Published: Jan. 19, 2021

I once held preeminence as a complainer and whiner about these perilous conditions. When classes were changing and the young people were (rightly, understandably, and justifiably) racing from one side of our big campus to the other, those of us—who have evolved into the status of people of advanced age—winced and teetered along, preoccupied with the vulnerability of life and limb. 

From our point of view, the bicyclists and skateboarders had adopted the role of skiers, casting us pedestrians as the flags placed along the slalom course.

If, in the years before March of 2020, some wild-eyed prophet had told me that a time was coming when I would be nostalgic for the proximity of young people hurtling toward me on wheeled vehicles, I would have dismissed that preposterous prediction in a second.

And now I have the walkways to myself. 

I yearn for that sound of skateboard wheels passing over the joints between concrete slabs, a noise that bears a strange resemblance to the noise of a subway train. But it was also a sound that said that the university was alive with young people who, actually, were just trying to get to class and who had not the slightest desire to injure me.

At the end of the movie Shane, as the cowboy rides away from the town he has rescued, little Joey Starrett calls out, “Come back, Shane, come back!” 

When I am walking in silence on a quiet campus, I am thinking, “Come back, skateboarders, come back!”

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