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ArlingtonOpinion'Old School' column: Crowd control

‘Old School’ column: Crowd control

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‘Old School’ column: Crowd control

Recently a friend confided that her 80-year-old mother is having trouble adjusting to life in a retirement community.

It seems the poor women told her daughter tearfully at lunch that she’s dealing with “mean girls.” We’ve all had our share of that – enough to last a lifetime, and we learned to deal with it.

Initially my friend wasn’t sympathetic, but her son put it in perspective. “Mom, go easy on Grandma. She never went to college and never lived in a dorm, a sorority house or a military barracks. This is the first time she’s lived in a group setting.”


That made me realize how lucky I was to have experienced dorm living, even though I didn’t always think so at the time. It provided lessons in patience and tolerance, something I desperately needed. (Still do!)

Through the years, I had various roommates who turned out to be great friends, but we both still needed to compromise.

One was a night owl and studied late with the overhead light on. Luckily, I could sleep through anything, including light in my eyes. The problem came when I, ever the early riser, got up for my morning classes.

Another roommate was a slob and I was not; another was a neatnik and I was not. But the two of us worked it out. We partitioned the room, keeping each half to our personal tidiness standards.

The dorm had communal bathrooms down the hall, so each girl owned a “johnny bucket,” filled with her toiletries, which she carried and protected like gold at Fort Knox. One girl sang off-key in the shower; another never cleaned the tub after she used it.

Each room had its own phone, but service stopped at 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. So we learned to wait in line to use the pay phone down the hall after hours and played messenger for any girl who was lucky enough to get an after-hours phone call from her boyfriend.

But there was lots of fun in those dorms, too. Practical jokes were a given and we often met in the communal lounge to make popcorn and dish gossip late at night.

Sometimes we’d watch TV, too, but that required compromise about which program.

Old School dorms weren’t the posh places many are today, with maid service and private bathrooms, and because of it, we managed to get an education in more ways than one!

Reach Carol McEwen at carolwrites4fun@gmail.com.

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