sweat-0304-lg-90754169It is August, and the dog days of summer are upon us. I don’t mind temperatures above 90, though, or the fact that I recently had to mercy-kill my azaleas. And it doesn’t bother me that Georgia Power has now named a generating plant after my family in honor of our power usage. It didn’t even upset me when the air conditioner in our home quit working on a Saturday when the temperature was 95 degrees. Given the luck I have with household appliances, I was kind of expecting it. But all of these occurrences are just part of summertime in Georgia, and nothing to get excited about. To be honest, the only part of the dog days that gets under my skin is dropping the kids off at college, and it gets under there in a big way.

My first experience with college drop-off was at Valdosta State in South Georgia. It was apparently a city ordinance at that time that parents could not park within sight of the college, so I got to see a good portion of historic Valdosta as I walked through most of it with box after box of college supplies. The name Valdosta, incidentally, is from the Cherokee language and literally means hot enough for you? The town is below the gnat line. That means they grow them large and insistent down there. If you see what looks like a flying Chihuahua buzzing around your head trying to nip your ears, that is a gnat, and you should swat it. Because I was new to the drop-off community that year, the college administration cut me some slack and gave my daughter a room on the second floor. But even with only one set of stairs to climb, I was still voted Sweatiest Dad on Campus at the little get-together that evening. It was quite an honor, and I could tell that my daughter was proud.

6a00d8341c793d53ef00e5502875db8833-640wiMy next four drop-off’s came at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The parking situation there was much better than at Valdosta State, which was good, because I needed every bit of my energy for all of the stairs I had to climb. During the four years my daughter was there, she never got a room below the third floor. It seemed like each time she rose to another scholastic level, she also went up another flight of stairs. To be fair, they did have an elevator in the freshman dorm, but it was so old that William Tecumseh Sherman actually rode in it on his way to the sea. It had a habit of not quite getting to the floor it was aiming for, and the smart money among the parents in the parking lot was on avoiding it unless your will was up to date.

Next on the list was Georgia State. The dorms at that college are actually the old Olympic Village from the Atlanta Olympics, which is ironically appropriate, given the amount of energy that must be expended to get students into them. Thank goodness I only had to do it once, because I am worn out all over again just writing it down. Let me give you the description of drop-off at Georgia State. After circling the block for a couple of hours, I was finally able to get into the parking garage by placing a novelty blue light on top of the car and pretending I was a policeman. At that point, I was supposed to ride an elevator up two levels to a plaza, but I couldn’t ride that elevator because a woman was standing in it the entire time I was there, holding it for her husband. It may just be me, but I don’t think he’s coming back. If Georgia State is your destination this year and she is still there holding the elevator, you tell her. I didn’t have the heart.

Anyway, after hoofing it up two sets of stairs to the plaza at the dorms, I was supposed to be able to load all of the college ware onto another elevator for the trip up to the fifth floor, which was where my son’s room was located. But the line for that elevator was so long they were actually handing out fast-passes, kind of like they do at Six Flags, and the wait times were long. Since I had to get back to work sometime that year, I lugged every armload up five flights of stairs. It was 95 degrees that day (Georgia State will cancel drop-off if the temperature drops below ninety), but I got it done just the same, although I did make one small error in judgment when I paid two guys hanging around the parking garage twenty dollars to haul my son’s computer and television up to the room while I took a break. That was three years ago, and they have yet to arrive. Yeah, I know, but they looked like nice boys, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

sweatI thought it was hot at Valdosta State, but I didn’t know what hot was until I got to Auburn. How hot was it, you ask? It was so hot, the heat index broke. They had medical students following all the dads around, hoping to get in a little practice. About nineteen different young people I did not know asked my daughter is your dad going to be alright? And each time she assured them that I always looked like that on drop-off day.  It was so hot that even the locals had to take a drink of cold water between Whup and Tide when uttering the Auburn official password. Luckily, like Georgia State, Auburn was a one-time drop-off, as well. But even with that limited exposure, I lost a good pair of loafers when I had to abandon them after they stuck to the asphalt in the parking lot.

Last year, drop-off was at Kennesaw State University, and I am still kind of in a daze about my experiences there. To begin with, we got a room on the ground floor.

“That’s A-T-K-I-N-S,” I said to the student assistant handing out the keys. I was talking loudly, in case she had not heard the name correctly the first time. “We should have a top floor room somewhere. It will be in a building that has an out-of-order elevator.” She was a nice kid, but she had obviously confused us with someone else.

“No, sir. We have you on the first floor.” Miracles do happen, and the good news just kept on coming. When I pulled around to the dorm, there was an open parking spot directly in front of the room, and a KSU hand truck was available for use by any dad who needed it. Additionally, it was only eighty-three degrees, I did not get bitten by any member of the animal kingdom, and some nice ROTC cadets helped us unload. I was in and out in under an hour, and I didn’t have to stop at Wal-mart on the way home to buy a dry shirt. They even gave me a coffee cup.

Even now, I am still a bit overcome. The dog days are not so bad after all. I think I will quit while I am ahead and hire it done this year. Who knows? Maybe those two guys from the Georgia State parking garage will show up for the interviews, and I can get my TV back.

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins

Raymond L. Atkins resides in Rome, Georgia. His stories have been published in Christmas Stories from Georgia, The Lavender Mountain Anthology, The Blood and Fire Review, The Old Red Kimono, Long Island Woman, and Savannah Magazine. His humorous column —"South of the Etowah" — appears in The Rome News-Tribune. His industrial maintenance column — "The Fundamentals" — appears in Maintenance Technology Magazine. His humorous column — "And So It Goes" — appears in Memphis Downtowner Magazine. His first novel, "The Front Porch Prophet," was published by Medallion Press in June of 2008 to critical acclaim and earned the 2009 Georgia Author of the Year Award for First Novel. His second novel, "Sorrow Wood," was released in June 2009 by Medallion Press and has been nominated for the 2010 Georgia Author of the Year Award for Fiction. Both are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. His third novel, "Camp Redemption," will be released in August, 2011.