It Happens Every Fall

Have you seen the movie, It Happens Every Spring?  Ray Milland stars in the romantic comedy.  It’s not exactly like today’s chick-flics, but it is a story about young romance in the spring of 1949.  A college scientist invents a potion that helps a baseball repel wood.  So he can make enough money to marry the college president’s daughter, the scientist joins the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team as a pitcher.  No one can hit his “spitball because of his invention.”  Baseball is the constant that Happens Every Spring.

The arrival of college freshmen is what happens every fall.  There are other constants that occur with the arrival of the freshmen.  I had the help of two for women’s basketball players and a couple of student workers as I picked up my parking pass.  I wish I had the workers’ names because they were very helpful in my search of what you can expect every fall at Northwest Missouri State University.

The most visible is traffic on campus.  Coming to work during the summer months is simple.  I live north of Maryville, so I turn west on 16th until I get to the center of campus and go past the high-rise resident halls.  Once the freshmen come on campus, that route is worse than a New York City traffic jam during the Macy Parade.  You can get stuck at a crosswalk for large amounts of time and there are four of them in a two block distance.  If you try to wedge in between these new students who have an unrealistic sense of entitlement, you get a death-stare and usually the IQ finger.

Beginning the Thursday the new freshmen come on campus, I change my route.  I now go all the way to County Club Drive on 16th, drive by Donaldson Park, and then back College Avenue just to find my way to Lamkin Activity Center.

The ones I really fell sorry for during the moving-in period are the student workers in green shirts.  These brave upperclassmen have an impossible job.  Someone at the University is convinced if you put the locations of all the resident halls on a sandwich board-sign, it will solve all the traffic problems and make life for the volunteer workers easier.  Big problem, though; unless you have a photographic memory, you only can read about four words with your car going a slow15 miles an hour.  While reading the words, you fail to remember where the arrow points for the dorm you are in search of.

That brings in our sturdy student workers standing beside these unreadable signs.  If a parent of a freshman is lost and they usually are, they’ll stop dead in the street to ask the green-shirted heroes for exact directions.  That causes a problem, too.  Any delay in understanding the student worker backs up traffic to the court house square.  The death stare and the IQ finger are mild compared to the frustration these parents feel.

They are trying to unload their ungrateful child and hurry home.  The house is finally empty and they can’t wait to begin the remodel of the free-loading kid’s room.  The longer it takes to dump off their kid, the more chance there is he/she will change their mind.  Then it’s another year of complaining about being bored and begging for money and the family car.  These parents do all they can to restrain from going to fists with the Northwest student-worker, who is only on-duty to make their life easier.  I’m amazed there aren’t more assaults on campus during this moving process.

After moving into their new home, the freshmen soon find out that their kitchen is not nearly as well stocked as their previous comfy home.  They can’t wait to get to the cafeteria.  That first couple of weeks reveal which freshmen came to college only to follow their boyfriend or girlfriend.  There are more freshmen hand-holding as the couples slowly walk to the cafeteria than in any self-respecting chick-flic.

Didn’t someone tell these couples that high school romances quickly become stale at college?  Once the couple enters the cafeteria, it becomes clear why the relationship can’t last the four years (or more) of college.  There are more women than men enrolled at Northwest and that’s the first thing the male spots.  It’s not like high school.  Most of these young ladies are free and looking for fun and romance (and maybe a college degree).

However, it’s not just the male with a wondering eye.  Every single football player is on campus.  As a matter of fact, they have been on campus for almost three weeks.  That’s 21 days and hardly a female in sight.  They look really good to the female and the relationship is doomed.  Worse for the male, the female (any female) looks good to the football players.  The male, usually much thinner and weaker than any football player, is in serious trouble.  These high school romances can’t work much longer than the first trip to the cafeteria.

Let’s stay in the cafeteria for the next constant of the arrival of the freshmen in the fall.  All you have to do is see who takes trays to collect their food during the college meal.  Any knowing upperclassmen is aware the easiest and most efficient way to handle the food lines is jump line to line without a cumbersome food tray.  Your arms might be full and you might occasionally dump a soda on the ground, but it’s worth it to save time and movement.  Everyone knows that when you have an unfortunate soda spill, just stare at nearby freshmen with an evil eye and everyone will put the blame on the new pups on campus.

Let’s stay around for the first weekend in Maryville.  The one constant is Saturday night the bars will be packed with freshmen.  I know I just said “bar” and “freshmen.”  It’s perfectly fine for a minor to enter a bar.  What are not fine are the freshmen that try to drink the liquid reserved for the students 21 year old and older with a false ID.

Nothing spoils a weekend pub-crawl like underage drinking.  There’s nothing wrong with propping up your social life with a little get-together in a local establishment.  They stamp your hand with a large MINOR.  However, every fall the fake IDs spoil all the fun and minors exceeding the fire marshal’s crowd limit in a college bar.

That takes us to the first day of classes.  I’m afraid I have to pick on the female freshmen right now.  You can always tell a freshmen female by their clothing and make-up.  No experienced, upper-class female would be caught dead with decent clothes before lunch.  That goes double for make-up.  Melissa Nyquist (Mo) pointed this out to me.  She thinks withholding make-up until Friday evening is the only way a college female should play it.  She also points out that hats are a must and showers are out until the clock hits the pm hours.

Gentry Dietz pointed out that every year she has been in college (she’s beginning her seventh fall, this year as a graduate assistant for basketball), the easiest way to spot a freshmen the first week of classes is to see who is walking slowly with a backpack and starring at the sky as they attempt to navigate around campus.

For these lost freshmen, it’s the first time classes haven’t been in the same building.  Some people may call it Brown Hall and other Horace Mann School.  Who knew they were the same building?  My grandson, Jacob, was on campus for this weekend.  I heard him comment to Sam that it must be hard going to college.  How do you figure out what building you a have your class in?

Personally, I think following the lead of Hansel and Gretel, as they spread bread crumbs in the forest to find their way out.  However, there are too many birds and squirrels on campus to leave food for markers.  I suggest leaving hair accessories on the bushes for directions the freshmen can take as they head back to their resident halls.

Gentry had another constant each fall and it really cost a few freshmen each year.  As soon as the new-bees get on campus, they are given a dorm key, a Bearcat card (college credit card), a lanyard with a Northwest theme and a Northwest wallet.  They hook everything to the lanyard; add money in the wallet, add their car keys and maybe the credit card their parents gave them for emergencies.  They throw the whole mess around their neck and off they go.

Remember, these are still absent-minded teenagers with adult possessions around their necks.  Distractions are everywhere and I’m sure many go into a state of panic the first time the lanyard breaks and everything comes up missing.  It hard to believe the new arrivals survive at all.

I could probably go on and on with the every year habits of the arriving freshmen.  The trouble with that is I would have nothing to write about next fall.  You know, it’ll happen next year, too.

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.