Dispatches | April 03, 2007
The Value of Higher Education
Over spring break, I visited paradise, aka my brother-in-law’s multi-million-dollar vacation home in Cabo San Lucas at the very tip of the Baja peninsula. A Mexican Manderlay replete with a billowing-curtained view and a balcony perched precariously above melodramatic-looking waves and boulders.
When I woke early the first morning and walked out of the guest bedroom into the living room, I found a young man who I didn’t recognize sleeping on my sister-in-law’s leather Ralph Lauren couch. Almost immediately, it became clear that he was a spring break reveler who had drunkenly lost his way along the twisted cobblestone streets and entered the wrong house. Both my husband and I had gotten lost several times, sober.
Here are the details I took in for the police once they arrived: close-cropped reddish-brown hair, slightly baggy jeans with leopard print boxers puffing out over the loosened preppie stripped belt, a wrinkled cotton, batik vacation shirt and a cell phone and Gold Card bulging out of his back pants pocket.
I committed these details to memory while I tried unwisely and unsuccessfully to rouse him from his party-induced torpor.
“Hello,” I said, five, six, seven times. “Wake up. Hello?”
Next, I ran down to the first floor to get Juanita, the housekeeper. I took a few wrong turns along the way and had to backtrack.
At the door to her apartment, I told her in Spanglish, “un hombre…” Frustrated, I made prayer hands, put them to the side of my tilted head and said, “es asleep on un sofa.” I pointed upstairs and then feeling like Lassie had her follow me to the scene of the crime.
Security was called, and his deeper, more threatening voice woke him instantly.
The four of us stared down at this male Goldilocks who said his named was Malcolm.
I had seen similarly clad frat-boy types stumbling out of El Squid Roe the night before and had commented to my husband with a note of pleasure that Cabo during spring break is a town of shirtless drunken party boys in low-riding Jam-shorts.
Malcolm buttoned up his shirt, fastened his pants, and said, “Congratulations, you have just witnessed the singularly most embarrassing moment of my life.”
“Student?” I asked.
“Stanford business school.”
“Really?” my husband said. “I went to Stanford.”
They shook hands.
“Get you anything?” my husband asked. “Coffee? Water?”
“Maybe I’ll do a few crunches,” he said, tipping his head toward the full set of weight equipment.
Juanita and the security guarded exchange confused glances at my husband’s convivialness; afterall, here was a snake in the garden. More garden snake than rattler but a snake nevertheless.
In Christopher Caldwell’s New York Times column “What a College Education Buys,” he wonders at the value of a degree that now can cost you as much as $180,000 per kid. Is it really worth it?
I’ll tell you the value of higher education-a get out of trouble free card.
“Work hard, party hard,” my husband said, as the security guard escorted Malcolm out the wrought iron gate, which Juanita locked behind them.
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