Get over it

What every freshman should know about going to college in Boston
By CLIF GARBODEN  |  August 21, 2009

Okay, you survived the college-application process; you filled out the miserable FAFSA forms; you sweated out the wait for acceptance letters; and cut your best financial-aid deal. You blocked traffic in front of the dorm while you unloaded your shit, met the pimply-faced assholes who will be your roommates, waved goodbye to your trepidatious parents, and now you’re on your own. You the man!

Actually, no, you’re not. Back in high school, to hear you tell it anyway, you were a goddamn god; now you’re just somebody else’s pimply-faced roommate. Get over it. And while you’re binding and gagging that unearned ego, get prepared for an entire semester’s worth of smaller adjustments. Long before your time, a comedy troupe called the Firesign Theatre preached: “Everything you know is wrong.”

They were right. Boston isn’t wherever you’re from, and there are lots of notions and expectations new students in our city need to put behind them. Like, immediately.

Among the more immediate are ZEBRA CROSSINGS — those inviting pathways of diagonal white lines painted on the street at intersections. You may think there’s a law that cars have to stop and let you cross if you so much as cast your shadow onto one of these. After all, pedestrians have rights! Inside a zebra crosswalk, you’re as safe as if you were flanked by the offensive line of the ’78 Steelers. There is such a law, but if you believe the rest, you’re going to die. In Boston, no car even slows down for a mere mortal. You can explain about your rights to the EMTs as the ambulance mows down other pedestrians rushing you to Mass General. The only safe way to cross a Boston street is in the middle of the block. That way you can spot anything that might run over you in time. We are not kidding about this.

Do you believe in BIKE LANES? Yeah, hey, everybody wants to be green. Don’t pollute; ride your bike to class. The city encourages this by painting more lines on the streets— lines defining narrow makeshift corridors between the cars parked at the curb and the cars weaving in and out of traffic at 40 miles per hour. Like zebra crossings, bike lanes are not safe havens. They are death traps. If, asserting your rights as a cyclist, you pedal along them, you will 1) have to stop short for a double-parked UPS truck; 2) be hit by the opening door of a parked car; 3) be sideswiped by somebody driving like a drunk Asian nun on a cell phone. You’re better off taking your chances in the real traffic lanes. Trust us.

You were told that Boston is a CHARMING URBAN ENVIRONMENT. Northeastern students need only gaze down Huntington Avenue to realize that all urban charm comes with equal measures of blight. And then there’s Kenmore Square, which, believe it or not, was once (okay, like around 1966) a nice low-key student village with horrible traffic running through it. Well, the five-way merging traffic has never improved, but the surroundings sure got worse. For decades, there was an ugly old bus station in the middle of the square. For the past eternity, they’ve been disruptively replacing it with, apparently, an unbelievably hideous new bus station. At the rate things are progressing, it will likely never be finished. That’s a shame because the construction-site landscape clashes with the tacky pretentious yuppie-scum new buildings on the south side of Comm Ave, which themselves replaced a bunch of cozy, funky shops and such.

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