Monday, March 19, 2012

"When did all the college students become alcoholics?"

That's what the nice lady on the Green line asked me as we stepped onto the incoming B Line train on Saturday night, after what seemed like a half-hour wait, during which time a parade of inebriated BC and BU students had tottered past us like a zombie march.  But I think we'd really bonded when a cab had pulled up next to the stop, and a drunken (if cute) young lout - who was crammed in the back seat with two other drunk, cute, young louts - began to harangue us.

"Hey.  HE-EYYY.  Yeah you, hey - hey lady? Lady??? Oh you're not gonna look at me?  You're not gonna  - Hey you, the guy in the gloves!  Yeah, you!  Hey, nice gloves, man.  Do you - do you believe in freedom for Palestine? Because - I do.  I do!!!  (Laughter.)  I'm sorry.  I love you all.  How much did you pay for those gloves?  'Cause my hands are fucking freezing.  I mean - hey peace out, glove man.  Love is the answer, dude!  I - yeah.  Is this -?  Are you - ? Freedom for Palestine! WHOOO-HOOOO!"

Thank God red lights eventually turn green. But during this seeming audition for the next Judd Apatow flick, it did occur to me that if only drunken college students did not imagine they were amusing, their public drunkenness would not be quite so obnoxious.  If they would only lie silently in sodden squalor, their hair greasy, their breath foul, but their mouths shut, like the fratboys slouched in a pile on the steps of the Green Line car were, I suppose St. Patrick's Day would be at least tolerable.

Of course I should note that said Green Line car smelled like a rolling aquarium filled with Jose Cuervo.  But then it had just come from Boston College - so what did I expect?  When I began working in the financial district some years ago, I was surprised at how on Fridays the Boston College graduates all came in late, or didn't show up at all.  It was finally explained to me that at BC, students could arrange their schedules to avoid Friday classes, so as one graduate put it, "We all began drinking on Thursday night." I pointed out to the young lady who shared these facts that she and her friends were not, actually, students at Boston College any longer, but to this she simply shrugged, and then I suppose tweeted to her hung-over pals something about how judgmental I was.

Now don't get me wrong; when I was in college, I got drunk at parties, too.  I'm sure I staggered across campus to my dorm room once or twice.  But no one I knew (although admittedly I went to a school, MIT, where you actually had to study) wandered about in a state of public intoxication for hours, much less most of the weekend, not even on St. Patrick's Day.  But this is now considered a normal state of affairs; the annual squalid spectacle in Southie has by now spread across the the landscape, and smaller-scaled re-enactments of it are a staple of city life - believe me I know, on weekend nights I'm often on the Green Line, that cattle car between the stockyards of BC and the meat markets downtown.  So by now I know all the tricks - the Aquafina bottles filled with vodka, the Dunkin Donuts cups brimming with Jack, I've even see jiggly jello shots shared from a little cooler.

Although I really shouldn't single out BC, I suppose; frat boys at my alma mater actually killed a freshman with alcohol, after all, back in the nineties.  And Kenmore Station, which was teeming with college kids from all over, resembled a scene from The Walking Dead; a pale young lady with a black eye and green cloverleaves bobbing from her head slowly crept along the wall, as another rubbed her ankles, having taken off her eight-inch whore heels after an apparent tumble.  A young man had a long vomit stain on his shirt, which I'm sure he'd done his best to rub off (thank you!) before hitting the next stop on his "crawl"; meanwhile another one, grinning from ear to ear, was listlessly brandishing a metal rod he had torn off a gate; his squinty, red eyes told you he was stoned as well as drunk.  Looking at them all, I did wonder just how jammed local AA meetings would become over the next decade or so.  I also wondered how this sad state of affairs came about.  Virginia Woolf once opined that human nature "changed on or about December 1910."  So when did this transition occur - and how?


  1. I did my undergrad at SUNY Purchase, which has a reputation for being one of the "druggiest" schools in America, but I never saw such consistent and out of control public displays of inebriation as I witnessed when I arrived at Boston College as a graduate student and had to ride the B-line on a daily basis.

  2. Yeah, all the colleges are bad, but it's getting out of control at BC. I believe it is illegal to drink on the T. I don't see how slurping your alcohol out of a water bottle or Dunkin Donuts cup changes that. You'd think T drivers could play a role in ending this particular pastime.

  3. Would it be taking the easy way out to blame the economic downturn? I'm not much for public inebriation, but as a struggling grad student I can attest that lately the future is looking somewhat bleaker. Lots to worry about regarding economic prospects for myself and everyone I care about. It's... rather enough to make you crave a good stiff drink.

  4. I hear you, but somehow I don't get the sense from these Green Line revelers that they're morose because of economic statistics.

  5. I've been seeing a high level of public drunkeness on the Green Line since the 1990s. If I consider that I found this rather disturbing back then, and I should be jaded at this point, it's entirely possible that it might be worse now-- but I suspect at least some of it represents the student culture of BC and BU since those are the two major schools on the B-line.