You’ve gotta love serious people.
“Dan,” my new friend from the superfluous class, showed up to Jay’s precisely on time. And he didn’t waste my time with a confirmation call; he just did what he said.
We walked in together. I greeted Michele (again, that’s mi-KEL-ay, the Italian version of Michael), who pointed to his largest table. By the time we sat, he was on his way over with a menu.
“Their kitchen is open,” he said, referring to the Italian restaurant next door. “Only the lunch menu.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “Thanks.”
“I’ll call it over; you send the kid to get it?”
I agreed, then turned to Dan, who was already nodding his understanding.
“Two of my friends will be here in a few minutes,” he said. “They’re delivering passengers and coming right after.”
He looked over the menu.
“I can order for them.”
As I waited for him to look over the menu (I already knew what I wanted), Dan looked at me and said, “My name isn’t really Dan… I use that until I’m certain about someone; my real name is Nikos.”
“Then Nikos it is,” I said.
We put our order together and handed it to Michele just as Nikos’ two friends walked in. I was introduced to Johnny and Adam. I don’t think any of the three are past 30, meaning that they’ll have some different cultural assumptions than I do, and I find that kind of interesting.
I intended to start the conversation slowly, but these three had a need to jump into it fast. Within seconds I was answering questions about Bitcoin: where it came from, how it worked, why the status quo hates it, and so on. I enjoyed it quite a lot.
From there we went to questions about the larger world: politics, war, and government in general. Then, as we were finishing our food, we had one of those silent moments that pop up unexpectedly. Nikos ended it with a serious question:
“Look, I think you understand a lot about this, so I’d like you to give it to me straight.
Are we going to succeed in these things we’re doing, or will we be snuffed out?”
“That depends on how you look at it,” I said. They probably thought I was weaseling out of a real answer, but they gave me the benefit of the doubt and waited for me to continue.
“First of all, you’re winning already. You guys are living life your own way, and please believe me, that’s a very big deal. I suppose this makes me sound like the proverbial old guy, but I’ve watched such things for 40 or 50 years now – living by your own wits is something that will make you far better men. Whether or not your financial fortunes skyrocket, the progress of your soul will, and that’s a very big deal.
“Now as for giving you a better lifestyle, that’s going to be less certain. In general it will, but you’ll face obstacles, and maybe a lot of them. And some small percentage of your friends may get hurt along the way. Honestly, that’s why I want to help – I want to keep that percentage down.
“And in the long run you’ll succeed too, but that will take decades at least.” They didn’t look very happy at that prospect.
“What this really is,” I continued, “is evolution. Humanity is slowly improving, and the great blockage in front of us is a system of rulership that’s basically unchanged since the Bronze Age. It’s a long-outdated, barbaric system of control and extortion, and it needs to go… and sooner or later it will go.
“Look at yourselves: What are you doing that’s truly harmful? You’re providing services that people willingly pay for. And for this you should be harassed, threatened, and possibly punished? That’s nuts. It’s primitive and it’s barbaric.”
And there I stopped dead, wanting to let the thought sink in if at all possible. And they did leave it sit for a minute or so.
Finally Nikos spoke up. “Johnny, tell Paul and Adam what you told me earlier about driving for Uber.”
Johnny nodded and collected his thoughts. “Okay… my brother – he works at a bank – was giving me grief because I wouldn’t drive for Uber… that I could pick up extra rides and that I was being stupid to turn them down.”
“So what did you tell him?” Adam and I asked at the same time.
“I said that, yeah, I could make money with Uber, but their bosses are pigs. They try to hurt Lyft and anyone who drives for them, and they think they’re super-geniuses rather than mostly lucky. But he didn’t understand at all.”
We all nodded and waited for Johnny, who looked like he had something more to say.
“If all I wanted was easy cash,” he went on, “I’d go on disability and get my girlfriend on that babysitting program. It pays two or three hundred a week for nothing. But I’m not gonna chase just any scrap and I’m not gonna live as a parasite.”
I decided right there that I liked this guy.
“I’ll tell you what else,” Nikos added. “As soon as they can, Uber will play the same dirty tricks on everyone else that the cabbies played on them. Oh, and they treat women like crap too. Screw ’em.”
“Screw ’em,” we all agreed.
The conversation continued a bit further, but soon enough it was time to get back to work. We pitched in to cover the food and drinks, and we made a standing date for the first and third Thursday of every month at 2:00 pm. I promised that I’d be at the next one and for as many others as I could.
I walked to the train station feeling hopeful in a way I hadn’t in a long time. And by the time I made it to the corner, I realized that I was feeling the hopefulness of youth. And even knowing that youth was often misguided in their hopefulness, I decided to savor it for as long as I could… it had been a long time.