The finished board. Courtesy of Jordan Zaslow

So many things that could’ve been, aired to the public in colorful chalk.

New York City moves quickly; it takes something particular for its people to stand still for a moment. Something like a chalkboard inscribed with “Write Your Biggest Regret” in lower Manhattan’s Petrosino Square.

In a video released last week, the media company A Plus documented what happened when passing pedestrians were asked to stop and divulge their regrets in colorful chalk. The chalkboard hung in front of the square for a full day, and the responses, which range from “not getting my MBA” to “not saying ‘I love you,’” speak to remorse over chances not taken.

How people reacted to the board, though, says something about what it takes for city dwellers to break from their routines and actually take one of those chances.

“When we hung the board up in the morning, people were hesitant,” says Jordan Zaslow, who produced the video. “People just passed by, kind of looking at it like it was interesting.”

Those were all the people taking photos on their phones—a much more common type of participation—in the beginning of the video, she says.

The first person to write on the board, Zaslow tells CityLab, was a young woman who had stood watching for a while, then went up and wrote: “Not following my artistic passions.”

From there, “it was like a mob mentality,” Zaslow says. “The board just filled up.”

It’s easy to think of cities as depersonalized places; this project is one that attempts to counter that image. Like artist Candy Chang’s “Before I Die” walls, now seen all over the world, the regret blackboard reminded participants that “there are always other people experiencing the same things, even if they don’t realize it,” Zaslow says. That was the original point and charm of the love locks that years ago sprung up on Europe’s bridges. (They’ve since been removed.)

At the end of the day, Zaslow wiped the board clean. But she’ll remember people standing there, “talking to each other, bonding over a common nostalgia.”

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