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A Mob is Ugly
First Day
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I met Martin in April of my senior year. I left school a period earlier, because the philosophy professor had cancelled class. I wasted many hours waiting for rides, and that afternoon I'd use my new-found time doing a term paper at the 42nd Street Library. But I was the only person on the Deegan, and that was a problem; nobody was stopping. Being too early on the road was just as bad as being too late. Drivers felt comfortable picking up teenage boys in jackets and ties—when there were many of them. I looked down at my watch and figured that in forty minutes I'd be surrounded by the regular afternoon shift of Iona hitchhikers. When I looked up, a yellow Buick convertible was pulling over to the curb. The driver's sun-burnt head and sunny smile turned to me. "Hop in, hop in, hitchhiker!" he shouted in a voice as gleeful as the color of his car.

As soon as I pulled the door shut, he hit the gas and swerved back onto the Deegan. "Hang on. I'm a terrible driver." He was also an honest man; steering took a back seat to communication. He was the most animated man I had ever met, and I liked him immediately. "Where are you going? Where do I drop you off?"

"Manhattan. The East Side—or anywhere south from here."
"I'm going to the West Side. Greenwich Village. My new home. But I'm going down the FDR. Is that good for you?"

"Seventy-third on the Drive is great."

"Great... I teach in the Bronx, but I took the day off to move. I live with my sister and her family in Mount Vernon. Ten minutes from Iona.... You are Iona, right?"

"This is my last year. I'm going to Fordham next year for a Master's degree in teaching."

"School won't teach you to be a teacher. You go to school for the license to teach. Only teaching will teach you how to teach—up to a point, of course, because teachers are born, not made. But you'll be a good teacher." His optimism shone in his smiling eyes.

"How can you tell?"

"Hitchhikers make good teachers. Everyone knows that. They're independent... trusting... patient... resolute... adventuresome... fearless... and, most important, they can stand for hours—all necessary requisites for the good teacher. But teachers are not necessarily good drivers."

At 73rd Street, he swerved off the FDR onto the service road to drop me off. He wished me luck in teaching, I wished him luck in his new city home, and after waving goodbye with both hands, he grabbed the wheel and aimed the car for the FDR. Walking the three blocks to my house, I realized it had taken me four years to hitch a ride in a convertible.

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