Misplace a college student? Don’t despair…

If you’ve ever tried contacting a son or daughter who’s gone away to college, you may have encountered some difficulty in pinpointing their exact location.

Initially, your offspring may have been assigned to a dorm room or taken an off-campus apartment or gotten together with some friends to share a leaky mobile home. They may actually have had an address that contained numbers on a street in a known city somewhere within, say, 200 miles of the college or university they were attending.

They might have even have had a telephone number at which, for some nominal long distance fee, you could actually speak to them (after talking to six roommates, the landlady and an affable drunk guy named Horatio).

This blissful state of affairs may have lasted for as long as a month. Then you somehow wound up talking to six new roommates, a gravel-voiced property manager and an exotic dancer from Sanger, none of whom had ever heard of your son or daughter.

Horatio the drunk guy might still be hanging in there, but he couldn’t remember your offspring ten minutes after being introduced.

Yes, it appears that your child has disappeared. And probably become addicted to heroin while in the clutches of a cold-blooded serial killer driving a van full of explosives and rabid lab mice along a steep, winding mountain road in a blizzard…

Don’t panic.

Most likely what your college student has done is what generations of college students have done since the dawn of time. Your college student has moved. They tend to do that. Lots.

And by the time you calm down and manage to obtain a forwarding address or new phone number, your college student probably will have moved again.

I was reminded of this age old parent-student mobility dilemma just a few weeks ago when I tried to touch bases with my son, who’s attending Chico State University.

Unable to get any response at what I believed to be his most recent telephone number, I tried calling directory assistance. Sure enough, they had another phone number for my fast-moving son. There was, however, no response at that number.

Trying his old telephone number again, I eventually raised an answering machine which told me that something like 12 people were unavailable at the moment. Happily, one of the dozen names mentioned was that of my son.

I left a message. Then I left another message. And less than two days later, I heard from my son, who patiently informed me that he didn’t live in the same apartment as his telephone anymore.

“We moved back to the house we used to live in before we moved to the apartment we lived in before we moved to the house the last time, but we couldn’t afford to move the phone, so we left it there for my old roommate to take messages,” he explained matter-of-factly. “We’re really in the same house we were in last year. The same dog is even here, but the phone isn’t…”

So, I asked calmly, if I need to reach you I should…

“Call the place where I don’t live anymore. I’ll get back to you.”

See what I mean? They move around a lot…

Originally published November 12, 2000

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