Me: Dad, how far away can I go to college?
My first day of college at Ohio Wesleyan University in September of 1971 was both nerve-wracking and exciting. After a 13 hour car ride from Westchester County, NY, I was anxious to meet my roommates, nervous about this new adventure and wanting my parents to leave.
Four of us shared a suite. Two bedrooms with a common room in the middle and a bathroom. The common room had four desks and chairs and I think that’s all.
Whaaaaaaa? I was a LANGUAGE major. My degree is in ROMANCE LANGUAGES. And I wasn’t linguistically prepared for college? Here’s the thing. Ohio Wesleyan is in Ohio. It isn’t in New York. They don’t speak New York in Ohio. They speak Ohio in Ohio. Of course, to me it sounded more like Ahia.
After I settled into one of the bedrooms I explored the dorm a little. Mailboxes on the first floor, vending machines, tv, pool table on the second floor. I went back upstairs and my new roommate arrived. I was happy because she was from Ohio and I thought that was really cool. We hit it off right away. When she was somewhat unpacked, I mentioned that I was going to go downstairs and get a soda.
She jumped. “Where are you going to get a soda?” I replied downstairs there is a soda machine. ” THEY HAVE A SODA MACHINE DOWNSTAIRS??”
At this point, I thought maybe there was something a teensy bit unusual about my roommate. She didn’t really believe me but went with me to check out this fabulous machine. We got to the vending machines and she said “Oh. I only see a pop machine.” To which this little New Yorker replied “What’s pop?”
So our first major conversation in this institute of higher learning was about soda pop.
The next time that I was linguistically challenged was when I went to buy snacks at a grocery store. Unfortunately for both the cashier and me, she sort of garbled/swallowed her words, plus had the Ohio accent I wasn’t used to, and I had the NY accent (no I don’t that’s a lie) that she wasn’t used to. As I paid for my very few items, she said “Do you wahasqak.” I said “Excuse me?” The cashier repeated it, this time a little louder and I said that I was sorry but I wasn’t sure what she said. Then, in a much louder voice, she repeated it again but this time waved a paper bag in front of me.
I said “Oh yes, I’d like a bag, please.” To which she replied “What?” The person behind me in line came to our rescue and explained to me that she wanted to know if I wanted a paper sack. That was my second indication that I didn’t speak Ohio. So now I had memorized two new vocabulary words.
I got back to my dorm room that night feeling like an idiot. And then my crazy new world tilted again as my roommate asked me if I had a rubber. Are you kidding me? She sighed, rolled her eyes and asked one of our other roommates who was also from Ohio. “Sure,” she answered. And handed over a rubber band.
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in New York anymore.