Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Slumming It In College

(boisedailyphoto.com)



Last weekend our boys left for school. While our older son set off for his third year of law school, we drove our youngest for his third year of college. Both boys completed their physicals, were updated on all of their shots, had their teeth cleaned, hair combed and were good to go. Their clothes were washed and pressed, and they were starting off on the right foot. Unfortunately, our younger son's left foot got stuck in it when we arrived.

He was moving into an older house with three other boys, and I thought I was prepared for the worst. The rent was too good to be true, and I strongly recommended that he find another place last spring. My husband agreed, but he assured us that this was a great house conveniently located near the campus. It pains me to write these words, but we sort of trusted him.

It was raining when we pulled up to the wood shack, so the muddy walkway only added to the ambiance. We walked into the kitchen with a flickering ceiling fixture, and a sunken floor made of mismatched tiles with large gaps throughout. There were missing electrical outlet covers, missing sections of dry wall, and huge holes in the ceilings. All of these slight imperfections were found in the kitchen and living room. I was afraid of what else was lurking in this four bedroom house, and never made it further than our son's bedroom.

He lived in a fraternity house his sophomore year, and spent freshmen year in a dorm. I remember how we helped him set up his room each year, but this time I was afraid to even touch anything. He was offended when I said that his happy home resembled a crack house, and looked to his father for support. My husband calmly likened it to a slum. He tried comforting me by reminding me how our older son almost lived in a converted garage when he was an undergraduate. To this day, we're not sure if we talked him out of it, or if he was just relieved to get a better offer.

After the screaming subsided, my son told me that I was a snob. He went on to say that this house wasn't good enough for me. I told him that this house wasn't good enough for any human being, and that he didn't need to be in a place that wasn't safe to live in. To accentuate my point, as our son's foot gently brushed the top of the stairway, we watched the metal threshold come tumbling down.

Another pleasant thought occurred to me. Because our son is the first one in the house to turn twenty-one, I was wondering if he would be held responsible if there were an accident. For example, if an underage girl is over-served, and stumbles over a large rat at a party in their basement, would our son be carted away? Our older son alerted me by text that the owner would be responsible. 

The next day, my husband and my son went to talk to the landlord. His office said that they would be happy to make any repairs and even offered to replace the dilapidated kitchen floor. They claimed that the house had already been painted. My husband asked how they could've painted over areas with missing drywall. Of course they blamed this on the hooligans who rented the house last year. 

When we said our goodbyes, my son smiled and assured me that he would be okay. He told me that I should stop being such a negative person, and focus on the positives. I hugged him tightly, as I did a mental count of all of his fingers and toes. Then I took a deep breath and said, "Well, at least you're only about a block away from the hospital." 



32 comments:

  1. Don't worry, I would've been scared of that place myself!

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  2. Look at the bright side - - maybe it's haunted :)

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  3. Yikes! My son is living in an apartment complex in Blacksburg, Virginia having spent his first two years on campus. Thank goodness it doesn't look like what you describe. Mrs. Penwasser and I saw it last February and it looks pretty squared-away. Fingers crossed!

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  4. Holy Crow....that gives student housing a whole nother flavour. Yikes!!

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  5. Oh my gosh. I don't know what to say except it's clear you aren't a negative person. He'll be fine. Fingers crossed.

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  6. I think some of the student housing off campus really is in horrible shape and yet they seem to always be full. I feel for you - I'd be worried too. But I guess we can't protect them forever.

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  7. We shouldn't need to protect our children from basic necessities such as living in a safe environment. It does not have to be beautiful, but does need to be safe. This is not safe. I'm sure there must be some building code being violated.

    How is the slumlord able to sleep at night?

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  8. Alex - And I know it takes a lot to scare a ninja!

    Judy - If only the ghosts could scare them into cleaning up the place!

    Al - I'm sure young Penwasser will be just fine. Bring your sharpie just in case!

    Delores - The university does offer many options on and off campus. When his first choice filled up, he just jumped at the next offer.

    Thanks Tonja and I hope you're right!

    Mary - Sad but true. We'll just have to follow up to make sure the safety issues are taken care of, and not let this happen again. Thanks Mary!

    Anon - He should've never agreed to live there in the first place. Yes, the landlord is at fault, but he probably just figures they are going to trash the place anyway. They already started working on the repairs yesterday. I'm sure that many codes were violated, and he probably sleeps like a baby.

    Julie














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  9. This is my worst fear. My son wants to have a recording studio while in college and make a living taping bands. Can you image what kind of house he'll be in. Oh, wait, yes you can.
    I would've reacted the same way, but then I remember something my mother did to me. She found a Peace Corp application in my dorm room and flipped out, calling me a bleeding heart with no sense. She ripped the application up and walked out to the dumpster to throw it away. I'll never forget that.
    Good luck to you and your son. I hope they fix everything.

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  10. Think of it as a learning and growing experience. For each of you. If that doesn't work, there's always wine :)

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  11. During film school I lived in a crap hole. I assume like me, your son will grow tired of it soon enough.

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    1. I'm sure your experience provided you with plenty of material. Thanks for cheering me up Libby!

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  12. Ciara - Fortunately, you still have time to work things out before he goes. Maybe he could find a place near a recording studio instead. Sorry that you had that experience with your mom. I can honestly say that I didn't throw anything away, because I was too afraid to touch anything. Thanks Ciara!

    Carol - I certainly did learn a lot from this, but time will tell if my son did. Instead of wine, we made a late night dash over to McDonalds for some fresh baked chocolate chip cookies! Thanks Carol!

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  13. Yikes! I'd probably have reacted the same way. I hope the landlord comes through and makes all the needed repairs to the house. I'm wondering why repairs weren't done before your son moved in?

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  14. Sounds like a mother's nightmare. Sorry, Julie. He'll brave it and be okay, though. This, we must believe.

    xoRobyn

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  15. For some reason slumming it seems to be the only right of passage kids have left anymore. He'll survive it. Not sure about you.

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  16. Susanne - Supposedly the other students moved out late. Excuses, excuses! Thanks Susanne!

    Robyn - Thanks for the pep talk! I can't wait to have all of his clothes fumigated when he comes home!

    LG - I've been drowning my sorrows in hot fudge! Thanks LG! Julie

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  17. it looks like it has possibilities---i can so relate to this post :)

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  18. Our daughter and her roommates lived in some rather "challenged" houses when they were younger, but they all survived, and laugh about it now. Don't worry. He'll be fine.

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  19. Yikes. I hope I don't face this when my daughter leaves for college. But, thinking back, I lived in places that probably scared my parents, too. We see things differently when we're young. We don't notice the holes in the walls, the windows painted shut, and the rotting stairs. All we see is FREEDOM.

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  20. I remember visiting my daughters rooms when she was in college. It was pretty unbelievable. The worst part of it was that the walls weren't tall enough to fit under the ceiling. I thought about it for a while and then decided there wasn't anything I could actually do to fix it.

    I wish I had done some of the stuff my kids did.

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  21. The joy of being 21 is the assurance that everything is, was, and will always be all right. You just have to trust him (not easy, especially when looking at the house) and hope. Aside from the obvious of not wanting anyone to get hurt there, I also hope the landlord doesn't try to screw them by blaming them for the pre-existing damage. There are some pretty skeevy landlords out there.

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  22. Oh, my. The blindness of youth. The house in the photo looks like it was once a lovely home in the Craftsman way.

    My daughter lived in a basement once, with all the critters, holes in the wall, and a bathroom that had ivy creeping in from outside. Parents can say only so much, never believed.

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  23. Lynn - Yeah, it's a real fixer-upper! I couldn't bring myself to actually take a picture, but this one comes pretty close. Thanks Lynn!

    Susan - Well this gives me hope, as you seem to have done a wonderful job raising your family! Thanks Susan!

    Juliann - So true about seeing "freedom!" Unfortunately, I'm sure they'll feel differently come winter. Thanks Juliann!

    Yvonne - Very strange about the walls. Glad they held up while she was there. We always want our children to have opportunities that we missed out on, within reason. Thanks Yvonne!

    JeffO - That's why my husband took my son over to the landlord's office the next day with a list of all the necessary repairs. Funny, they managed to sneak away without me, because they knew that my findings would take all day! Thanks JeffO!

    Susan - Glad your daughter survived those conditions! Sad but true about how "parents can say only so much." Julie

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  24. Oh my that house certainly redefines fixer-upper. I lived in a dicey place when I first moved out to Washington State. Amazing what we think are "great" places when we're in our college years. :)

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  25. Oh my! Yikes. I don't blame you for being worried, but it sounds like your son is prepared for the house! I lived in some dodgy places when I went to uni, too.

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  26. Melissa - It is interesting how perceptions change. Maybe this will turn out to be a learning experience for both of us! Thanks Melissa!

    Talli - Something tells me they weren't as dilapidated as this house! Thanks Talli! Julie

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  27. Oh no, I can imagine this house as it sounds like some of the places friends lived in when I was in college. Not surprisingly, they were all guys! I couldn't help but laugh at your son telling you not to be such a negative person. I would guess you had to bite your tongue at that one LOL.

    I hope the landlord does at least does replace the kitchen floor, but I guess I wouldn't hold my breath on that either. Try not to go too crazy worrying, Julie! *hugs*

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    1. Some minor repairs have already been made, but that's about it so far. I also knew some girls who lived in rundown houses when we were in college, but they managed to make a little decorating go a long way. Glad you appreciated the "negative person" comment. It's right up there with "relax!" Thanks Julie! *hugs*

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  28. UGH. I would be with you, so unsettled about my kid living in the place like that. My kids lived in some dumpy dorms in college too, though. Maybe part of the college lesson is learning to survive in a dump. :-)

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  29. In my younger days I lived in places I would never want to consider now. How did I stand it? Oh yeah, they were real cheap.


    Lee
    Wrote By Rote

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