They have returned! The 39,000+ undergraduates enrolled, live and in person, for classes, about 200 yards – 183 meters for the engineers out there – from our front door. Of these, several thousand live within the same distance in every direction. They officially started showing up two weeks ago and tomorrow marks the start of home football season – one that the blue-and-white clad warriors should win.
Winning is good. For us, it is very good. Winning means happy students. Moreover, there will be few unhappy fans from the opposition, as it is a long trek from their much smaller campus, in northeastern Ohio, for the event.
For us, happy students are peaceful students. The worst case is a home loss, on a last-second score, by a hated rival, in a night game: disappointment + exhaustion from a full day of partying + for too many, too much alcohol. This has been a rare event, but occasionally an ugly one.
Let me state up front that I have no right complaining about student behavior, drunken or other. We both knew what undergraduate behavior meant, when we picked a home across from a student high-rise apartment building and within passing distance (sports metaphor alert!) of at least eight fraternity houses. I was a Greek and probably created the average amount of mayhem, in a similar neighborhood, when I attended a large, Midwestern research university.
I was particularly adept at damaging hedges at 2 AM on Saturday nights, especially in the frequent icy weather. The next day, I could not have located these, but I knew it had happened. The occasional re-distribution of beverage vessels, comestible wrappers, and – especially – loud, raucous cheers and the repeated singing of the school’s VERY famous fight song, off-key, of course.
We also knew that we really wanted a student apartment in our basement. We had lived there and rented that more than once, when we were students. So, again we knew what we were doing.
However, there are limits. The first weekend saw no more than the usual number of underage drinking violations, ambulance rides to the ER for alcohol poisoning, etc. Noise that exceeded the tolerance of some neighbors. (Our house is built like a brick-and-concrete bomb shelter, so we rarely notice, except when it occurs under our open windows.) Beer and miscellaneous beverage cans and bottles and assorted trash at the expected levels.
Some incidents crossed the line, however. Some homes, not ours, had damage: a piece removed from an expensive stone garden wall at one and shrubs relocated at others.
The tendency is to blame “the students.” However, there are 39,000. Most are well behaved and polite.
One close-by student rental, for several years, earned the name Cheerleader House, because the parents of one bought it for their daughter and some of her pom-pom carrying friends rented from her. You would not know students lived there, if you did not see them coming and going.
One year into varsity hockey, we now have a Hockey House. The reliable word is that a hint of problems whispered in the correct ear will bring a world of trouble down on the residents from their coach.
Yes, some get too rambunctious, but only realize after-the-fact and are appropriately apologetic. The few, however,….
We have also learned that every few years, we need gently to remind our youthful neighbors that they are not alone. That there are families with children, families of faculty and administrators, and more than one member of Borough Council sharing the turf. Sometimes we have to point out that we – and others – not only have a right to live where we do in relative peace, but have been doing so since before they were born/when their parents went here (some, when in town, stop by to say hello)/when their GRANDPARENTS enrolled here.
Saturday night will be the test. Our excellent (really) local gendarmerie can call the State Troopers – including some on horse – if they expect real problems. (Probably not this game.)
Nevertheless, we can expect a few desperadoes – I use the term literally – to choose our yard as an open-air outhouse. (A minor positive: gender equity for this behavior arrived about five years ago.) We can also expect more surprised, late-night trespassers hurriedly exiting our yard, pursued by well-concealed – and well-conditioned – constables on bicycles, across yards and down our numerous alleys.
We shall see.
Next time, some amusing anecdotes from more than a quarter century among our future leaders, educators, and scientists. (Heaven help us all! )