The good news: You’re taking a kid to college in Boston. The bad news: You’re taking a kid to college in Boston.
By Ken Sheldon
Aug 24 2016
College Move-In Day | Only in New EnglandPhoto Credit : Illustration by Mark Brewer
Congratulations! Your child has been accepted at one of the many fine colleges in Boston. As you plan to drop off your little tax deduction, here are a few things you should know, especially if you’re from outside the area.
Boston has many institutions of higher education, largely because early settlers with academic backgrounds decided that the easiest course of action would be to stop right here and establish colleges. People with more useful skills (like farming and meatpacking) pushed westward, where the soil was better and there was more parking.
On college move-in day, more than 200,000 students descend on this historic city to begin classes, learn life skills, and ignore text messages from their parents. As you plan for the big day, be aware that roads in Boston, unlike those in other parts of the country, do not run in straight lines. In the Northeast, thoroughfares were originally laid out by wild game, wandering cows, and Native Americans who didn’t have to get anywhere in a hurry. Later road builders, out of laziness or sheer spite, simply laid asphalt over those paths. They didn’t do it on purpose to confound people from away; that was just an added benefit.
In Boston, the result is a Gordian knot of roadways that city planners have dealt with by helpfully removing most street signs, since they would only confuse outsiders further. (Note that Boston residents have never really recovered from the Big Dig, a multi-billion-dollar project designed to ensure that no one would ever know what direction they were headed in. Some residents have been driving around since the completion of the project in 2004 just trying to get home.) Because of all this, Boston drivers have evolved into a fairly aggressive species; Boston is the only city in America where the response to putting on your turn signal is “Oh, you think so?” Some visitors have tried putting Red Sox bumper stickers on their cars in a bid to earn some consideration, but that doesn’t work; all the serious combatants in Boston have those stickers.
Having located your child’s new domicile, the next challenge will be to find parking less than a mile away. Good luck with that. Much of the parking in Boston is hoseyed (a New England term that means “spoken for”) by residents with parking permits that have been passed from generation to generation along with the silver. On move-in day, you’ll be competing with thousands of other families for the city’s remaining seven parking spaces. It’s basically a citywide cross between musical chairs and a demolition derby.
Once you’ve parked, your next challenge will be unloading your kid’s stuff—usually equivalent to the contents of a well-stocked Ikea—into a dorm room the size of the average prison cell. You won’t discover this until you’ve hauled the stuff up three flights of stairs—in Boston, elevators wouldn’t be historically accurate—at which point you’ll have to carry half of it back down again to the musical accompaniment of your offspring’s tears and/or whining.
Note: If your child is enrolling at your alma mater, do not take her to your old dorm to show her the room you once occupied. In the days ahead, she’ll find plenty of ways to embarrass herself on her own.
Finally, it’s time to say goodbye. The moment of parting is often fraught with emotion—mostly relief on the part of all involved that you’re finally leaving. Yes, there may be tears, as you realize that you now have to drive out of Boston. Don’t panic—simply take any major route out of the city. Whatever you do, if you’re headed in the wrong direction, do not turn around and go back through the city. There are many highways that will take you around the city by way of Portland, Providence, or Albany, and you’ll save time in the long run.