So I’m walking on the Northeastern campus and it’s deserted because of the holidays when a kid of about 12 approaches me.
Excuse me. Do you have a phone I can borrow? I’m supposed to meet my cousin and I have no idea where he’s at, he says. Can I borrow your phone to call him and find out where he is?
My first thought is, poor thing, so I say sorry sweetie I left my phone at home (which I had) but maybe we can figure something out. For a second I think I’ll tell him to look for a pay phone and give him some change but I don’t think there is a payphone anywhere nearby. Are there payphones at all anymore? And there’s a Northeastern college student walking toward us listening to his iphone so I stop him and say excuse us do you have a phone we can borrow. He, I say, gesturing toward the kid, needs to make a call and I don’t have my phone. And the international student takes out his earbuds and turns off the tunes and loads the phone app and gives the phone to the kid. So the kid dials his cousin and that’s when the little hum which I had been ignoring turned into a buzz and I thought, oh, shit. This kid is playing us and is going to run off with the international student’s phone and it’ll be my fault. There was no real reason for me not to trust the kid. Though his request was a little unusual, it seemed more ingenuous than conniving. But that’s how they get you isn’t it?
As the kid is talking to his cousin I’m getting nervous because time has slowed and the conversation seems to be taking an inordinately long time. It wasn’t, it just seemed to be. I start carefully edging closer to the kid thinking if he tries to bolt with the phone, I’ll grab him by the hoodie and he won’t get far. The international student and I stand watch.
The kid gets off the phone with his cousin and says Burger King. He’s at Burger King. He hands the phone back to the international student. Do you know where that is we ask him? No, he says, but it’s easy enough to give him directions and he goes off on his way.
Thank you, I say to the international Northeastern student. Thank you very much. That was really nice of you. And he nods and goes on his way probably thinking easy for you to say, lady, it wasn’t your phone at risk.