First of all, thanks for all the well-wishing yesterday! Class went better than I’d hoped, particularly considering it was economics. And, even without my Wonder Woman lunch box (or rather, I suppose for grad school it would be a dinner box), I’m ready to go again tonight.
And now that I can be completely calm and carefree about my own experience, I can reflect on some of the things I noticed yesterday.
You see, some of my classes are on the undergrad campus. And so, when I biked down yesterday I had to dismount sooner than expected – due to the hordes. I don’t know if you’ve noticed (or, if you remember from your own college experience), but freshmen are incapable of walking in packs of fewer than five. They are the biggest proponent of the “strength in numbers” theory, and I get that. But it also made me realize that the only difference, really, between freshmen and tourists is a fanny pack.
Think about it:
1) Travel: They both travel in packs, and manage to take up an entire sidewalk, regardless of the size of the group. I suppose it’s understandable (though not appreciated) when the group is five across because they simply can’t stand not walking next to each other. But it boggles my mind how just two people can take up the same space. Regardless, let’s try either a) the buddy system – walk with a partner, or b) walk like you like each other. You don’t have to hold hands, but we’re not in middle school dance mode either, so you don’t have to be quite so far apart.
2) Directions: Now, tourists are more likely to ask a stranger for them (though, after the Criminal Minds episode I watched last night, I won’t be stopping to help), but the similarity comes in when they don’t ask. Both tourists and freshmen have this habit of stopping dead in their tracks to pull out a map/look around/debate which way they want to turn. I’m going to say this as nicely as possible: if you don’t want me to run face first into your back (or run you over), MOVE TO THE SIDE.
3) Escalators: It’s not stand-in-the-middle-and-marvel-at-the-fact-that-you-don’t-have-to-exert-any-energy-to-get-to-the-metro. It’s stand right, walk left. I don’t know why this is so hard, but I’ve seen countless first year grad students doing it, too. Please stop. Seriously.
4) Monuments: This is more of a “know your surroundings” type of thing. You will be scoffed at if you confuse the memorials of Lincoln and Jefferson. Or if you don’t recognize the White House. And especially if someone says “the Mall” and you ask about shopping. I wish I could say I’d never heard that…but I’d be lying.
5) Wonder: Not all of the similarities are negative. In fact, the way that both groups wonder at and enjoy a new city is fantastic. They get excited about seeing the aforementioned monuments, or catching a glimpse of the motorcade. They love the ties to history, and the newness of discovering these things for the first time.
Which means that I was wrong. The fanny pack isn’t the only difference.
Freshmen will eventually acclimate. At some point they’ll look back over a list like this and be just as frustrated with a new throng of freshmen, and the continuous influx of tourists. And they’ll also become a little bit jaded, over the monuments, and only seeing the motorcade as an interruption to their busy day.
Tourists, on the other hand, will never realize that you actually can walk on an escalator.
But they’ll always be awed by the city.