Mount Auburn Street is a case study in sensory overload. In the morning, the sidewalks overflow as students—heads down, phones up—spill out into the street, ignoring honking horns and raised middle fingers because that lecture aisle seat isn’t going to claim itself. Tour buses line the curb, fitting together like tall, sleek train cars as their passengers exit, eager and excited to form a train of their own. The Lowell House construction provides an unwelcome soundtrack for the scene, much like that guy who got his hands on the aux cord at the party. Just one song. No, no, this one is a jam. But you haven’t heard The Lumineers’ new stuff, man.
If you look down past your phone, you’ll see the sidewalk bricks play a game of reverse Whack-a-Mole, rising unevenly out of the ground to fight back against your steps. Even if you survive the cars and the middle fingers and the tourists and that tenth Lumineers song, they still seem to say, screw you. Your foot strikes a particularly raised brick. You stumble. You look around but shake it off. Surely no one saw. (Someone saw.) Some find this scene of urban chaos overwhelming.
We like to use the word “overwhelming.” My workload is overwhelming. My extracurricular commitments are overwhelming. The controversy surrounding the 47th Annual Grammy Awards in 2005 when John Mayer’s “Daughters” beat Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” in the Song of the Year category even though Alicia fought, really fought, for a stunning sophomore album was overwhelming.
But I couldn’t understand anyone being overwhelmed by Mount Auburn Street, because anyone could put in headphones or walk and talk with a friend or take a different path to the Yard or just be happy that the tourists are happy. And that’s okay. It’s okay that someone or something is doing their thing and you’re doing your thing. The other sidewalks have fewer raised bricks, anyway.
At night, Daytime Mount Auburn Street goes to bed early. After all, it has class and tours and construction in the morning. But the area doesn’t get much quieter. The sidewalks still overflow with students, either going to party at a final club or eat at El Jefe’s or to party at a final club then eat at El Jefe’s. Shivering figures replace the tour busses on the curb, all of them sporting the OOTN: short dresses, tall heels. The clanging of the Lowell construction has given way to a mix of Billboard 100 and 2010 house music, and its steady hot pulse escapes through open windows only to clash with the noise of a neighboring club. The sounds blend on Mount Auburn Street, right over my head.
And I keep walking. I’m off to an open party or to a bar or to a friend’s room or to a late-night food spot. Sometimes, my night has already wrapped up and I’m walking with friends back to Mather. Most times, I’m not wearing a short dress or tall heels or listening to 2010 house music.
We often fixate on what others are doing: refresh Friday evening Snapchat stories as quickly as we can, scroll through our newsfeed on Sunday afternoons to see all the cute pictures we weren’t invited to pose in. Some find it overwhelming. But after I’ve danced the night away with friends and we’ve made it back to my room, burritos in hands, to gossip and debrief the evening, I’m doing my thing. Back on Mount Auburn Street, someone else is doing theirs. And that’s okay. Alicia makes better music, anyway.