Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why college students are better renters than middle-class families

Between August of 1970 and June of 1972 I spent a little over 4 months in my own home.  My dad liked playing the traveling Professor, and, in retrospect, thankfully dragged his family of 6 along for the ride.  We spent the first 12 months roaming around Europe in a 1970 VW Microbus (Lee Iacocca and Chrysler did not invent the minivan) and the last 6 months in Seattle.

While we were in Europe my parents rented out our house (2 cats included) to a family.  They destroyed our washer and dryer, lost my bicycle and, I won’t say they killed it, but my first cat Tancy died during their stay.  They also apparently threw away a bag full of my photos.  Even at 10 I was taking pictures, with my Kodak Instamatic, and in my completely organized way (which continues to this day) had them stored loose in a shopping bag. 

The six months we were in Seattle my parents rented the house out to a group of Graduate Students from the college my dad taught at.  They fixed the broken washer and dryer, repainted the playroom in the basement and fixed a few other things that I can’t remember.

What I do remember is how happy my parents were at the condition of our house after getting it back from the college students, and their unfavorable comparison to the condition the family left it in.

What made me think of this story is a blog gem that I found.  Written Inc’s Thematic Photographic series has given me an opportunity to look back at my photos, and to lament the loss of that big bag of snapshots I should have taken better care to hide.  There were hundreds of pictures in that paper sack, and I remember crawling though the attic space alongside my bedroom looking for them, going over the same areas several times desperate to find them.

I never did find the bag, but I did rescue a few snapshots, some of which are the ones posted here.  The top one is looking down the center the town Bradford, New Hampshire.  My parents bought some property just outside of town and built the cabin you see in the picture right below on the left hand side.  The top one on the right hand side was taken in the kitchen at the house I grew up in, in Lexington, Massachusetts.  The kid in the front is my best friend, Ed, behind him is my little brother and standing up is my mom.  The last picture is from our apartment window in Grenoble, France.  We stayed there for 5 months, and half of my 5th grade school year was spent in the public schools there.


Carmi said...

We live in a university town, and every year there's the inevitable wave of stories in the rag-of-a-newspaper about how terrible the student-renters are.

The fascinating thing is everyone I know who lives in the so-called student ghetto says they love being there, that students are the best possible neighbors.

Nice to know they're not alone in that perspective. Good to see it's a consistent thing across the continent, too!

(The good news that I can see in the lost-photo experience is that the fire stayed lit in you, and you continued to record your world through your lens. Lucky us.)

Max said...

Unfortunately, in the human experience, the worst of the worst get the attention. Not unlike in my classroom. In the classroom, the most obnoxious 5% can take up 50+% of my time. The rest of the class, who are genuinely good kids, get little 'press', as with the media. College students that have huge, drunken parties with people passed out in the front yard (or doing other things there) get all the press. In my opinion, they are a small percentage. But we never hear about the students that go to class, study, take care of their apartment and only occasionally go to a big drunken party. Who'd buy that paper?