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Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012

The momentary unpleasantness of back-to-school

It’s back on the hamster wheel for me

By Aaryn Belfer
aaryn-web Aaryn Belfer

As I sit at my desk, I notice the light has faded. I look out my office window and decide, when the garden lights pop on, that it must be nearly 8:30 p.m., but then I look at the clock and my worst fear is confirmed: It’s only 7:22. Sam has already set the timer back. Damn it, man, I think. Summer isn’t over yet!

But as of next Tuesday morning when the school bell rings, the concerts, the road trips, the late nights, the camps, the laissez faire parenting that so suits me? It all stops. Am I wrong or was that the shortest summer on record since they started keeping a record? Blast that damned bell.

While I love all four “seasons” here in San Diego, this transition between summer and autumn—the one that hints at cooler weather and shorter days— is perhaps my least favorite. It’s a wedge moment. A blip. A stutter before I embrace the coming milestones and the always-fun anticipation and celebration of holidays. Be honest: Who doesn’t host a blowout on Patriot Day?

But, oh, how strong is my grief over what has been, and my dread of what’s to come. There’s the constant fundraising and the pressure to head a committee, and, oh, hello to you, battle against standardized testing and the zombots who swear it’s as harmless as high-fructose corn syrup! If I don’t ignore it like a 6-year-old with her fingers in her ears shouting lalalalalalala, it’s likely to spoil the last few days available for binge drinking and pool-floating.

If you’ve been a reader of this column for any length of time, you know I live in the thoughtfully branded College Area, a name so blah and ambiguous that it must be the reason that media references to anything going on out here—a restaurant opening, a street festival— are generally attributed to Rolando. Can you place it on your mental map? Didn’t think so. But I bet you know where SDSU is. Mmmhmm: That’s the College Area! 

Well, adding to my general malaise is the return of the co-eds—with their tight, tanned little bodies that are so easy to resent and yet so easy to picture 20 years, two STDs and three kids later—have moved back. For you who love to gaze at women, might I suggest a visit to the intersection of College and Montezuma on any Friday night from now until mid-December? Anytime after 11:30 p.m. will do. (Send thank you letters via email.) As for the guy-candy, sadly, there isn’t much excitement unless the words “Hey, brah” grunted by a schlump is what turns you on. If I were in college today, I’d be a lesbian.

Anyway, these kids arrive a couple weeks before the semester does, and their uninhibited free time, coupled with the endless stream of furniture delivery, adds to my changing-of-season remorse. Or maybe it’s an overall passage-of-time remorse. I mean, what the hell with the Pottery Barn furniture? When I was in college, I draped a scarf I picked up at a Grateful Dead show in Sacramento over a crate and called it a dining-room table / television stand / CD holder / bookshelf thingy. I also registered for classes via telephone. Kids these days!

We permanent residents who’ve worked hard to earn our Ikea furniture are forced to bring down the hammer on this endless summer in a manner that would shame our younger, college-attending selves: No, not everyone parties at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday. No, you can’t have that yellowed cat-scratch-pad of a couch with its sunken stained pillows on the front porch. No, it isn’t legal to park on the lawn or block my driveway.

They get all pissy when you tell ’em how it works, and, inevitably, they try to pull the But It’s The College Area And You Shoulda Thought About That When You Bought Your House card—a remark that, in my experience, doesn’t go far in neighborly relations, unless, of course, you want to get punched in the neck by a middle-aged mom. I’m not talking about myself, though, yes, I’ve contemplated violence. Last February, I had to hold my neighbor (I’ll call her “Annie”) back from strangling a college girl who—after keeping Annie’s family awake late into the night—mocked her. The girl moved out two weeks later.

Really, these kids are like puppies, only not as cute and without the yummy breath. Sometimes they just need to have their noses rubbed in their own shit until they get where they are in the pecking order. Not that I would ever do that to a puppy. Puppies deserve patience and kindness and should be allowed to sleep in your bed. Give any such leeway to college kids, though, and they’ll host their party in your house, brah.

Is it wrong that I fantasize about them someday having Hatfield-and-McCoy battles with their future neighbors in whatever planned communities they end up in?

Yeah, summer is definitely over. By next week, I’ll be walking Ruby to school. She’ll be happy to start back because, thankfully, that crazy kid loves school. She’ll be wearing her new backpack that will be weightlessly jangling as she skips to the corner, where I’ll take her hand in mine and then yank her away from the car careening around the curb. And that’s when it’s official. I’ll begin my school-year vigilantism by yelling at the parents who run stop signs in our neighborhood because they can’t seem to make it for an 8:55 a.m. start time and Oh, I didn’t see you because I was texting. Sorry!

Perhaps they’ll have stayed up too late the night before, drinking beers, floating in a pool, wringing every last drop out of summer before dealing with the reality of now. And to that, I can totally relate.

Email Aaryn Belfer. Aaryn blogs at and you can follow her on Twitter @aarynb.