Whether we are coming back from a late night of studying at 1515 or stumbling from one bar to the next, most of us know what it’s like to walk the Corner on a Friday night. The scene is a kaleidoscopic horde of people. Glamorous clothes are complemented by colorful shouts and the unmistakable stench of Busch Light. From the perspective of any old student who traverses the Corner nearly every Friday night, this has become a natural part of life.
But, from the outside perspective of a sober student with a car, a Friday night on the Corner is a dance with the devil.
Navigating Charlottesville’s tight and winding city streets has proven a challenge enough for a young driver already — and this is without the threat of reckless and intoxicated students wandering into the crosswalk at the wrong time. So for all of last semester, I avoided taking my car out on weekend nights at all. I had seen the massive herds of people in the streets, and I never wanted to risk catching those people petrified like deer in my headlights.
And yet, the bitter cold will make a man do dangerous things, and there was no way I was going to walk all the way across Grounds in below-freezing weather to make it to my boyfriend’s place by midnight. I revved up my engine, took a deep breath and did what had to be done.
I had no idea that my car was capable of driving so slow as I inched from Grandmarc towards the Corner. I glided over the center yellow lines whenever I approached a pedestrian, making sure to give them ample space if they decided to stumble. I held my breath as I ascended the hill where Wertland Street intersects 14th Street. My eyes crept over the peak of the hill and fixed themselves on the stop light outside of Boylan Heights. I’d reached the Corner — hell itself.
Judging by how many people incessantly populate this stoplight’s crosswalk on a Friday night, one might think that the site is home to a parade or pays homage to the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album cover. I sat in front of the crosswalk, watched anxiously as the crowds passed by me and waited for the light to turn green.
However, a simple green light must be taken with a grain of salt. When my parents taught me how to drive, they failed to give me any specific instructions needed to successfully navigate the Corner. It’s imperative to look all ways before proceeding — right, left, behind you, above you, beside you — not just both ways.
And when the light turned green, that is exactly what I did. The last straggler scampered across the street illuminated by the fluorescent green glow, and I scanned the scene. The coast seemed to be clear, so I peeled away from the thick of the Corner. I felt a weight begin to lift off of my shoulders — slowly, slowly, slowly until the screams faded to a quiet hum and the battalions of students shrunk to measly ants in my rearview mirror. I let out the most exasperated sigh of relief and shivered as the devil left my car by somersaulting out of the passenger side window. When I made it to my boyfriend’s place, I insisted he pay me in Cheez-Its for my troubles.
My journey was a strenuous one that required the skill of Vin Diesel and the level headedness of former President Barack Obama. It was an adventure that I would never wish on my worst enemy and one that I will certainly avoid in the future at all costs.
But aside from just being wary of when and where I drive, I think that the biggest thing I’ve learned from this soul-shaking experience is to be more aware of my own behavior and the importance of sidewalks, traffic lights, crosswalks and traffic patterns. I need to be more mindful when frequenting the Corner, because I recognize and sympathize with the drivers who must maneuver through the masses of careless college students every Friday night.
Aaron Doss is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.