If you’re anything like me, your favorite part of traveling is the TSA security line at the airport. Even pre-pandemic, it was a model of good vibes and efficiency. But I kid! (I actually think that TSA, like the post office, does an admirable job under Herculean circumstances. Let the hate tweets commence! #IoncehadaletterthandidntarrivesothepostofficesucksandtheTSAisfullofpeopkerejectedbytheCIAbecausetgeyenjoyedenhancedinterrogationalittletoomuch (hashtag misspellings are also a thing on Twitter)
But in this case I and the two women behind me in last Sunday’s Logan Airport security did have a legitimate gripe…they had opened up a new line so that people who had been way behind us now got through security ahead of us. So we did what all red-blooded patriotic Americans do when confronted by such injustice: we griped. Loudly enough so that the TSA would hopefully overhear us, but not so loudly that they would, um, escort us from the premises.
In the course of our griping, we eventually turned to chatting (when someone else in line asked if we were together, I said, “No, we’re just chatting. You remember chatting, right?”) And it turns out Maya and her mom had just returned from visiting Harvard, to which she had recently been admitted.
Now, I have very fond feelings about Harvard. Unlike high school, which I only appreciated in retrospect, I had a great time in college. I acted, was the arts editor of the Harvard Crimson, learned a little, officially became a Christian, and made several forever friends, to use my forever friend Dr. Mallika Marshall’s phrase.
To me, the most amazing thing about Harvard is the people you meet there. And, as I explained to Maya, despite the popular perception, Harvard is not full of brainiacs with perfect test scores.
No, what Harvard collects is talent. My classmates at Harvard went on to become a household name movie star, the first TV “Bachelor,” the Attorney General of Massachusetts (Rhode Island’s former governor and our current Commerce Secretary was one year after us, I believe), and on and on. One of my first year roommates is conducting a Moderna trial on safety and efficacy in 12-15 year olds, and I confidently predict another friend and classmate will be on the Supreme Court before Biden’s term is up.
In short, Harvard is where you go to meet the extraordinary people who will shape the rest of your life, as you will shape theirs. And I basically begged Maya, who seems an extraordinary young woman, to join their ranks. College is not cheap, I know, but as I told Maya before we boarded (we were on the same flight, which seems more providence than coincidence to me), in life you always regret the things you don’t do more than those you do (perhaps my dad’s greatest piece of advice to me— it’s also, BTW, the whole point of Robert Frost’s much celebrated and even more misinterpreted poem “The Road Not Taken.”
A quick Coda: the rest of the flight passed smoothly. I was seated between a plastic surgeon and a special Ed teacher who happened also to live in Arlington. If that wasn’t coincidence enough (and I bet you’re starting to understand that I don’t believe in coincidences one bit), her dad is an endocrinologist, as was my grandmother Anne Forbes, the medical pioneer for whom the Forbes-Albright syndrome is co-named.
I landed in time to catch the last streams of sunset and take a walk past Forrest Gump’s shoes and to one of my favorite spots in the whole United States. So, where am I, and what new adventures await?