March 3, 2009

Running late

U of C students could stand to forgo the snooze button and leave for class a bit earlier.

Yes, I know you’re very busy. I know you have places to be, people to meet, and lots and lots of things to do. I know Sosc starts in three minutes and you’re trying to hustle. But if you push me off the curb into oncoming traffic one more time, I swear to God I’ll kick you in the balls.

It’s a campus-wide epidemic—this infatuation with consciously waiting until the very last minute, then abandoning all sense of decorum because you’re suddenly late. You brazenly hit the snooze button as many times as feels right, then sprint across the Midway, knocking passersby into the snow, in an attempt to beat the solid red hand. Or maybe you take your sweet time pouring over the newspaper at breakfast, and for the rest of the day can’t be bothered to hold open a door because time is suddenly too much of the essence! You resign yourself every morning to a day of discourteousness, whether for the instant gratification of procrastination, for the delayed gratification of walking into class without a moment to spare, or simply for the thrill of being behind schedule. No excuses, University of Chicago! You do it, and you know it. And yet I see you now, scoffing and rolling your eyes. “Well, what do you want me to do?” you say, taking another sip from your travel mug as you stomp purposefully down the street, shouldering an elderly woman into the gutter. “Be late for class just so she can walk slowly?”

No. But you might try leaving on time once in a while.

I find that, among college students, there’s an annoying tendency to act like this whole time management thing is completely out of one’s control—like every morning someone blindly hands you a schedule with which you’re forced to comply: 9:20, wake up; 9:24, catch the bus; 9:30, class starts. You wish you could be more prepared, but your schedule won’t allow it. You wish you could be neighborly—even civil—but there just isn’t time. Be honest, U of C: If you left home just five minutes earlier every morning, you wouldn’t have to run to the crosswalk, shove me into the street, and then give me such dirty looks for keeping my feet planted firmly on the curb—because God forbid you have to wait the extra seven seconds for the cars to pass. Five measly minutes are completely within your power.

Still, though, I’m inclined to think that your proclivity for procrastination is not entirely to blame for our predicament. Something about the great city of Chicago itself seems to suggest an air of impatience with the very existence of those less strained and irritable. I fondly remember my first trip to the Walgreens on 55th, when the robot voice told me it was my turn to cross the street, as did the “Walk” sign in bright green lights, and yet as I made my way I was nearly killed by a minivan, which halted grudgingly about a foot away, the driver screaming mutely into her windshield. Now, a driver from my home city would have yielded in that situation, as per the law and moral obligation. But Chicago yields for no one. It’s much too busy for that. And so it is your responsibility as a citizen of this city, and also as a student of its most renowned university, to fight the innate urge to be a total douche bag. It may take time and counseling, and an extra big hug, but we’ll get through it eventually. I know we can.

Luke Dumas is a first-year in the College.