Being Sicilian, knowing how to read signs seems to come naturally to me. Some people call it intuition or that little voice inside, but my "signs" usually come in the form of slapping me across the head. So when I ventured outdoors yesterday and found a dead cardinal lying on the table under my carport I wondered what it meant. I quickly called to my husband to remove the bird asking, "What do you think it means?" "It means the bird probably flew into the window and cracked her neck." "Do you think it's a sign about JMU?" "Why would it be about JMU?" "Duh, because we're going there today to check out the campus and maybe the bird represents our daughter." He looked at me like I was crazy.
We piled into the minivan and headed 112 miles from Roanoke to Harrisonburg to check out my daughter's "dream college." About 20 miles into the trip the air conditioner stopped working. The fan was blowing, but it was hot air. WTF? My husband, the mechanic, just checked out the van the day before to make sure the POS was ready for our excursion -- changing motor mounts to stop the rattling I complain about -- adding an additional cigarette lighter so I could have my Sirius & GPS system (only so I could bring to his attention when he's going way over the speed limit since that's a handy little feature in the right hand corner of Ms. Garmin) -- fixing the AC vacuum leak so that when we go over 40 mph the air doesn't stop flowing -- and boosting the freon in the AC since it's never quite cold enough for me. So when he began cursing saying the AC compressor had just blown -- a compressor he had just installed at the beginning of the summer -- I probably sounded like a lot of customers he hates who say, "Well that wasn't broken before you fixed X, Y, & Z." His customers probably wouldn't ask my next question, "Do you think this is another sign?"
It was already over 90 degrees outside and probably over 110 inside the van. Although I didn't want to open the window and ruin my perfectly straightened hair because I didn't want to make a bad first impression at my daughter's "dream college" I had no choice. When we could go on no more we stopped at Cracker Barrel where I downed three lemonades which is probably my sugar intake for the century. After we left CB we saw a hawk fly right in front of the van carrying a huge snake in his mouth. Was that a sign?
We stayed off the highway so we could see the road that leads to JMU which is basically a strip filled with car dealers, a tattoo parlor, a couple of restaurants and Spanish churches. The whole two miles or so we were accompanied by a truck carrying turkeys.
The smell was God awful even when we closed the windows. Finally we arrived at JMU.
We were grateful that the tour started in a nice air conditioned auditorium. I have to say I was getting a little miffed when after the presentation we were asked if anyone had any questions and I asked a couple and I kept getting told "that information was on the website." I found it odd that the one reason my daughter wanted to attend this "dream college", the School for Media Arts & Design was not mentioned once and had no literature about it. Frankly, that was the only reason we were there and had I known I should just check the website I would have saved eight hours and $60 in gas. My annoyance turned to hope when one of the student tour guides said he was a senior in SMAD. He would be the one we would go with. A good sign that was quickly wiped away after all the student guides introduced themselves adding where each of their favorite places was to take a nap during the school day.
We broke into groups and began our journey touring the campus which is huge and has I-81 and railroad tracks running through it.
Unfortunately most of the buildings we went to see were locked so we had to look in the windows to get a view which we couldn't see because the rooms were dark. That didn't make much sense to me since we had scheduled a campus tour so it's not like a hundred people just showed up and the school had no idea they were coming. I know what a library looks like. I know what a cafeteria looks like and wish they would have allowed us at least a glass of water since it was 100 degrees. I would have gladly paid for a drink after walking what felt like miles in the hot blazing sun. So, we didn't get to see one classroom, not one lab, and we didn't get to see the one building I wanted to see, the one that housed SMAD.
We did see the model dorm room which is like every other college crappy dorm room, except this one does not have a sink in it and is unable to handle wireless internet. I hate the idea of my daughter being in a dorm room with a total stranger and sharing a "common area" with five other strangers and a bathroom with eleven other strangers. I thought of the turkey truck. I hate the idea that she would be virtually stranded up there as she's not allowed to have a car in freshman year. I hate the idea that she should use the "community drive" or whatever its called system where strangers post where they are going and you sign up to hook a ride with them. Yeah, not gonna happen.
Our tour guide was a nice guy who clearly loved the school, remarked how he was shocked that people held open doors, and thought it was awesome that they had flash mobs. I had to explain to my daughter what a flash mob was by bringing up the stupid Sprint or whatever cellphone commercial it is that runs twenty times a day showing the moron who shows up at Grand Central Station too early to dance. Yeah, flash mobs, people holding open doors, and taking naps during the day for that matter, are not a big draw to me when deciding on a college.
At least our guide was able to answer my questions about the program that my daughter wants to go into. Other than taking one media introductory class, she wouldn't even begin it until sophomore year. He told her how excited he was that in his senior year he'd finally get to learn Dreamweaver. My daughter has mastered Dreamweaver in her junior year of high school and said it sucks. He also mentioned that in their senior year the students can produce a video. My daughter has already written, edited, produced and directed videos, one which will be airing on RTV. For his internship he said for the last two years he was able to work with a company that makes walkers. For my daughter's internship she is working with a local news station and loves it. I don't imagine creating a promo for a walker teaching folks how to use it then sending out the promos would be quite as fulfilling to her, although with all her operations and personal knowledge of walkers she'd be a natural. When I asked him what his plans were upon graduating, our guide said he still had no clue but was thinking about maybe switching to screenwriting so he could "put words in people's mouths." By the time he answered all my questions I hoped my daughter realized that maybe this wasn't the school for her. She still has plans to apply. Sigh.
Now I'm not saying JMU is not a fine school, it must be since they said they were, and that they get over 20,000 applicants a year and only take a couple of thousand. Everyone I know who went there, other than my son's two friends who dropped out after their freshman year, probably because they hated that they didn't get enough bandwith in their dorms, or something to that effect, love it. And it is very pretty, interstate and railroad and all, but it's just not what I think would be best for my daughter. I have major concerns when it comes to her, including the inability to be able to get to her quickly if health issues arise, so please do not send me hate comments because you think I'm dissing JMU. I'm not.
I want her to go into a school where she is going to learn more than she already knows and where it will be put to practical use. She doesn't need to study in Florence. I'll send her there on my own dime and guarantee she will have a fulfilling and educational experience. If I'm going to spend that much money on a piece of paper I want a good return. For what she's already learned, accomplished, and what she wants to do for a living, frankly I believe she doesn't even need a college degree. She doesn't want to waste time being a perpetual student. She wants to dive right into the marketplace and work, but it's been ingrained into her head that she "needs" a degree. I think it's bullshit and experience certainly trumps a piece of paper, but since that's the way of the world now, I want her to get a useful, and not wasteful education.
The highlight of my tour was about two hours in, near the end. As we were walking past another locked building I saw a sprinkler watering the grass. I asked my daughter to hold my pocketbook and walked over to the spraying water and waited for it to come to me. When it did, there I stood, basking in the glory of cool sprinkling water imagining I had driven to the shore instead. So much for me worrying about making an impression. As I walked back to the group wiping the drips off my glasses on the hem of my dress I was happy to see my daughter and husband smiling instead of being mortified. One mother had her hand to her face in shock but the tour guide said, "I like the way you think."
On the way back to the car we chatted some more and I almost stepped on a dead, half eaten squirrel. Another sign? We got to the hotbox car and noticed the rear view mirror had falled from the windshield. At least the mirror didn't crack.
We got into the sauna on wheels and headed towards Main Street. After checking out the downtown I said we wouldn't be bitching about Roanoke any more. I'm sure it has a different feel when school is in session but the sketchy druggies I saw stumbling down the sidewalks were put there for me to see. A sign for sure. That clinched it. I don't care what she thinks, my daughter is not going to JMU, her "dream college." Oh, she can apply if she really wants but I'm not comfortable with it. I got a bad feeling, and mother's instinct trumps all.
Smile girl, this will be the last time you pose there...
Next stop Roanoke College...but we'll wait until after this heatwave breaks.