PAGE THREE Scene and Heard

A College Roommate Pairing for the Books

Monday, September 29, 2008

We're a month into the fall semester, so by now most of the odd-couple roommate fiascos probably have been resolved. Here's one that seemed headed for trouble, but. . .

I was so proud of my son Joe when he decided not to room with anyone he knew from home when he went off to college. He said he had lots of friends from home and wanted to make new friends.

It wasn't until the week prior to leaving for college that he was given his roommate assignment. Joe immediately looked him up on Facebook. His new roommate was from a small town in Tennessee. He had shoulder-length hair, parted in the middle. He was technically a junior but academically a freshman. Evidently, he dropped out his first year. I figured him to be about 20 years old! He collects birds as a hobby. Not pet birds . . . wild birds. We don't think he collects dead birds, but Joe did not verify this. I said to Joe, "He sounds like a drug addict!" Joe said, "That's funny -- that's exactly what Dad said!"

Because of the description, Joe started calling him "Boo Radley," a reference from the book "To Kill a Mockingbird." Somehow, I got through 16 years of education and missed reading this book. I did not want to look uneducated in front of my soon-to-be college boy, so I laughed and said, "Exactly!"

Joe needed a rug for his dorm room. Because he did not need two rugs, I asked him to check with Boo Radley to see whether he had already purchased a rug.

"What? No way! Boo Radley will think I am gay if I ask him that!"

I did not know that warm floors were strictly a preference of gay men!

I think Boo Radley and Joe spoke (read: Facebooked) a total of two times before we left for Tennessee.

During the drive down, I worried about Boo Radley as a roommate. Is he a druggie? Who are his friends? Maybe he is 21 and has a license to legally drink? Joe asked me to stop; I was stressing him out. I didn't realize I was worrying out loud as I was driving!

We luckily moved in before Boo Radley and his family (did he have a wife?) arrived. We unpacked Joe's stuff on one side of the room. I was worried that Boo and family would show up while we were in the middle of unpacking . . . it is a very messy process. Later, Joe received a text from Boo Radley saying he wasn't coming until classes started on Wednesday. Great! Joe could get acclimated to the new location before needing to get acclimated to Boo and the birds. We left Tennessee without meeting Boo Radley or his family/wife/birds.

The next day, I received a text message from Joe: "Boo Radley dropped out again. He is not coming. Bachelor pad in room H405!"

I never met Boo Radley, and I am glad I didn't know much about him!

Once again, I escaped the need to read "To Kill a Mockingbird."

-- Mary Haffey Rippert, McLean

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