Two-thirty in the morning. That time during a shift when all there is for work is picking up the dregs of the night: the drunken stragglers, the hookers, the drug addicts or the lost souls looking for a place to go and a warm place to sleep. For me, it's time to think about gassing the car up, bringing it in and going home. But then there he is: his arm at his side, his finger lazily pointing into the street as if uncertain he even wanted a cab, his head nearly resting on his shoulder, apparently too heavy from drink or a desire to sleep. At any other time of day I would have driven right by without a second notice.
"Thanks, man," the kid says as he slides in.
Not a problem, I say. "Where to?"
He gives me an address in Brighton. I put the car into gear and we're off. With his sport jacket, wire-rimmed glasses and trimmed beard and moustache he looks like Leon Trotsky.
"Good night?" he asks.
Not really, I say. A bit slow. That or perhaps I just was in the wrong place at the wrong time all night.
"Yeah, I've felt that way a alot lately," he says with a laugh.
You a student? I ask.
"Yup," he says. "This is my next to last night."
"Yeah. I guess I'm celebrating. I've spent the last five years in Boston. I got a degree in philosophy. Now I'm going home to the West Coast to live with my Mom. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure how I feel about it all."
That's understandable, I say. Uncertainty is part of the college experience. Besides, Boston can spoil you. It's a great place to be a student. The town where I went to college was a pit. The first thing they told freshman coming in was to NEVER LEAVE THE CAMPUS.
"Really?" he laughs. "Where was this?"
"New Haven?" he asks. "What school?"
"Ya...?" his voice falls away, sounding as if he has suddenly seen a ghost. Either horrified or dumbfounded, I sense him staring at me seeking to explain this apparent disconnect. That or he is wondering if perhaps the ghost he is seeing is that of his own future.
"But wha... what did you study?"
American Studies, history mostly.
A long silence followed. Rather than try to explain to him how an Ivy League grad could be so woefully underemployed, I let it rest. Maybe he felt sorry for me, thinking, "Gee, times really must be tough." Or maybe this newly minted philosophy major started making plans for applying to business school as soon as he got home to Mom's. Or, who knows, maybe he thought to himself: "Hey, this guy seems reasonably happy. Maybe it isn't such a bad job, after all?"