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COLUMN

All Shook Up

Katie Jeffreys

I am getting annoyed with all the construction going on in Boston. My vexation does not stem from the traffic congestion and pedestrian detours. Instead I am truly agitated by the constant earth-shaking tremors caused by the construction process. I am not sure what precisely causes these convulsions, but whenever I sit in a building near a construction site, it shakes. The shaking distracts and worries me, permeates all aspects of my life, and serves as a symbol of the construction boom that has hit MIT and the Boston area this year.

Sitting in the student center, I can feel the rumbles from the new athletic center next door. I’m an engineer, and I can’t help but wonder how much the tremors affect the stability of the building. I have to think that all this shaking is weakening some foundation, causing fractures in the material that makes up the walls, and altogether will shorten the life of the building. Not to mention that it has always seemed rather precariously constructed in that inverted-pyramid shape.

In Building 48, where my environmental engineering classes are, I can feel shaking from the construction of the Stata Center across the street. In one lecture hall in particular, the shaking is so bad that it causes a table in the room to constantly quiver and squeak. So not only am I distracted and annoyed by the constant physical sensation of shaking, but I have to try to block out an annoying noise. And of course it is one of those noises that, once you hear it, is impossible to ignore. So there I sit in class, struggling not only to stay awake and learn something, but simply to refrain from running out of the building to escape the incessant motion.

In my room at home in Kenmore Square, there is construction down the street where the IHOP used to be. It rattles my windows and shakes me awake on mornings I would otherwise be sleeping. Unlike the campus construction, the site is about a block away. I fear more for the well-being of my poor old brownstone than I do the cement student center. I wonder if my window will break or if my things will fall off their shelves. I also feel bad for all the residents of Kenmore who live closer to the construction than I do.

Perhaps I am over-sensitive. I ask people if they notice the shaking, and a few say so before I mention it; of course once I do, some of them become plagued as I have been. But I have always been able to detect when the ground beneath me is rocking. I remember once when I was younger, I felt an earthquake. When my parents were tucking me into bed for the night, I felt the whole room quiver a little, and thought the trinkets on my shelf rattled a bit. My dad told me I was mistaken, and that he had just accidentally kicked my bed. Yet in the paper the next morning the headline announced that some fault in western Illinois had caused an earthquake that was felt across the state.

I wonder what living somewhere like California must be like, where earthquakes are frequent and unexpected. Unions, not nature, determine when Boston will shake. I have grown accustomed to the daily tremors to some extent, so that they no longer take me by surprise. And so far no buildings I have been in have crumbled around me simply because of the effects of the construction.