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What’s the deal with bikes in the trees?

| Tuesday, January 21, 2020

When I visited Notre Dame during the summer of my junior year of high school, it was nothing short of memorable. The tulips around the Basilica’s Jesus Statue had fully bloomed as the Golden Dome radiated sunlight on this 60 degree day. The grass was perfectly cut in a pattern without a blade out of place. The entire campus seemed to be the epitome of perfection. I gaped at my surroundings, taking in the beauty of Notre Dame’s campus as my tour group ventured past Zahm House and into North Quad. The buildings looked impeccable, Stonehenge fountain was a nice added touch and Breen-Phillips Hall looked like a dorm straight out of Hogwarts. As we made our way past Breen-Phillips, I noticed the first blemish I had seen thus far on my tour: a bike hanging from a tree. 

When I first saw it, I just didn’t understand. Why on this Earth would anyone do that? Was it some kind of tradition? Was it just a prank? Did someone think it added a nice touch to the spring landscape? Instead of being extroverted and actually asking my tour guide why a bike was hanging in a tree, I shrugged it off. Surely this was just another stupid tradition. After spending a semester on campus, I have seen just how widespread this tradition is. And it might be my favorite one. The reason I enjoy this tradition is not because I think it’s funny. I just love this tradition because it shows what Notre Dame is best at: preparing people for the real world.

I have had the debate of whether this tradition is cruel or not with many people, and there have been varying responses. Some people, probably the ones who have had their bikes tossed into a tree, claim it’s a cruel tradition. I mean, what happens if you are absolutely racing to print out a paper at Hes five minutes before it’s due and you don’t have time to lock your bike? Or what if you’re late to class? I understand how heartbreaking both of these scenarios are. I have been rushing to finish a paper on time, and I definitely have been late to class before. However, the real world would not be so kind as to throw your bike in a tree. 

Let’s take the example of being late to class. If you lock your bike you are going to be 10 entire seconds late to your microeconomics class and probably get reamed by your professor for being late. So, you decide to throw your bike into a bush and just sprint down the hallways of DeBart to just barely make it on time. Unfortunately, when you walk out of class, your bike is now the latest decoration on a tree. It may seem like the end of the world, but there is one positive takeaway: At least you still have your bike. In the real world, it would go more like this:

You are driving your car through traffic to make it to a meeting on time. You are so late you have to speed, make crazy turns, veer into a parking spot and immediately sprint inside with papers flying out of your briefcase. Now, imagining you somehow didn’t get into an accident, blow a red light and get pulled over or get pulled over for speeding, you think you’re safe. But you’re not. Because, guess what? Your car is unlocked and the keys are inside. Oh, and your job is in downtown Chicago. In your best scenario, your car will still be there when you get back. In your worst scenario, it won’t. And quite honestly, the latter isn’t entirely unlikely. I really hope that meeting was worth the $55,000 BMW with a “GO IRISH” license plate that you were willing to give up to make it there. I know it probably wasn’t. 

If you can’t learn in college to be early and to lock your bike (or car), then you are doomed for the real world. People aren’t going to be kind souls and simply throw your bike into a tree and have a good laugh about it. Instead, you would be one of the two million people who have their bike disappear every year in North America. Or worse, you could be one of the nearly 750,000 people who have their car stolen every year. Notre Dame prides itself on being a University that has the most prepared graduates. It’s one of the main reasons why the success of Irish alumni is through the roof. Although this might be a stupid tradition, it fits into Notre Dame’s mission to truly cultivate smart and successful graduates who are prepared for the real world. So, next time your bike gets thrown in the tree, just laugh and appreciate the tradition. Nobody here is trying to be mean to you — they’re just trying to help you learn.

Tommy Diehl is a freshman from the Chicago area majoring in science business and global affairs. When he’s not writing for The Observer, he can be found playing guitar, running or cheering for the Cardinals and the Packers. Tommy loves feedback and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @tommydiehl5.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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