodbye. We linger for several minutes, hugging, taking final photos, and saying lots of supportive stuff. I thank my daughter for spending the last week with me on the road and she says it was a special experience for her, too. Though there was a promise of No Tears earlier in the day, we all turn out to be liars.
As she turns to join her roommates and begin her independent life as a college student, we trek down the nine flights and walk around the corner to retrieve my car and return to Mom’s.
Mileage thus far: 1,196.