The College Tour Part 2


(Please read  The College Tour Part 1 first or all the comments about my great looking hair will make no sense at all. Oh and this is a long post. You may need a beverage.)

After doing a visual of the cornucopia of parents filling up the foyer of the University Visitors Center I decided I needed to work the room. It was time for some intel and there’s no better way to get that than doing the smile and shine. For those of you poor souls not from the south that means to smile real big, give some random person who you have never seen in your life a compliment, quickly gain their trust and then proceed to pump them mercilessly for information. I looked at my son and informed him of my plan.

“You and your work the room thing.” He said in an irritated whisper, “Mom your problem is you think you’re Homeland Security when really you’re more like the T.S.A. guy checking if people have their shoes off.”

I  gasp at that low blow, but don’t even have a chance to threaten him with a punishment before he asks. “And why do you think you’re so good at working the room?”

“Please, there’s not a room that’s been made that I can’t work and as for why am I so good at? Just think of who MY mother is and there’s your answer to that question. Now watch and learn here’s a life skill lesson coming your way” and with that I turn my head so my hair swings to and fro creating what I just know is a vision of middle-aged follicle envy from every women over 40 currently taking up space in the massive university foyer.

Unfortunately his idea of watching was to do what every other teenager in the room was doing staring at their iPhone. Not one kid was even attempting to make conservation with another fellow junior in high school.  I’m worried about the total lack of intrigue in teenagers. All they do is stare at a screen. I fear it’s going to result in something dreadful – like people mating with the phones and 20 years from now instead of having a grandchild I’ll have a mutant half-human, half-smart phone grandbaby. It’s face will be a screen and it will communicate via a series of apps. Not that it won’t be darling in it’s own way, but still yuck.

I decide as a smile and shine warm up I would start with something easy – the family, in what I will kindly describe as being dressed in wrinkled “leisure apparel”, hogging all the seats in the foyer with a pack of bored kids. I don’t get families that have to do everything together. What’s the reason for it? Do the husband and wife not trust each other? Are they afraid to let the other one out of their sight? Do they each think the other one is not intelligent enough to do anything solo with the kids?

I know this type of family very well. These are the couples that bring their crying babies and toddlers to any and every adult function or event. I dread them most at the movies. Why can’t some parents grasp the concept of taking turns, tag team parenting, if you will, as in one person stays home with kid(s) while the other one sees the movie then when that person gets home the other gets to go. Don’t you dare tell me it’s because the couple wants to spend time together. Seeing a movie is all about shutting up and looking straight ahead. There is no “time spent together” only time sitting next to each other and you can do that in the car.

Now, I do see the value in bringing your entire freaking family to the big city, but while mother and son or dad and daughter are doing the college tour thing the other parent could be taking the remaining six kids, grandma and grandpa and aunt and uncle super old to the zoo or a museum or the mall in their 12 person passenger van. I don’t understand why you would descend on a college tour with this much kinsfolk. Because I know I will most likely never see these people again I indulge my curiosity and ask the father of the clan that very question. Well, of course I asked the question fluffed up with layers of sweetness as in “Hi there, you’ve sure got a lot of family with you today. That’s just so great that y’all are here to do this together.”

The dad puffs out his chest and says, “This is the sixth college we’ve seen so far and we’ve got only three more to go on our list.”

“And all of you have gone on every college visit?”

“The grandma perks up with “Yes, going to college is a family decision and we all need to be very involved, especially me.”

Oh Lord, suddenly I felt an overwhelming sorrow for the mother of the soon to be college student. I’d bet a 42 ounce Diet Coke with crushed ice that she had a whole pack of family in the delivery room when she give birth to each kid. You just knew a grandma this pushy pushed her way right into the birthing process. To check my hunch I smiled and asked the grandma, “I bet you’ve been involved since the day your granddaughter was born?”

“You betcha. I was the first one to hold her.”

“Before her dad or mom?” I ask.

“Why yes, I was in the delivery room and took her right from the doctor.”

More liked grabbed her from the doctor, I’m thinking, but not saying.

“Now, who here is the one that’s the soon to be college freshman?” I ask.

A tired looking girl with long, somewhat greasy hair tied back in a ponytail (Not that it’s her fault. Call me a hair whisperer because her sloppy, oily ponytail was talking to me and it said, “I don’t get enough quality, uninterrupted time in the shower to adequately rinse out all the conditioner.”) and sweatpants with her high school’s name down the side looks at me and says, “It’s me.”

“Do you have a favorite college yet?”

She mumbles, “Yeah, the one the farthest away from home.”

I wink at her, bid her clan goodbye and walk over to the power couple standing right by a massive pillar that looks it was imported from the coliseum in Rome or the Caesars’ Palace shopping mall in Vegas. These two fascinate me because when they aren’t texting or talking on their phones they’re smirking. Like they know something the rest of us don’t. Hmm, what could that be I wonder.

The dad is dressed in a suit and tie and looks very CEO except he doesn’t have on socks with his shoes. I get the no socks with dress shoes thing, but really why? Is it that hard to pull on a pair of socks? I don’t care how cool you think it makes you look. It’s not good foot hygiene people and all the sweat is hell on an expensive pair of leather shoes. Besides all that, the no socks with $500 “going to the office” shoes sets off a four alarm, “I am a douche” vibe.

The mom is all high fashion in a dress that is so severe and plain you know it had to cost a crap ton of money. Her kind of a mini dress is dirt brown and shiny. It looks like someone took a paper shopping bag, cut out holes for the head and arms and then took it up to the elementary school and had it laminated in the teacher’s work room. She has on some sky-high gladiator stilettos and her blonde hair is flat ironed and hits her shoulders. The thing you really notice about her is her red lips. You know the clothing spreads you see in Vogue magazine and wonder to yourself, “Who the hell wears this stuff and why would anyone work a lipstick that red except at Halloween?” Well, this woman has answered those questions.

There is a kid, sort of, standing near them. I’m pretty sure he’s theirs because he has on what seems to be his prep school uniform of khakis, navy blazer, dress shirt and tie. I think he looks high or is suffering from some severe allergies. Maybe it’s both.

As I’m debating how best to get these two talking I notice the mom is using her iPad mini as a mirror. She seems mesmerized by her own reflection thus making her easy prey for the likes of me. If there’s one think I know how to do its get a self-obsessed, forever foraging for the fountain of youth, over 40 woman to talk.

I casually saunter over, give my still stunning hair a good shake and say, “Excuse me, but you look so familiar. Are you Gwyneth Paltrow?” (Does she look like Gwyneth Paltrow? Maybe if the room was dark and you were suffering from the ravages of macular degeneration. But, she is blonde with no discernible body fat, has that crazed ferret look in her eyes that all woman who have been denied refined sugar for weeks-on-end seem to share. It’s as if they’re not 100% present in the moment. Like a part of their brain is preoccupied with thoughts of eating brownie batter with a soup ladle or something. She’s also wearing a haute couture Amish edition so yeah, she’s pulling a Gwyneth.)

The woman, is instantly, no longer interested in her reflection. I’ve got her complete attention. “No,” she laughs in a haughty ha ha kind of way. “Although you’re not the first to make that mistake.”

“Well, you can’t be here for the college tour. You’re not old enough to have a kid ready for this journey. Are you here in a big sister capacity?”

She laughs again, moves closer to me and says, “Believe it or not my son is right over there and he’s 17.”

I smile and comment on what a handsome son she has even though by now he’s sitting on the marble floor, with his back up against the pillar and drooling. Forget the allergies he’s definitely high on something and I don’t think it’s post secondary education. I point out my son who has the good manners to still be standing. Never mind that he’s scowling directly at me. I’ve told him a million times to ditch the scowl (which is fast becoming his signature look) because he’s going to have premature wrinkling of the forehead if he keeps it up.

To keep the conservation moving I ask, “Is this your first college visit?”

“No, it’s not. We’re on number 26.”

My eyes get huge because I can’t imagine crisscrossing from the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters to take my kid on that many college visits.

“Why so many?” I ask.

“Well, you have to do that many.  At my son’s school everyone does at least 30 college visits. If you don’t then it’s kind of like your kid’s NHCCM.”

“What’s that? I say hoping it’s not some kind of disease or acronym for idiot.

“It’s means Not Highly Competitive College Material and according to our College Coach it’s good for the other schools to know that your child is vigorously scouting other colleges.”

“Wait, you have a College Coach?”

“Of course, if you’re serious about getting you kid in then you must have someone whose job it is to make sure it happens. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, but like how much money are we talking about? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“It all depends on the school they get you into. If it’s an Ivy League or Ivy Leaguish like Stanford or Rice then it’s buckets of money. If they help get your kid into a normal school like Vanderbilt or Emery it’s less. But you pay according to the school.”

“Sorry to be so pushy, but what does that mean?  By the way did you know your skin is absolutely poreless?” To tell a woman of a certain age that her skin is poreless is akin to casting a magical spell on her. She’ll tell you anything.

Faux Gwyneth says, “You pay them what the first semester of college costs for the school they get your kid into.”

I can’t help myself and shout, “Good God, that’s a lot of money!”

She rolls her eyes, takes a step back from me and says, “You’ve gotta pay-to-play. It’s the whole in-it-to-win-it thing. In fact, my son’s college coach is standing right over there.” She points with her iPad mini at the column behind me.

“You mean to tell me she comes with you on these college tour things?”

“Yep, she does everything. The only reason my husband and I are both here is because she got us a meeting with the Dean of the business school. If this was just a tour visit (She says tour visit like she’s just been condemned to shopping for eternity at Walmart) we wouldn’t be here at all.

I turn around and sure enough there’s some 30 something woman with a binder talking to a youngish looking man who I’m betting is our “leader” on the tour.

Not wanting to miss out on what they’re talking about I excuse myself from Faux Gwyneth by deftly throwing another compliment her way and walk over. My first thought after listening to the College Coach for about 45 seconds is that she needs lessons from me on how to work a room. She’s badgering the University Admissions dude that I’m pretty sure if he’s stuck doing the tour is pretty low on the old totem pole of who gets in. The guy was being very polite, but you could tell he was trying to get away. Because I’m perhaps the nicest person in the whole wide world I decided to throw him a bone and intervene.

“Pardon me,” I say, “Are you with the University?”

“Yes, I am,” He says looking grateful for the question.

“Umm,  there was some guy over there, I think, looking for you.”

He gives me a smile and takes off.

I then direct my attention to the College Coach and ask for her card. Not that I was ever going to use it, but I wanted to see where she was from and if she really called herself something as cutesy as a  College Coach. She says in an efficient and brisk voice, “I’m not allowed to fraternize with other parents during this tour. All my attention is focused on the Tyler family, so if you will excuse me” and with that she walks away.

Wow, I’m thinking she must have gone to Bitch U. and I know from personal experience that college is not highly selective.

By this time I’m a little hungry. There must be some sort of refreshment table or something. You don’t have what looks to be fifty kids and parents show up at 7:45 in the morning and not have a little nosh for them, at the very least there would be coffee or Capri Suns. I scour the foyer and peek my head into the meeting room – nothing – not even water. What the hell?

These yahoos want me to pony up $46,350 a year for my child to have the “privilege” of attending their university and they can’t even provide a beverage. I don’t care what grand and glorious things might happen on the tour as far as I was concerned this place was off the list. A lack of gracious hospitably is very bad sign, indeed.

I was walking towards my son to alert him of my findings when I see a woman in tennis shoes and capri linen pants from J. Jill. I know this  because I had tried on a pair just like it and they were dreadful. Blame it on the drawstring waist. It created an unsightly clump around your midsection and from the back there was so much fabric it looked like you were working an XL Depends. I was mesmerized by the bundle of linen bunching up her butt but even more intrigued with what appeared to be one of those backpack cooler things. Was this lady hauling her own refreshment stand on her back? If so, I wanted in.

I hurried over and said without even the slightest bit of shame said, “Hey there, if you got snacks on you I’m willing to strike a deal.”

She laughs and gives me the once over and asks, First timer?”

“Yes, what gave me away?”

“Well, for one, you’re hungry and two, I’ve been watching you. ( At this point I’m thinking, of course she was. I’m sure she can’t remember the last time she’s seen hair this fabulous?)  “I hate to tell ya this, but you’re a little too chatty. The more you go on these college visits you’ll notice no one really talks to each other.”

“Why not?”

“Everyone likes to play this game close to the vest.”

“Okay, I still don’t get that.” I said hungry and now confused.

“The more competitive the college the less anyone wants to share anything about themselves. We are all the enemy. Your kid could be keeping my kid out of this school.”

“Ohhh,” I say while nodding my head. “Now I get it. But don’t worry about me I’m not sending my son to a college that doesn’t have the good manners to provide, at the very least, a bottled water to its guests.”

Linen Capris smiles at me and then asks, “So, what’s your family’s angle?”

“Huh?” I say confused again and start rambling. “What do you mean what’s our angle? Does we need an angle? Our angle is our son. Does he have to have an angle? I mean I know he needs a stellar SAT score and good grades, but what’s with this angle thing?”

She gives me a look that says “Oh, you poor, pitiful, dumb ass mom,” pats my arm and says, “Look you don’t know me at all, but I’ve got 3 kids. My oldest hit the jackpot – Harvard. My middle child had to settle for Duke and she was lucky to get that. Seven times she had to take the SAT’s. 7 damn times. Now, all I’ve got left is my baby girl and I’m praying for a miracle or I’m going to have to go gay.”

My eyes get huge, but before I have chance for a much-needed follow-up question about what “going gay” has to do with getting your kid into college the University “Tour Facilitator” announces that everyone needs to proceed into the meeting room.

Click here for the conclusion.

*Attention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs cover_1.3-2series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂