A New Look to Back-To-School

Back-to-school is right around the corner, or should I say light around the corner? ! ? . . . 

The back-to-school sales flyers have begun arriving and along with those checklists of “must haves” for the school year, parents and their students may be considering extras to help make the return to classes more appealing – like chandeliers to decorate those ugly metal lockers.

I kid you not. One company, LockerLookz™, not only offers battery-operated chandeliers in four colors to attach to the locker’s inside ceiling, but also wallpaper, rugs and curtains, among other spiffy accessories. I understand mirrors, extra shelves and perhaps a poster or a collage of photos to brighten up the utilitarian storage units, but chandeliers and curtains?

What ever happened to sharpening the No. 2 pencils, buying some spiral notebooks, and purchasing a new backpack and few clothes? Today’s “must haves” include expensive graphing calculators and electronic notebooks, among others.

There’s no question that these back-to-school days bear little resemblance to mine. For example, my son arrived at his new college to find amenities and conveniences most adults would envy, which might help explain the high cost of tuition but he also missed out on some important character-building opportunities I experienced.

For example: He never developed the fortitude to wait in line for hours to sign up for classes, nor the ability to quickly improvise when you finally reach the registration table only to learn your final required course is full -- or meets at 7 a.m. on Mondays. What personal growth comes from registering online in your PJs or from the local Starbucks?

He also never experienced the thrill of the hunt to grab the last copy of an obscure textbook that costs as much as the average U.S. weekly salary. I don’t think he broke a sweat punching in Mom’s credit card number to guarantee his books were waiting in his dorm room when he arrived on campus.

My boy also never learned patience from waiting for a campus bus because he used his cell phone to check the shuttle’s progress, avoiding the major inconvenience of looking out a window or enduring the mild temperatures of Washington, D.C.

But what I was most concerned about were the life skills he never acquired from doing laundry on campus. In my day it took planning to scrape together enough quarters and snag an empty washing machine at a reasonable hour. Then you waited in a dark and depressing laundry room until your load was done or took the risk of missing out on a dryer -- or your clothing being stolen -- while you ran up and down the stairs to periodically check the progress of your laundry.

With eSuds, my son checked a web site to find out if a washing machine was available in the laundry room down the hall rather than walk those exhausting few feet to check. If the machines were in use, eSuds sent an e-mail or text message when one became available. No need to search for quarters or beg from friends – the machines operated by swiping a campus card. And he didn’t have to waste any of the 153 hours he wasn’t in class each week by checking whether his laundry was done because eSuds sent him a message about that, too.

That’s a whole lot better than a locker chandelier, in my view. In fact, it’s a service I’d like in my life -- and not just for laundry. Wouldn’t it be great to get an e-mail or text alerting you that there’s no traffic on the roads or lines at the grocery store? Or what about a warning when someone’s in a bad mood so you could avoid them until you get an update that things have improved? Now that’s something I’d like to see in those back-to-school flyers!


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