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Loneliness at the Edge of Campus
November 14, 2011 - 2:35pm


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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