Our semi-chaotic normal returns

Aug. 17, 2013 @ 12:33 PM

Undoubtedly, you’ve noticed. They’re back….

The summer lull is over, and with the return to students to the University of North Carolina campus, our town is beginning to take on its normal semi-chaotic, high-energy, traffic-jammed rhythm.

To be sure, summers long ago ceased to be as lethargic as they were back when the town was smaller, non-university life was much sparser and summer schools, conferences, sports camps and the like weren’t bringing a steady stream to the area despite the Piedmont heat.

Still, life here in the summer is different. Finding parking places is so much easier – sometimes even possible on the first trip around the block.  Restaurants are less crowded. Bars are quieter – as is 2 a.m. Sunday in student-housing saturated neighborhoods.

But if, like most folks who choose to live here, especially in the area surrounding the university, you truly like the youthful exuberance and frenzied energy of a college town, summer doesn’t really seem right. It is, in the old b-movie line, quiet out there – too quiet.

So we welcome back the thousands of students – not to mention faculty who may have taken leave of the town for a month or so – who make the southern part of heaven what it is.

Freshmen began streaming onto campus Friday, and will be officially welcomed with the New Student Convocation at 6:30 p.m. today at the Dean E. Smith Center – which the newbies, like any campus veteran, will soon know as the Dean Dome.

As it has for many years, the university has organized a host of activities to help the new arrivals plunge into campus life. The official “Week of Welcome,” according to the UNC website, offers such activities as “an interactive, photo-based scavenger hunt, an ice cream social, popsicles in Polk Place, free moves…and a sunset serenade featuring some of Carolina’s a capella groups.”

The social whirl will quickly transition to the beginnings of the academic grind – classes get underway Tuesday.

Fortunately for arriving and returning students and year-round residents alike, some major road projects that have tangled traffic this summer are coming to an end. East Cameron Avenue, closed to traffic for three months, should be open now, pending any late-week glitches. Traffic is flowing both ways again on South Columbia Street between Mason Farm and Purefoy Road.

But this weekend, we’re all well advised to stay away from campus and its immediate surroundings unless faced with a real need to be there – the swarm of incoming students lugging refrigerators, futons, televisions, computers, clothes and books will make travel challenging.

The commotion, though, is the reminder that a new school term is here, with all the promise and vitality that portends.

Yes, we enjoyed a bit of breathing room – but it’s good to have our youthful energy here in full force again.