Yesterday was my day off. I had originally planned to work on a couple of new Adirondack chairs for our upcoming company, but Katie reminded me Thursday night that Friday was her SIU orientation, and my presence was required. So I got up at 6:30 in the morning, which is about 4 hours before I usually get up, fortified myself with a pot of coffee, and met her at the Student Center at 8.
This event sounded like a good idea...it involved campus tours, meeting with the departmental advisor, registration assistance, help setting up bursars accounts, etc.
When we got there, everyone got a bag with a schedule, a 2009-2010 catalog and a few freebies. All the families met in a big ballroom with booths set up for different student activities...clubs, Greek stuff, GLBT stuff, ROTC, tutoring. Next we all went into an auditorium for what was billed as a Welcome! But which actually turned out to be 2 hours of speeches from Administration guys about how cool it was to be a Saluki. Unfortunately, they didn't make it sound cool. They made it sound noble and tedious, like going to church five times a week. I could see the kids disengage in the first 15 minutes...checking their phones, texting their friends, rifling through their goody bags...and the parents weren't much better. Finally, after the last Welcome to the Saluki Family! , we split off from our kids. The kids went to little Wellness workshops (Don't drink! Don't get raped!) and the parents went off with someone who was going to try to explain how we were going to afford this. I did neither. I went home to show the motor home to a guy interested in buying it. He didn't buy it, but I'm sure the hour in the truck listening to music in the sunshine was an hour better spent than listening to a speech from the University Comptroller.
So the first four hours went like that: shuffling from lecture to lecture, being welcomed repeatedly by dozens of speakers exhorting the kids to go to class, participate in campus life, and study.
Finally, after the iceberg salad and baked chicken disk lunch, we started doing the things we actually needed to do. Katie met with her College of Science advisor who was properly impressed with Katie's transcripts and ACT score and signed up for her classes (Calculus, Physiology, Honors English, Logic, and Art Appreciation). Then we went to the Math Department to see if she could test out of Calc I and into Calc II. She got information of some more scholarships available for math and science majors, and we bonded briefly with the only other woman in the math department. Apparently, it's just the two: Katie and the one female professor. Other than that, it's a boys club.
At this point it was 3 o'clock, there was less than an hour and a half left and we had a million things left to do. I was wishing for those four hours that were wasted on the speeches in the morning.
We decided to forego the tour of the College of Science in favor of getting her I.D., and setting up her Debit Dawg account (sweet deal, btw...parents pay into debit account, kids have beer money! Yay!), then took a 15 minute tram tour of the campus.
At a little after 4 0'clock we left, feeling sort of robbed. Eight hours would have been plenty of time to do all the things that needed doing, if only we hadn't wasted the first four. She's going to have to go back another day to finish the stuff we didn't get to...the financial aid stuff, the proficiency testing, and checking into the Marching Band.
But it's mostly done. She's registered, enrolled in classes, has an e-mail address, an ID card, and a bursars account. She's about to discover the secret to higher education. The secret is that there is no secret. It's like any other job...show up every day, do a good job, and eventually get a vacation. After a few years of that, you get to stop and get a paying job. After a few decades of that, you get to stop that, give up your paying job, and stay home a putter around in the yard. And then you die.
And somewhere in the middle of all that, during what sees like an absurdly short time, you have kids, raise them to adulthood, take them to their college orientation, and repeat the cycle.
It's kind of funny, isn't it? It seems like an awful lot of running around if you consider it in Geological Time. Sort of like ants, but with more bills.