On my way back from a molecular biology review session, I ran into a peculiar fellow using a public Columbia computing terminal. He had a shell session going and was working on a bit of HTML. This was the first time I have ever seen somebody hacking away at a public terminal here and I was pretty impressed… until I recognized him by the shabby clothing, untidy hair, and abundance of personal belongings at his side.
Me: Hey, didn’t I see you on Broadway last week, and didn’t I give you a dollar? Who…?
Guy [turning slowly]: I believe you did, thank you very much. I remember every dollar these days. I got this great web hosting package for just 99 cents a month, see?
Me: That’s quite an impressive bit of work you’ve got there. Where did you learn web design?
Guy: As a kid… I’d always loved this stuff. It’s easy and natural to me.
Me: So why don’t you have a job?
Guy: Oh, I had a job. I had a college education and I had a nice apartment. But fuck that. You know what I mean?
Me: No… I don’t.
Guy: Aww, come on. A Columbia student like you can’t see how fucked up this society is? I mean, the government sucks, the economy sucks, everything sucks. We live in an illusion of freedom and all y’all idiots are still celebrating your false liberty. Don’t you see? We’re all fucked. There’s no hope!
Me: So you wanted out? This can’t be the only way…
Guy: Damn straight. At least your wonderful society gave me the freedom to get out. And you know what? It’s been great.
Me: How long has it been?
Guy: Ha, been out of the system for almost five years now. I’ve moved a few times, but I figured that I’d have a permanent homepage so my old pals could still find me if they cared. It’s good that your libraries and schools still let me use the computers, ’cause it’s the only thing keeping me sane in this fucked up world.
Me: Have your old pals looked for you?
Guy [sighing]: No. Fuck friends, I ain’t got any. Say, why aren’t you studying?
Me: How did you know I’ve exams?
Guy: It’s all these young ones’d talk about around here these days. Me, I don’t need company. Go on. Go on.
Part of going to school in the City is about meeting all sorts of interesting people.