It is the center of the University. Most students, faculty and staff pass through it at least once a day. It has been the site of countless protests, study sessions, rendezvous, metaphysical debates, romances. It is the most lively space on campus, not just between 9 and 5. Here’s what happened from last Thursday at noon to last Friday at noon – a typical day on the Diag.
Four students toss a Frisbee. It’s the peak of the day, but the mercury doesn’t reflect it. It’s barely 50 degrees – the coolest day of the semester to date. Activity on the Diag is markedly slower than during the past week. A girl in a cut-off jean skirt and Ugg boots walks by with a raspy cough. Holding bright blue buckets, the Michigan Gospel Chorale collects donations for its annual tour. Michigan Independent staffers distribute papers.
Members of The Gospel Chorale have a while to go if they hope to meet their goal to raise the $40,000 needed for their tour. “If you don’t have money, just prayer helps,” one collector says as people pass.
Traffic on the Diag picks up, filling with students headed for their 2 p.m. classes.
Two Mormon missionaries stand on the steps of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library. Their plastic nametags read “Elder Reyes” and “Elder Wade.” They smile and chat casually with students but don’t aggressively recruit anyone.
Engineering freshmen Nader Awni and LSA freshman Alex Chow and Karen Stasevich try their hand at “squirrel fishing.” Their bait of choice – a sun-dried tomato bagel from the Betsy Barbour cafeteria tied to a string – isn’t popular with the squirrels. After struggling to attach an acorn to the string, the three decide peanuts would have been a better choice.
Eight freshmen from Mary Markley Residence Hall play their weekly game of “extreme croquet” on the grassy knoll by the flag pole. The game is extreme, they say, because they talk in “ridiculous British accents.” They talk about their desire to play on the turf of Michigan Stadium or University President Mary Sue Coleman’s lawn. Someday they want to venture into playing bocce ball and lawn darts and expand into an “extreme lawn sports” club.
Tom Goss, the University researcher who plays the harmonica near the UGLi, has broken out a pair of spoons and a washboard to supplement his jams. He also carries half a dozen harmonicas – all in a major key.
Wade and Reyes have joined in a game of hacky sack with a group of high school kids standing near the corner of North University Avenue and State Street. The missionaries ask the kids if they like Limp Bizkit. They laugh and say they do.
The bricks nearest the “M” get a fresh chalking. A team from Random Acts of Kindness leaves feel-good messages to strangers and to friends. LSA junior Mira Samet writes “Have a fantastic Friday.” Others draw rainbows. They quickly test their hopscotch board before flitting away.
The sun begins to set over Angell Hall. Eight minutes later, half the street lamps come on. It will take another 15 minutes before they all glow.
A girl on her cell phone checks her watch. She declares to the person on the other end of the line, “I haven’t smoked in two days!”
Ann Arbor residents Adam Taylor and Greg Albert throw a Frisbee back and forth. Over the past eight hours, a Frisbee has been almost perpetually gliding through the air. Taylor and Albert have some close calls, but the disc doesn’t hit anyone. Their record of hitting only 10 people in two years remains intact.
A street sweeper meanders through the Diag, narrowly avoiding the Frisbee. Taylor and Albert have a history with street sweepers. They once chased one half a mile after the machine gobbled up their Frisbee. The chase only ended after the disc lodged in the machine, jamming it to a halt.
A student’s faith in humanity is restored. After leaving his bicycle unlocked for two days, he returns to find it exactly where he left it near West Hall. It is seatless, but the seat was missing before he left it unattended. He takes a triumphant lap around the Diag.
Nature calls for an LSA freshman. He runs toward the shrubs next to the graduate library but fails to notice the chain surrounding the bushes. He falls. Undeterred, he gets up and urinates into the bushes. Groups of students filter through the Diag. Many say they are headed for Necto. Most are wearing cowboy boots.
The temperature has dipped below freezing. The Diag is empty. Across the street at Ingalls Mall, two cars idle next to a small canvas tent, which business sophomore Brad Clemons is guarding. A sign on the tent, embroidered with a dragon, reads, “Seventh Annual CESS Conference.” Clemons says he has no idea what’s inside. Clemons is being paid $10 an hour to watch the tent for his father’s security company. He spends the night in his teal GM pickup truck, running the engine to stay warm and working on homework for accounting.
Keeping him company is Steve Burns, a self-described retiree of the “50-hour work week, 50 weeks a year.” Now he spends his days poking around in trashcans to “alleviate the boredom of retirement.” His thick glasses jut out from his face. He has a long white beard. Burns wears a headlamp – the cheapest model they had at Wal-Mart – to help him sort through the trashcans. The bulb is dim. Burns and Clemons talk about Ann Arbor in the sixties, the anti-gay preachers on the Diag earlier in the week and “anthropomorphistic ventriloquism” – Burns’s explanation for why trees seem to talk to him. In the background, jazz from WEMU wafts from Burns’s Plymouth sedan.
LSA freshman David Kim stands outside Mason Hall, taking a break from his philosophy paper. It’s one of three he plans to write during his all-nighter. He wears dog tags that say “BALLS ON THE TABLE.”
Alex Demidov, a physics graduate student, passes through on his way to a spinning class at a local gym.
Two ROTC cadets walk to their 6 a.m. march, fully outfitted in camouflage field uniforms.
A third cadet rushes by, his water bottles and backpack bobbing up and down. He steadies his helmet with his hand as he strides across the “M.”
The first white maintenance truck of the morning along the perimeter of the Diag.
After spending the night editing his dissertation, Rackham student Rafael Portillo heads toward the Fishbowl to print out the final copy, which he will turn in later this morning.
Daybreak. Splashes of light spill out from behind the UGLi.
Demidov returns from his spinning class.
Three students loaded down with camping gear walk toward the C.C. Little Science Building to meet for a mineralogy field trip to Canada.
Sandy Colledge arrives, holding a poster with “His pain your gain” written above a picture of a cross. She wears an ankle-length denim skirt and a blue T-shirt with “JESUS” spelled in the shape of the Star of David. Occasionally, she softly sings “Jesus is the way, Jesus is the answer, have a little talk with Jesus.”
A campus tour of prospective students centers around the “M.” Colledge stops singing. She resumes once the tour wanders off.
A game of Frisbee starts up.
This article was reported by Daily staff reporters Anne VanderMey, Drew Philp, David Mekelburg, Arikia Millikan, Walter Nowinski, Amanda Markowitz, Gabe Nelson, Brian Tengel, Katie Mitchell, Ron Harlow, Whitney Pow and Dorian Tyus. They observed the Diag from noon on Thursday, Sept. 28 to noon on Friday, Sept. 29.