Why Did the Chicken Cross the Midway?

On the strangeness of my first winter quarter and the very “okay-ness” of a brief interlude in North Campus-South Campus friendships

By Jessica Zang

One thing I’ve noticed about myself? I’m a chicken.

As in, when it comes to the cold Chicago weather, I’m a bit of a coward. (My excuse—although not a great one—is that I’m from California.) Because of my fear of freezing, this winter quarter has seen me evolve into adopting a Woodlawn-class-Woodlawn routine. My friends joke about my unwillingness to leave the comfort of my own room and about how I often disappear for days at a time. We never see you north of the Midway anymore! 

But all jokes aside, my absence across the Midway has caused me some grief this winter. Throughout autumn quarter, my lovely North Campus friends had crossed the Midway to come share a meal with their South Campus counterparts. It became a comfortable routine for us, sharing meals and studying together. But this quarter, I noticed that—little by little—they’d stopped coming as much, stopped asking where we were having dinner, stopped reporting on where they were studying for the day. It worried me—I wondered if there was some inherent flaw in our friendship, or in me as a friend. What if their lack of reaching out meant that our friend group was doomed, like many O-Week friend circles, to fade into oblivion?

Simultaneously, I found myself getting closer to people who lived near me. My friends, similarly enough, found company within their own dorms. The relationships I had with people seemed to be shifting—I was getting closer to new people and seemingly drifting away from others. But even as I was making new connections, I couldn’t help but worry about my ability to maintain my friendships from autumn quarter. I’d known these people since my very first days at UChicago—when I think of my time here so far, they’re undeniably the people that made it first feel like home.

I’ve come to realize, though, that as obvious as it probably is, the problem lies neither with them nor with me: it’s the weather, which neither I (nor my friends across the Midway) are eager to brave while walking across campus.  My friends had sacrificed for me last quarter, and due to the cold and increasingly busy workloads, things had changed this quarter. It wasn’t personal, just as none of my absences north of the Midway were due to the company that awaited me there. We didn’t talk less this quarter because of an inherent flaw in our friendship but because of our mutual unwillingness to rally in the icy conditions. Perhaps the reason my friends weren’t reaching out wasn’t that they didn’t want my company anymore but rather that we had a mutual understanding to not force someone else to make the trek that none of us wanted to make.

We’re rounding the corner towards longer days and sunnier skies; I’m sure that at the very least, we’ll see a little more of each other during spring quarter. But even recently, as the weather’s gotten better, I’ve found myself more willing to make that once-dreaded walk across the grassy strip that divides us. I’ve realized that to maintain my friendships, I need to put in some effort—even if I still have an incredible fear of the cold.

So, why does the chicken cross the Midway? To spend some lovely time with her lovely friends. And as this dreadful winter quarter comes to a close, you might be seeing this chicken crossing the midway a little more often.

Jessica Zang is a first-year in The College.