Who is this unknowable figure? Why does he inflict outdated Eminem upon the innocent?
The ripples of the pandemic still affect everything on campus. Besides the obvious mask policies and the randomly selected testing, COVID-19’s reach manipulates the subtle aspects of TU culture. Club traditions pre-COVID have now been lost, these memories living in the minds of graduates and seniors left behind. The desolate RAW writing club sits untouched, gathering dust and losing its sheen. Those yellow bikes, once spotted daily, now remain locked away for our safety. The Collegian’s doors, covered with scraps and usually encroached in darkness, once had packed rooms for Monday in-person pitch meetings and now lives in the shadow of what it once was. Discouragement and nostalgia loom over current clubs’ affairs, what has been lost has gone away to time and what remains is a tangible sense of pessimism.
With in-person classes still chugging along, students can find a sense of normalcy and hope once again: he has returned. Rumors sparked from the first day of the semester; whispers circulated in the hallways. Sightings of him kindled new life in the students with winter depression. He is back, the silent guardian, the man who holds this university upon his shoulders without breaking a sweat. Him.
You’re familiar with him. Maybe you’ve never made eye contact or looked upon his indistinguishable, usually leather trenchcoated figure, but you know him. We all are equally aware of him: the man with the speaker who walks around between classes, playing his bad music and not giving a shit who hears it. For minutes, he shines on the stage of your irritable thoughts, and once you lose each other, slipping away into separate paths or classrooms, you forget him completely. The sounds of “Sicko Mode” may continue to echo in the back of your mind, an omnipresent reminder of your encounter, but you will never organically remember the man with the speaker—not until you see him again the next time you are walking to class.
The organization for this guild of Speaker Men is ungraspable; it is hard to say how many are positioned on campus at any given moment. One will extinguish at the end of their college run, and another chosen one’s flame will alight. They are unknowable, and they are a constant. To see a man with a speaker and shitty music again cements a balance on a pandemic-struck campus because they are comfortingly familiar—normal, maybe.
A Collegian writer (one of the three) attempted to corner a Speaker Man for an interview earlier this week during his third play of “Mo Bamba.” Surely, the writer alleged, they saw his face, spoke to him even, but they cannot remember a single feature nor what he said. His melodious form ebbed away like the tide, leaving the interviewer with the faint smell of musk, fucking “Mo Bamba” stuck in their head and empty resolution.
However, word has it that students have spotted a Speaker Man to-and-fro Collins Hall. The search for a new provost lured several underqualified, disappointing applicants, and some point to his presence in the administrative building as evidence of his entrance into collegiate politics. Whatever his newfound purpose may be, he serves as essential to the day-to-day workings of any campus, and he is the bestower of the college experience. He is the foundation for an effective return to in-person classes. He is the ordinary, the lost normalcy. He is the man with the speaker.