Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Discussion of Acute Street Politics

The other day walking down Prospect Avenue, my foot slipped off the sidewalk and I stumbled. My cohorts laughed, then sympathized: "I always do that. This sidewalk is so narrow."

Which I think brings up an important point. (Other than the fact that I am ridiculously clumsy). When walking down the street, you inevitably run into another group, or individual, walking in the opposite direction. When two individuals meet, the situation is fairly easy. Street-bound moves to their right, campus-bound to their right. This simple passing maneuver is done without difficulty, without awkwardness, and hopefully, without slipping off the edge of the sidewalk into the red gravel.

But what of the other situations? What if, say, one individual, campus-bound, meets a street-bound group? Does the group move or does the individual? It's clearly easier for the individual to circumvent the group, but that would require stepping onto the gravel... does that mean the individual has conceded the right to the pathway? What about group-group interactions? Does the younger group move, as they did on McCosh walk back in the day? (Freshman used to have to wear beanies - ew - and would have to move off of the walk if they met an upperclassmen. I think Cane Spree also originated somewhere along these lines. Sophomores carried canes, beanie little freshmen tried to pull them away...but I digress).

And what if, by some ungodly luck, you run into a former hook-up? Or the former hook-up and his/her new raison d'ĂȘtre? Do you move? Do ya? (My personal answer? No. Stay put. Stare intently at your iphone/crackberry, as if Obama had just personally emailed you. Do not, under any circumstances, concede the sidewalk).

And this is all presuming these individuals are not on bikes (read: elitist transportationists trying to run you down) or that you don't know the individuals you are passing. Knowing the individuals you pass brings an entirely different level to the game.

As Dylan Alban '09 put it, "What's the point at which you make contact? Vocal? Verbal? Eye contact? Do you? Don't you?...How is it complicated when the person you are addressing is on a bike? Or a golf cart?"

Clearly, walking up and down Prospect everyday- the potentially awkward encounters, bikes, golf carts, cars, trucks dropping off food, sidewalk slip-ups- is a dangerous, potentially life threatening, endeavor. It's survival of the fittest, and as the winter months arrive, the warmest. Or you could just call P-rides.

Update on Cane Spree:

"Cane Spree evolved from more informal class customs around the time of the American Civil War, when it became fashionable for gentlemen to carry walking canes. The University Archives in Seeley Mudd Library has many examples of these artifacts, some quite elaborate. Among the intricate details chiseled into the wood are the owner's name, class, and hometown; his classmates names and states (often carved by the classmate himself), names of the Faculty, and in some instances, the University Seal, names of the college, Greek phrases, etc.

In 1865 upperclassmen concluded that freshmen should not carry canes. One evening the sophomores attempted to enforce this "rule," by seizing the canes when the classes were strolling on Nassau Street, resulting in a major brawl. This encounted is generally considered to the the first "cane spree," the latter word a then-common term for ruckus. In the years that followed, the confrontations became a standard, scheduled --though unsanctioned-- fixture of the college, with established rules and dates. For a period, the Freshmen were advised and supervised by representatives from the Junior class, while the Sophomores were coached by the Seniors."


N.B. If The Prince can publish a story about Whitman Dining hall's bird problem on the front page, this topic can at least make the blog.


Anonymous said...

so good!!! love the sarcasm. Well done Megs

Anonymous said...

I think it depends on the self-assumed superiority of the group in passing....i.e. a member of Cottage believes they have the right to the walkway when passing members of any other club...Ivy members believe they trump even the Cottage members, Colonial members and TI only have to worry about passing each other, and Cap members can be seen running up from Jadwin straight from track practice and thus don't usually encounter this type of situation.

Anonymous said...

freshman carried canes, sophomores took them away, freshman would have to earn the right to carry canes by winning canespree

Meg Byrne '10 said...

Right you are re: Cane Spree. I've updated appropriately, I think.