In the middle of the sidewalk that leads to my office is a giant bronze replica of the university seal. There’s a tradition that if you step on the seal, you’ll fail your finals. I hear guides passing this tradition on all the time to tours of prospective students. At school year’s end, I’ve seen students in their graduation robes jumping up and down on the seal in a celebratory act of desecration.
A couple weeks ago, I was walking to my office, and a cluster of prospective (or maybe newly admitted) students and parents were standing around the seal as the guide explained the taboo. As I walked past them, I abruptly stepped sideways with one foot to tread on the seal, then continued immediately on my way. Parents chuckled. I didn’t catch the guide’s reaction.
I’m not really sure why that kind of civil religion annoys me so much. It’s tempting to overanalyze, but I have other things to do.