Ting! Goes the phone. Ah, text from Daughter at college.

Hey

I’m all ears; do go on.

Ting! Have

Ting! Some news

Why are you using this strange format, dribbling out the words? You’re trying to break something gently? Or — more likely! — you’re in ICU in an oxygen tent barely able to muster the strength to type! I knew it!

There is an agonizing pause of at least 17 seconds, which, in the modern world of texts, means someone was hit by a car. That’s it, isn’t it? You were going to the hospital with COVID symptoms, texting, and walked in front of a train! A minute ago I was perfectly happy, and now I’m praying someone picks up the phone that was knocked from her hand and texts: “She’s OK.”

Six more seconds pass! Of course, her phone is locked, they don’t have her pass code. Why, oh why, did she have to go to college in another town far away? Why did we even tell her about college? Sure, she wanted to get out of the house, live on her own, and for some reason “setting up residence in the garden shed” didn’t appeal.

Ting! So this happened. Lol.

She sent a screenshot of a message from the college saying they were switching to online-only classes for a month, due to the Current Situation. It says that if you were away on break, keep your filthy germ-ridden self where you were. (I’m paraphrasing.)

With all the classes online, there was no reason for her to sit in her dorm. She wanted to wait out the situation at home, and these were happy words to read.

Of course! Come home. You’ll have to stay in your room with plastic over the door and we’ll push meals through the crack between the door and the floor, but, hey, that means lots of pizza.

Ting! WHAT

I’ve ticked over into that demographic where the disease can be really bad, and you’re coming from a place with lots of confirmed cases, so if you could Uber from the airport and take a quick dip in the big vat of bleach in the garage before going upstairs, that would be great. Your mom is still in the low-mortality demographic, so she’ll give you a hug for both of us.

I was kidding, of course, but not entirely so. I told her to get airline reservations immediately, because I imagined the airport would be like the scene in “Casablanca” when everyone’s trying to flee Paris as the Nazis approach. (And while we’re on the subject, it always made me a bit nervous when Rick took so long saying goodbye to Ilsa. It’s the last ride out before Nazis. Give her a quick peck on the lips, and get on board.)

Anyway. There still were flights, so all was good. But here’s the thing: The college insists that the students will get all the necessary instruction online. But the parent who is writing the checks thinks: If this is a perfectly acceptable substitute, why do we have to send our kids off to distant cities to attend expensive institutions with big ivy-covered buildings? You’re telling me that one can learn things outside of the traditional campus environment? No!

Of course, there’s more to college than that. There’s the hothouse atmosphere of intellectual inquiry, as opposed to being at home where I walk around wearing a hat that has two beer cans attached to the side with straws, singing the “Hee-Haw” theme. I get that. But I decided to text the university to ask a reasonable question: Because you’ve turned into YouTube, is there any chance of a rebate?

Ting! Oh, the college just texted back.

Hey

We got your

Question

And

Yes? YES?

Ting! Lol