From swallowing goldfish to sitting atop flagpoles, from stuffing phone booths to streaking, college students have seized upon wacky fads to immortalize their generation.
For the class of 1980, it's tucking each other into bed.
It's precious, really," said Dr. William Thomas, vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of Maryland where the tuck-in craze is going strong. "For a small fee, they'll read you a bedtime story, tuck you into bed and kiss you goodnight."
"It's definitely innocent," said Jennifer Little, a 21-year-old junior who was tucked in last week. "You're away from home, it makes you feel more comfortable and more secure. Besides, it's something that hasn't been done to you in a long, long time."
The current craze reportedly started at Penn State last semester, made a brief stop at Catholic University and then landed squarely on the third floor of Unversity of Maryland's Frederick Hall where Pillow Talk, Inc., a company made up of male students, currently is filling nightly tuck-in orders for female students.
"We're strictly a class operation," said Pillow Talk member David Swerdlow. For a 99-cent fee, the students dispatch a pajama-clad bedtime reader, escorted by two Pillow Talk members in three-piece suits, to the client's dormitory room. There, the woman student is offered a choice of stories and a stuffed animal. When the story is finished, the reader tucks in his client, pecks her on the cheek and exits.
"It's unusual, yes," said Richard Stimpson, director of resident life on the College Park campus which houses 8,000 students. "I don't know whether there's been anything similar to it in recent years."
Pillow Talk, Inc. began placing ads in the campus newspaper last month and has performed over 100 tuck-ins.
"Sometimes we surprise them," said Swerdlow. It's not uncommon, he said, to find the would-be customer "with Clearasil on her face and rollers in her hair."
The slightly-built, 20-year-old freshman adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses and whispered the secret of Pillow Talk's success. "The father image, you know."
In retaliation, a female tuck-in service has sprung up at St. Mary's Hall. "When was the last time you had five girls tuck you into bed?" was how the St. Mary's students advertised their service. For a 25-cent fee, the coeds will read a bedtime story, sing "Rock-A-Bye Baby" and tuck the male client under the covers.
It's pretty funny," said 21-year-old sophomore Marie Beyernheimer.
The female tuckers place notices in the men's dormitories and never travel in groups of less than five. "For security reasons," Beyernheimer explained. i
Both male and female tuckers have encountered a few unusual requests. Beyernheimer said their group could not fulfill a contract when two male clients insisted on being tucked in while nude. Pillow Talk member George Cavros recalled one female client who greeted him with candlelight and soft music, wearing a flimsy nightgown.
"We've had a few girls call back and ask for private tuck-ins," said Cavros, maintaining that the service is stricly G-rated.
Is the bedtime tuck-in craze a return to innocence?A statement against sex, drugs and permissiveness of college life today?
According to Dr. Thomas, students have a "higher tolerance for gentleness" than their predecesors in the violent, anti-Vietnam war days of a decade ago.
For college administrators who suffered though the be-ins and pot parties of the '60s, the thought of pajama-clad students running dorm to dorm at midnight, willy-nilly tucking each other into bed brings a sigh of relief.
"Have I been tucked in? Not yet," Thomas laughed.
As for any deeper meaning, the students shrug their shoulders and simply say it's fun.
"I think we've been exploited by the stereotype that when you go to college, all you do is sleep around, drink beer and don't study, said Beyernheimer. "I don't know whether we're image-changers, but we don't go along with that."