“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” (from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll)
I’ve been keeping this quote to use after my move. I figured that I would have moments where I felt like everyone around me was crazy. And perhaps I will. But so far, I think that the people up here are mostly sane and normal. The other day, I was chatting with one of my classmates who is from this area. When I told here where I’m from, she said, “Wow. This must be a lot of culture shock for you.” “Actually,” I said, “it hasn’t been bad.” And that’s true. I haven’t really even had trouble with understanding the Boston accent, which I haven’t come across very often anyway.
But, having said that, let me tell you who is mad: pedestrians, bicyclists, and legislators.
Pedestrians: I don’t even think that jaywalking is illegal up here. Do you remember learning that pedestrians have the right-of-way (if you’re from Abilene, think back to your third-grade trip to Safety City)? Well, in most places, that law means that you yield to pedestrians when it’s appropriate. Here, pedestrians have interpreted that law to mean that they can walk wherever they want, whenever they want, willy-nilly. Seriously. When you drive up here, you have to constantly be watching for pedestrians who might decide to cross the street right in front of you. When you’re turning, you have to watch out for oncoming traffic and foot traffic. And just to further prove the point that jaywalking doesn’t exist, I did it right in front of a traffic cop one day, and he didn’t even flinch. Crazy people.
Bicyclists: If the pedestrians are mad, the bicyclists are certifiable. These people act as if a two-wheeled, vehicle renders them a) invincible, and b) above adherence to traffic laws. They glide across intersections through red lights, zip across streets in front of oncoming cars, weave through slow or stopped traffic at their convenience. They elbow into driving lanes, they go on sidewalks. These people are aggressive bike riders. I wonder if there is a school somewhere that teaches them this–perhaps instructed by a former bicycle racer who believes that everyone else will just get out of the way for cyclists. “Don’t worry,” he or she would say to eager pupils. “Just stick to your path and the cars and pedestrians will part before you like the Red Sea. I learned that in the Tour de France.” These cyclists also seemed to have missed the memo that pedestrians have the right of way, and that they are not pedestrians and therefore do not have the right of way, because if you’re walking and bike’s coming, you had better get out of the way. They should have gone to Safety City as children, and then they would know. I almost hit a cyclist one day when I was going to get groceries. The guy rode right out in front of me while I was looking for on-coming traffic the other direction. Fortunately, no harm other than rapid heartbeat, but seriously. You should never ride out in front of a driver who isn’t looking at you and doesn’t have a stop sign.
Legislators: Well, I don’t actually know that the legislators in this state are crazy, but I evidence would suggest the veracity of this. My friends who have also recently moved here and I have all concurred that it is shocking how many hoops a person has to jump through to have a car here (for example). You need MA insurance. To get MA insurance, you need for your car to be registered in this state. To have your car registered in this state, you have to have proof that you are getting insurance. You also have to have a title and the car has to be in your name. After you get your car registered, you have to get it inspected. And you have to get the whole process right, otherwise you end up making multiple trips to the RMV where you wait indefinitely for your number to come up. And that’s just an example. It seems like there are a number of laws here that just don’t quite make sense, or that I just don’t understand. But I’m not sure that makes them mad. Okay, maybe a little.
But in addition to all this, or perhaps I should say more to the point, today’s quote seems shockingly appropriate for the whole endeavor of graduate school. Academics are all a little mad, don’t you think? I mean, who else enjoys reading critical essays on ancient Irish literature? Or already owns half of the required text books for a semester of study? Who else likes to do homework? Who would subject themselves to the tortuous intensity of graduate studies or teach this stuff if they weren’t a little mad? So when I tell people that I’m working on my second Master’s in the same field, or when one of my classmates says that she doesn’t know yet what she’s going to do with her degree, it might seem a little mad. And, of course, it is. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here at all.