First Parish of Honda #6: Family Vacation(s)

This is part of an ongoing series; the memoirs of a theologian as an Uber driver in Boston. See part 1, and the previous installment.

Family vacation is the theme for the week.

A young family on vacation from California. When they got into the car, they were in the midst of a tense, albeit not boisterous, conversation about the person watching their house allowing some tree service people into their yard to cut branches, when they were just supposed to be surveying. The wife was very upset that the husband had not explicitly told the woman watching the house to not let that happen.

They were silent the whole rest of the trip to their tour of Fenway. Perhaps it was also that it was 8am (who goes out at 8am on vacation? Over-achievers who bought a 9am tour of a baseball stadium, that’s who). I was not sure of what, if any, responsibility I had to try and cheer them all up. I tried asking about their trip, where they were from. The wife, who was in the front seat, was polite, but vague. And brief. “What have you guys seen so far?” I asked.

“We got here two days ago. We’ve seen some things.”

Clearly no one was in the mood to be chipper.

A suburban mom in workout garb. Her husband had taken her keys with him to work and she had no way to get to the gym. She gave me a nice tip. Not a family vacation vignette, I guess. That one’s on the house.

A couple going on vacation to Bermuda. Their three young kids came out to wave at me and see their parents off. It was very precious. The two were both professors. My best guess is psychology.

A thought: You do gain a lot of critical thinking and observational skills as an Uber driver. When people are not interested in talking to me, I do try to eavesdrop and try to piece together some sense of people’s lives, trying to read between the lines. They spoke of labs and research and department politics, but didn’t quite come off like natural scientists.

A young man not much older than myself. Skinny. Talkative, polite, winsome, articulate. Tastefully, but casually, dressed. The slightest British accent. He’s American by birth but lives in London. He comes here for a part-time remote masters program. I picked him up on his way to meet up with his family at a nearby hotel, who flew to see him while he was here for seminars for a few days. We had a really great conversation, he was very curious about my studies and asked a lot of questions about what I thought about the relevance of faith in today’s world.

“You know, it’s funny, a large majority of the people in this masters program [which deals with international public policy and business, I think. Kind of a cosmopolitan do-gooders program for high-achievers] come from some faith background. I was talking to this one guy and faith came up, he said ‘I coulnd’t bear the world, or try to make it better, without some sense of faith.’”

He wanted to know more about the nuts and bolts about how my career and life look like. We talked briefly about doctoral students surviving through the strategy of finding a bread-winning spouse (#winning). He made an off-hand comment about the search for a husband, by which I assumed he was gay.

We picked up his parents and backtracked to drop them off where they were going for dinner. He was clearly so very happy to see them. He was proud to show them around this part of town that he knew well from his visits here for his program, and take them to a fun restaurant he had picked out. His mother was sweet, so joyful at their reunion.

His father was, frustratingly, stand-offish. This was despite his son’s many earnest attempts to graciously invite him into warmth and conversation. “How are things, dad?”

“Oh, uh…[mumbles] you know me, my life is nothing interesting…”

It seemed sad. This successful, young, man was desperate for his father’s love, and for an authentic connection with him. Perhaps the man was just tired, perhaps depressed, perhaps ill, perhaps just quiet and self-deprecating. Perhaps I would be reading too much into it to read it through the lens of the stereotypical macho-blue-collar-father-who-can’t-accept-his-gay-son trope, but that’s what it felt like. And it made me sad. It was sad, whatever the explanation.

Family vacation.

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