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GUEST COLUMN

College kids are pampered

Boy, are college kids living like kings. I feel bad for them. According to The Associated Press, many universities are tearing down traditional dormitories in favor of upscale living quarters - posh facilities that offer private suites, granite countertops, designer furniture and satellite TV.

Today's college kids don't have to worry about much. Maid and laundry services are now available. Heck, kids don't even have to pack up the station wagon when moving in. Moving companies do that for them.

Why are universities pampering these kids? They have to attract students.

More than 90 percent of today's students had their own bedroom. They aren't used to sharing. They aren't used to working hard to attain things, either. Their dual-income parents gave them every nicety our prosperous civilization offers.

My college experience was certainly different.

To come up with my Penn State tuition, my father worked overtime while I labored as a stonemason. Even with college loans, I had just enough money to buy what I needed (a college education) but never enough to buy what I wanted (nice clothes, a car, even a Friday-night pizza).

I worked some unpleasant jobs in college: dishwasher, janitor, handyman, grass cutter. I worked as a bouncer, too, which involved kicking drunk people out of bars and mopping up that which some patrons couldn't keep down.

I sold my plasma. During the first semester of my junior year, I went to a medical clinic twice a week. They sucked out my blood, spun off the plasma, then gave me my blood back. Not only did I make 10 bucks every time I went, I noticed that one beer had the effect of three - which translated into great savings at the pub.

Of course, selling my plasma nearly killed me. When my mother discovered how I'd gotten so pale and gaunt, my father had to keep her from strangling me.

To save money my senior year, I managed a rooming house. It was a big old dump of a place. It was allegedly haunted, too. A high school fellow who lived there shot himself in 1932 - in the same room I lived in. I never saw the ghost, though.

That job involved shoveling coal to keep the furnace going, picking up knocked-over garbage cans to keep the rats and raccoons away, and settling disputes with some very colorful tenants who were always squabbling about something.

My parents visited me there once and when they saw my room, the centerpiece of which was a lumpy bed sitting on cinder blocks, and the bathroom I shared with 14 others (don't ask), my mother grew as pale as I was after selling my plasma twice a week for three months.

Yet I was WAY better off than today's college kids. It was by NOT living in the lap of luxury that I enjoyed many memorable experiences - experiences that helped me develop.

Because I was broke, I was forced to work odd jobs. I worked with interesting people from all economic levels. I gained valuable insight into their lives and their struggles.

Because I lived in a dump, I was forced to share a bathroom and kitchen with total strangers. I went on to become good friends with some of these people. I learned how to interact, socialize and get along - skills that have been helpful in the business world and in life.

I graduated from Penn State eager and hungry to succeed. I found a job as a writer and was able to buy my first brand-new car, a 1984 Pontiac Sunbird. There is no satisfaction greater than that.

Many of today's college kids won't enjoy any of these experiences. Too many, thanks to parents who lavished them with all kinds of stuff they didn't need, will remain spoiled, self-centered and full of self-importance.

When they finally go out into the real world, they won't be happy to find what reality has waiting for them. They'll have to learn a humbleness that I was able to get out of the way in college.

That's why I feel bad for them. Their college experience won't be one-tenth as valuable as mine was.

Tom Purcell is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, for more info contact Cari Dawson Bartley at 800 696 7562 or cari@cagle.com. For comments to Tom, please email him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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