Like walking through a life-sized Petri dish | Latte Guy | Aug. 27
August 27, 2010 · 11:51 AM
As the crow flies, the state of Washington stretches some 400 or so miles, from the Pacific Ocean to the Idaho border. I am familiar with this geography, having had the occasion to drive it over the course of two days last week.
I started out in Montesano, where we attended a wedding celebration for the daughter of an old friend. Jon and I grew up a mile or so from each other in what now seems like a prior life.
Although we’re the same age, Jon must be older than me since his daughter is old enough to get married, while my own daughter is... well, maybe Jon’s not all that much older than me after all.
From Montesano, I drove east toward Spokane, stopping at the island only long enough to pick up my son Adam to take him to Gonzaga where Adam will shortly begin his final year of college.
It seems only fair to give the Jesuits one last crack at the kid. Adam drove and was in charge of the music, which left me free to offer up a running commentary rich in minute details, obscure cultural references, ironic observations, hard truths, idle gossip, wild speculation, groundless accusations, grand designs, nagging questions, worst-case scenarios, pipe dreams, interesting celebrity tidbits, pithy slogans, sage advice, pointless trivia, discredited scientific theories, hare-brained schemes, lame jokes, emphatic assertions and the occasional helpful driving tip.
For his part, Adam continually adjusted the radio’s volume and probably thanked God that he hadn’t decided to go to college any further east.
We got to the house that Adam will be sharing with five friends and unloaded his things. School won’t start for a week, but the young men are already in mid-semester form.
The house looked as though someone had been herding wildcats or breeding monkeys in the living room, possibly both.
I’d describe the color of the carpet if I had actually been able to see the carpet under its blanket of empty pizza boxes, discarded clothing, old newspapers, dirty dishes and abandoned sports equipment.
Behind a couch I think I saw Jimmy Hoffa playing beer pong with Amelia Earhart. The walls were tastefully decorated with beer, sports and swimsuit posters that would have appeared gaudy and sensational in Lady Gaga’s Las Vegas boudoir.
The bathroom I will leave to your imagination; suffice it to say I’ve more hygienic personal grooming experiences in abandoned gas stations in New Jersey.
Not surprisingly, there were no textbooks or writing implements in sight. I counted more flat screen television sets in the house than there were residents.
Back in my college days, only one of my eight roommates even owned a television set, and it was a little 21-inch black and white number with a twisted coat hanger for an antennae.
We huddled around it every Sunday night to watch reruns of “Barnaby Jones” and “Mission Impossible” and believed ourselves to be quite lucky, if not downright decadent.
Before leaving Spokane for the return trip home, Adam and I stopped at the market to buy him some basic groceries.
I was glad to see him put his groceries in the refrigerator and cupboards when he got back to the house rather than toss them on the floor in keeping with what appears to be the prevailing paradigm among his housemates.
I walked through the Gonzaga campus one last time before heading home. It was almost entirely unencumbered by students and very nearly silent except for the gentle rustling of the trees in the warm afternoon breeze.
Despite the silence and emptiness, the air was charged with expectancy and anticipation. I felt like I was walking through a life-sized Petri dish at the beginning of a new and exciting social experiment.
Gonzaga’s been a good second home for Adam, full of growth and discovery and happiness, offering both Adam and his mom and I a safe and welcoming shelter from the storm.
I’ll miss our drives out to Spokane. I’ll even miss thinking about the experiment in uncontrolled clutter that he calls college living.
On the other hand, once Adam graduates, I’ll be able to turn my full attention to “helping” Lauren fully enjoy her college experience, a proposition that I can safely say appeals a great deal more to me than it does to her.
Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.