The Year Begins

Student Move-In Days were this past week, from Wednesday through Friday. The dotty Ann Arbor News ran a front-pager recently featuring a list of the Top 10 ways you could tell students were back in town, but, unless you’re a Martian having made a recent first-time Earth landing, it really isn’t all that difficult to tell when they’re back. The State Street corridor between William and Liberty, for instance. During the summer, it’s got traffic, sure, but once the school year pattern is back, it’s not out of the ordinary for it to take over 5 minutes to traverse that one block in a vehicle. There’s of course no parking anywhere, as the News points out, and the license plates on the cars are as likely to be from Illinois, Maryland, or Florida as they are to be from Michigan. Central campus is clogged with packs of dozens of roving, frothing-at-the-mouth freshmen in flip-flops, training shorts, white undershirts, hip-riding jeans, and belly shirts carrying credit cards and looking for things to buy and stash in their dorm rooms. There are campus tours that wheel around and stop at all the buildings for minutes on end, though the obligatory nature of these tours is as evident as the glassy stares on the faces of the tour-takers. There’s that spanking new blue-and-gold banner hanging from the front of Hatcher saying WELCOME TO THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY, which always seems a little beside the point to me; does the lettered word “LIBRARY” on the original architecture of the façade not sufficiently denote what the building is? There’s the parents arguing heatedly over what year a particular building opened. There’s the sudden increase in customers in virtually every business along the Liberty/William circuit (except for David’s Books, the used bookstore on William next door to the Cottage Inn, which was almost deserted when I stopped in on Friday). There’s the University maintenance vehicles roaring down the pedestrian pathways whose drivers seem calculatedly oblivious to the intended use of the paths. There’s the always-predictable frat houses on State, whose residents are out in the front yards making sure that there’s enough sand on what should be a grassy front lawn to pretend that they’re ready for a scene from “MTV Beach House” or “The OC,” playing an appropriately studly game of beach volleyball.

Ah, yes, summer’s officially at an end.