How to walk across a college campus

This was an assignment that I did for class, and I thought it might be an enjoyable read. 

            It is a commonly known, and perhaps unavoidable phenomenon, that a student may have many friends on a college campus. These acquaintances are sometimes kindled in classrooms, but often are established during Friday night parties when boy meets girl or girl meets boy or boy meets boy or girl meets girl and ensuing activities are completely lost upon either party because the effects of the communal alcohol are too potent.

Most people know that the standard operating procedure for scurrying across campus is with your head down, eyes averted, and backpack weighing down your shoulders so that one day, when scoliosis inevitably claims your back, you will be glad that you went to university and became a musty and useless academician.

But before this disease annexes your back, it is essential to know that there are four categories of students who are either unaware of this protocol, or who choose to ignore it.

The first student is simply uninformed, socially amiss, or unaware of the unwritten rules that are part and parcel of the college experience. Occasionally, he will accidentally look up from the fascinating cracks in the sidewalk and make eye contact with a familiar face. This is when he breaks out into a cold sweat, because he doesn’t know from where he recognizes the face. Is it from that drunken party that he went to last Saturday night, which made his attendance at his 8 am Sunday morning extra-curricular physics club impossible? They approach each other, each bearing a half smile and then quickly averting his eyes so as not to indicate a real recognition or acknowledgement. It is an accidental twitch of the mouth as an insurance policy in case either is erroneous in his judgment, and they truly are best friends from pre-school.

The second category of students is the kind who believes that they have done the world a favor by entering into its orbit. They make a point of looking everyone in the eye as they waltz across the sidewalk and through the meticulously tended lush grass that carpets much of the campus grounds. There is another lesser-known, unwritten rule about the grass on a college campus: don’t walk through it. The environmental groupies will stare you down and others will look at you funny, as if they had always wanted to walk through the grass themselves but it had never actually occurred to them to do so. These students, the grass-tramplers, are the most obnoxious specimens to be found. When they spot acquaintances, their boisterous voices boom across the street, echoing off every object in sight.

“Yo, Sam!” they yell. “Long time no speak!”

The recipient of this nuisance is equally irritating. As he slowly removes his green-framed, plastic sunglasses, with all the time in the world, recognition dons upon his face and he crosses the street, despite the oncoming traffic, and pounds his “bro’s” fist.

The girls are perhaps worse, although provide much more amusement to curious spectators. There are always spectators in these instances. They shriek giddily when they pass a friend on the sidewalk, and jump up and down, generally two or three times, before they extend their arms as far as they will reach and wrap them around the other girl. They stay this way for perhaps four seconds, release each other, and hug again.

The last student does his or her job remaining staunch in minding his or her own business fairly well, aware of the protocol and sticking to it most of the time. However, occasionally he or she slips up, and the consequences are disastrous for the innocent victim.

I was a perpetrator of this unacceptable behavior yesterday. Waiting for a friend outside, near the business school on campus, I succumbed to pretending to text so that I did not have to appear lonesome and friendless. I started walking in the direction that my friend would be coming from, and I finally saw her approaching. However, a dilemma was presented to me: in front of her was a guy on a bike, and so if I waved to her, he might think I was waving at him. But I had to get her attention, so I waved to her anyway. She saw me, and waved back, but the poor young, innocent man had no idea that my friend walked behind his bike. Thus he thought I was waving to him, and he lifted his hand and waved back. As I walked toward both his bike and my friend, I tried to indicate, unsuccessfully, that I didn’t know him. He looked directly in my face as he approached, confusion spelled out all over it, but also smiling, because perhaps I had greatly boosted his self esteem and confidence. Even after he passed, he craned his neck behind him, trying to figure out what my purpose had been in getting his attention.

Poor chap. I do hope that I didn’t give him too much to think about, or G-d forbid indicate to him that my behavior was in any way acceptable.

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