The Students Are Coming

They're baaaaaack! A new school year begins, and the students have returned to UT to begin their new semesters. In honor of that, and because I'm too busy fighting my way through the school supply asile at Wal-mart to write something new, I'm reposting last year's Move In Day post.

Originally published on 8/16/07

It's going to be a very busy weekend this weekend, so I thought I'd get an early start on reporting all of the activities. Specifically, the students are moving back to UT this weekend. Even though we're in summer's death grip with it being 102 degrees out (ack!), the Powers that decide when to begin that adventure that is higher education thought that they might as well get started on the "fall" semester. (I can't really blame them. If we waited until we started having fall-like weather around here before going to class, we'd be halfway through November). Anyway, the band kids and sorority kids are already back, but the general mass student population is scheduled to move in this weekend. And that's when the fun really begins.

All through the summer, the University sleeps. Sure, there's some summer classes going on, but compared to the rest of the school year, the place is a ghost town. You can drive down the "strip" without hoards of bodies stepping mindlessly into the street in front of you (be warned UT students...if you're outside of the crosswalk, you're fair game and I'm not slowing down). You can find a parking space within 2 miles of your destination, and almost no one comes to Mass in tattered shorts and flip-flops. And all that is nice. The University needs that break every summer to rest and regroup and repair. We all do. But every August, the relaxed feeling in the air gradually gets replaced by a buzzing excitement. Almost like a nervous energy. You can feel the University brace itself. The students are coming.

I love living in a college town. There's an excitement here that you just can't find anywhere else. And move in day is one of those days where the excitement reaches a fever pitch. (Rivaled only by home football game days). Move in days are like being on a roller coaster and waiting in line for it all at the same time. UT has roughly 27,000 students at any given time, and 99.9% of them will try to move in this Saturday. (I don't know why they all decide to come on Saturday. Classes don't start until Wednesday. If you're going through check-in, come on Sunday. I promise that Sunday will be a cakewalk compared to Saturday. Saturday is a zoo).

Here's what will happen: All the new college students will wake up early and load up their parents, friends, clothes, computers, stereos, TVs, school stuff, decorations, boxes of Mac and cheese, party supplies, cooking pots and pans, floor rugs, shower shoes, beanbag chairs, bedding supplies, and the kitchen sink into the backs of their cars, trucks, and SUVs to the point that they can no longer see out of the rearview mirror and overflow stuff is tied to the roof. And they'll come. Unfortunately, no matter how close they live to campus, the traffic jam caused by 27,000 cars all going to one place will guarantee that the trip will take at least 40 days and 40 nights, and the college bound caravan will arrive hungry, already exhausted, and ready to kill their newly independent adult child, whose nerves are expressing themselves through moods swings that make menopausal schizophrenics jealous.

They'll want to park and regroup when they get to the residence hall ("Dorms are made of bricks...Residence Halls are made of people") but they'll discover that the entire parking lot has been turned into a 30 minute unloading zone only, and the local police are ticketing any vehicle left unattended. So someone will sit with the car in the 102 degree parking lot, snarling at the roaming packs of cars intent on stealing their space and trying to fight heat stroke. Everyone else in the moving party will shuffle into a rat maze of lines that have been constructed inside the lobby.They may think that they've made it once they're inside the lobby, they're almost through. Ha! Checking in to a residence hall is like going to Disneyland, only instead of rides, you get to fill out paperwork. You stand in line. The line inches forward. You reach a table. You fill out a form. You stand in the next line. You inch towards the next table. You fill out another form. You stand in the next line. This process repeats until either you've seen more forms than the IRS, or the nice people in white coats drag you off to the loony bin. All you really want is the room key so that you can start moving stuff in, but housing staff knows this, so they deliberately keep the keys at the last table. (When I worked in housing, this was my favorite station to work, because people were so happy to finally see me. You can tell when people are at their form breaking point).

You may think that you're almost through because now you have your key, but wrong again! You have to get your stuff out of the car and into your new room. All the residence halls have a couple of rolling luggage carts for just such purposes, and by a couple, I mean no more than 5. Unfortunately 5 cannot be easily shared by the 27,000 people checking in. So there's a cart list at the front desk and your room phone will be called when a cart is available. There's also a huge black market for luggage carts, and the bidding, bribing and begging for use of anything with wheels will reach astronomical proportions. (Bring some luggage carts with you and you'll make a fortune). Most people just start dragging stuff in by hand while they wait for the cart, but you're now another man down, because while one is guarding the car, another is stuck in the room, waiting for the cart call.The halls all have elevators, but don't count on using those because they are absolutely packed with people and their stuff. You'll wait 10 minutes for an elevator to show up, and there will be no room to get on. Better off just walking those 6 flights of stairs. Carrying your TV. And the beanbag chair. And Grandma. You'll work all day to get your stuff into the room, and then you'll head out to Wal-mart to purchase yet more stuff to make the new 10x10 cinder block wall room feel more like home and less like a prison cell. If you're a girl, it will take you days to organize all of your stuff. If you're a guy, you'll leave it stacked into a pile in the middle of your room until Thanksgiving.

Mom and Dad will head back home (in tears if it's your first time on your own), and you and your new roommate will stare at each other, wondering what you've gotten yourselves into. Don't worry about it. That's just move-in day nerves. You'll have parties and cookouts and games and outings and book buying and 50 mile hikes around campus, and that will just be your first day there. It will take you a little while to get into the college student rhythm, but don't worry, because you will find your classes, and you will make friends, and you will be able to sleep through that racket in the hall. And in no time, you'll be jumping out into traffic on the strip, taking up my parking spaces, and wearing tattered shorts and flip-flops to Mass.

Welcome back guys. Have a great new semester.