That guy would not be out there on a skateboard if it were raining.
Red Square a few weeks ago. There's no way that guy will be out there on his skateboard once it starts raining. Christopher Frizzelle

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When I was an undergrad at the University of Washington, I thought Red Square (all those bricks) and Suzzallo Library (look at it!) and were just beautiful. Dignified, old-timey, inspiring, conducive to learning... all that.

No. Sure, it's a big expanse of space like you rarely find anywhere else. But it's a big gigantic space that wants to hurt you. What everyone who's starting at UW today will learn the first day there's even a hint of moisture in the air—a thick fog, a light drizzle, a proper rain—is that there is nothing dignified or inspiring about falling on a slick-surfaced red-brick plaza in in front of 44,000 of your peers.

It was about a month after school started the first time I fell in Red Square. Ooof. Man. Ouch. People saw me. They tried to make it seem like they hadn't seen me. I felt wet and looked-away-from. I tried to continue walking like I was fine even though the whole side of my body was hurt and damp. I tried to sit in class like a person who hadn't just been humiliated in front of God and everyone.

And after that, I put a lot of effort into never falling in Red Square anymore. I wore shoes with more grab, I tried only to walk on those concrete lines bisecting the bricks, I tried to walk slowly and pay attention, etc. One day I was walking up the brick steps between the statue of George Washington and Red Square and I was thinking, "Okay, when you get up to the top of the steps, don't fall, don't fall, pay attention, be carefu—"

And then I fell on the steps. Which are also brick. And slick. Do you know what hurts more than falling on the flat surface of Red Square? Falling on the brick steps leading up to Red Square, because there are so many more edges and there is farther to fall. Thud, thud, thud, thud, thud. Gah! Holy shit that one hurt.

Ive seen a lot of people fall right here where Kane Hall meets Red Square. The overhang makes you think you can let down your guard a little, because the bricks are dry, but your shoes are still wet.
I've seen a lot of people fall right here where Kane Hall meets Red Square. The overhang makes you think you can let down your guard a little, because the bricks are dry, but your shoes are still wet. And then ooop! Christopher Frizzelle

Recently I did a little light googling to figure out why the hell someone would pave a gigantic plaza at a public university in the city most known for rain with bricks. According to Wikipedia, the reason is: cars. Red Square reportedly used to be a field, and then...

In 1969, the field was excavated, an underground parking garage was built, and the engineers who designed the garage thought that the rain on the grass would leak into the garage, leading to the choice of a distinctive red brick surface. Cassandra Amesely, then an editor of the student paper The Daily, convinced the student population to refer to the area as Red Square, presumably in reference to the color of the brick.

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In short: Everything about Red Square is stupid, and the reason it exists is because of the brainpower parking-garage engineers. Think about that the next time you break your neck out there. And be careful. And wear shoes with lots of tread. And when you see someone else fall, try really hard not to laugh.

If you want more advice about college life, check out The Stranger's 2015 Back to School guide.

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