The unwritten rules of jaywalking on campus

Photo of Bowditch St. and Durant Ave. street signs
William Webster/Staff

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Let’s go back centuries past, to when we were all attending in-person classes on campus. I was a freshman living in Unit 2, and always pushing my short little legs to their limit to make it to class on time. The first time I witnessed The Jaywalkers™, I thought I was witnessing the most beautiful unrehearsed coordination of violating the law. 

I paid attention to the unwritten rules of the massive crowd of students crossing the intersection of Bowditch Street and Durant Street. Most notably, everyone stopped on the edge of the sidewalk, where the tip of their toes hung over the edge as the top half of their body leaned over onto the road. Everyone’s necks swung in the direction towards oncoming traffic. If there was a car approaching, students would start walking and cross the street while escaping being hit by the car by half a second. The logic of jaywalking were clear: You want to almost touch the passing car as you’re crossing to make up for the time lost waiting at the intersection. 

I realized this intersection was the prime place to jaywalk since it’s a one-way street. I also noticed that although it seemed like all of the students were acting as if crossing the street was a stage cue, there was always one brave student who initiated the ritual.

The person who would become the lone wolf on this corner of the sidewalk depended on the circumstances. Maybe someone woke up late for class and didn’t have time to wait around for someone else to initiate. Perhaps this bold scholar was on a personal journey of building their self-confidence and decided that this was their way of declaring that they want to be a leader in a world of followers. Maybe one day, the lone wolf would be a freshman who didn’t have any leadership roles on their resume yet, and by leading the jaywalkers they could write down that they “managed and mentored more than twenty students on a project and helped them learn how to work together.” 

Reasons aside, the self-appointed leader for the jaywalkers of Bowditch Street and Durant Street was always appreciated by the shy, rule-abiding students of our campus who were never sure if they would get in trouble for jaywalking, even though everyone else was doing it and there were no cars coming (I’m merely outing myself here). 

When we all get back to campus next fall, it’s up to the new freshmen of Units 1 and 2 (and maybe Clark Kerr) to decide: Do you want to be just another sheep in the herd or a leader in a world of followers? 

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].