Loneliness at the Edge of Campus

You only think I make this stuff up.


November 14, 2011

Pedestrians ignore each other at the busiest intersection on campus and focus on crossing five lanes of traffic. If I’m on the phone with my acquaintance Larry when I scurry across, he sings a falsetto soundtrack he’s invented, manic and Eastern European-sounding, like a Circus Contraption song.

The city put in high-tech walk-signal controllers on all four corners to improve safety. “Wait,” a male voice says in broadcast English when you push the oversized button. “To cross Lincoln at Green. Wait.” The tone is both robotic-authoritarian and cheerfully square.

Last Thursday I was walking to class in a hard rain and pushed the button to cross. There was no one else around. The mechanism or its digital recording got stuck, and as I stepped into the road and headed for the far side, it repeated over and over at varying volumes and pitches:

WAIT, Wait. Wait. wait (wait) wait! Wait…wait…wait…wait.


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