Life at Forbes has been a generally positive experience for me. I have a great room with a view of the golf course and easy access to the Wa, and I’ve come to love the leaf-crunching, peaceful walk. I wasn’t even annoyed when, a few weeks ago, I saw the construction site taking over my neighborhood. While my fellow Forbesians complained about the growing number of orange traffic cones, bulldozers, and walking detours, I was secretly excited.
Growing up, I walked to and from school in Manhattan. Depending on the year I had varied company: first my mom, then my siblings, then friends. Routes altered, after-school snacks changed, the mannequins in store windows were restyled. Periodically on these walks we’d come across a construction site. No matter how old I was, and always much to the confusion of my walking partner, I had the same reaction to this obstruction in our path: from the first glimpse of scaffolding and a “Hard Hats Required” sign, I would be thrilled by the prospect of a construction detour. Walking under a scaffolding in New York City was like driving through a tunnel on a rainy night, like hanging high in the air on a swing for just a second before drifting back towards the ground, like being underwater with my eyes open; it was a momentary surreal haven, where the noise and frenzy of the outside was shut out, when all that could possibly exist existed within those dingy, blue-painted walls.
After living for a few weeks amid the Forbes area work zone, though, the only gut reaction I have to construction sites is nausea. Gone is the optimism and magic that once accompanied my trips through walking detours.
Maybe it’s because the scenery here is generally more serene than that of Manhattan. I had just begun to appreciate the beauty of living outside the city, the fresh air and the sounds of crickets and leaves blowing in the wind. Princeton’s campus was much like the scaffolding of my childhood: an inspiring retreat from reality. All that changed with the introduction of the construction site. The site, which spans west from the Forbes entrance to the old Dinky station and north from the new station to McCarter theater, is a view-obstructing, dust-producing, dug-out wasteland. It’s added at least two minutes in each direction to my late night Wa runs, and made me so late to the Dinky that I had to buy a ticket on the train. Rather than providing refuge from a chaotic environment, it brought mayhem into the fortress that was once Forbes.
I am angry at the construction site; not because the Arts and Transit Center (which I’d quite like to be around for) won’t be finished until after I graduate, not even because it adds a few minutes to my commute every day. I am angry because it has stolen from me the feeling of wonder and endless possibility and awe I once felt upon every chance encounter with a construction site, replacing it with distaste for all things highlighter orange.
To bypass as much of the work zone as possible, I cut across the McCarter lawn, even though I once found a dead black squirrel there and have heard rumors about raccoons. Even for a New Yorker, these potential confrontations with wildlife are preferable to being enclosed for minutes at a time by metal fences.
I passed a road sign the other day, somewhere on University Place north of McCarter that read “END CONSTRUCTION,” presumably marking the end of the construction site. I thought it would make a nice picket sign.