Living in a suburb and commuting into a part of the city that is next to a major university (otherwise known as the U-District) is a lot like traveling daily from the world of Mayberry into a surreal world of vivid colors and bizarre behaviors.
Having made this commute for many years, I’ve developed what I consider to be a perfectly plausible theory as to why people behave, shall we say, rather strangely in the U-District.
This gets a little complicated: the cumulative effect of thirty thousand students trying to simultaneously absorb information of varying degrees of complexity, has caused a warp in the space-time continuum over this part of the city. This creates a strong but undetectable magnetic field that randomly scrambles electrical impulses in the brain.
What we have here is the Bermuda Triangle of intelligence.
I believe this is a far more logical explanation than the usual psycho-babble articles you read about university areas. It not only accounts for the oddball student antics but also for the strange behavior exhibited by otherwise normal people when they are in the U-district. I’ve noticed several common behavior patterns in this regard.
First, most people become color blind. This explains the random manner in which pedestrians and bicyclists cross streets, regardless of whether the traffic signal is red, green, or yellow. Plus, it’s difficult for me to believe that people would deliberately color their hair in hideous shades of purple, red, and green.
The common reason usually given is that these people are trying to make a statement that they are unique individuals. But why would you want comically-colored hair as a statement that you’re different when in actuality it makes you bear an amazing resemblance to Bozo the Clown, who’s been around for decades?
Next, most people become deaf in the exact acoustic range of automobile horns. I don’t even bother to honk my horn anymore as I drive through intersections with the green light in my favor, swerving erratically around the various people crossing against the light. It’s embarrassing when the only people whose attention it attracts are other drivers, who usually look at me like I’m an idiot for making such a futile gesture.
Of course, for some, it’s not a case of deafness, but rather a loss of judgment due to the scrambled brain waves I mentioned previously. This results most commonly in the belief that a speeding, three thousand-pound car will pass safely through your body via the process of osmosis.
With bicyclists, the belief is that wearing brightly colored spandex somehow forms an invisible protective barrier around you, against which cars, trucks, and buses will bounce off harmlessly like ping-pong balls.
Finally, the time warp evidences itself most frequently by causing pedestrians to incorrectly see things happening in slow motion. This explains why they are in no hurry to cross the street, even though their light is red and a fast-moving automobile is rapidly bearing down on them.
These behavior patterns become more severe the closer you get to the main street running through the university. There, it’s not uncommon to see people exhibiting several symptoms at once. For example, last week I noticed a person with purple hair walking their bicycle slowly across the street against a red light, directly in front of fast-moving automobiles with their horns uselessly blazing.
I’m convinced these phenomena are unique to the U-District. I know I’ve seen some of these same people in the suburb where I live, patiently waiting for lights to turn green, reacting with a start at the slightest noise, and jumping out of the way of children on tricycles to avoid injury.
It’s enough to make Don Notts proud.