Nestled in the sweaty underboob of Long Island is an institution of higher learning called Hofstra University, my alma mater. It’s the crown jewel of what I like to call the “Safe School” Ivy League, which is comprised of other third-choice colleges like SUNY Binghamton and the University of Phoenix. If Columbia is where the smart kids go and NYU is where the smart kids who couldn’t get into Columbia go, Hofstra is where you can buy crack on Hempstead Turnpike in between classes. I’m by no means ashamed of my former school — it has given me a great education in my field and afforded me a lot of opportunities — but Hofstra doesn’t exactly grab your eye on a resume. Most people outside of New York haven’t even heard of Hofstra, and those who have heard of it don’t know it as the host of two recent Presidential debates or where Francis Ford Coppola, James Caan, Christopher Walken and Madeline Khan all honed their craft. They know it as the hapless school that canceled its entire NCAA Division I football program, or the school that taught Bernie Madoff how to steal old ladies’ pensions. It’s safe to say I sometimes have a chip on my shoulder about where I studied, and when I spotted a homeless man on Third Avenue wearing a deep blue sweatshirt emblazoned with “HOFSTRA” in big gold letters, that chip widened into a full on gash. In a cold sweat, I pondered all the different explanations as to why a homeless man would be wearing my college’s sweatshirt, and most of them were bad:
The guy went to Hofstra and then became homeless.
This was the first thing I had suspected, and the worst possible scenario. A homeless guy wearing the shirt of the college you attended has to be a bad omen, like if a black cat crosses your path and it’s wearing the shirt of the college you attended. Hell, I should just take a dump on a step outside the New York Public Library and claim it for myself right now if that’s where my degree is going to inevitably take me. Granted, the guy’s homelessness doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the education he received at Hofstra, and just because one person who went to my school became homeless doesn’t mean I will suffer the same fate. As a friend of mine pointed out on Facebook, maybe it was the crippling student debt that put him on the street. I feel for the guy either way, but Jesus, would it have killed him to pick another shirt besides his Hofstra sweatshirt to be homeless in? It’s not exactly great advertising for the school.
He didn’t go to Hofstra. He just got the Hofstra sweatshirt from goodwill.
It’s very possible that someone who went to Hofstra donated their clothes to the needy, and that the homeless guy didn’t go to Hofstra, he was just wearing the sweatshirt out of pure coincidence. This scenario is actually worse than the first, because this means that, while people from other schools cherish their college sweatshirt, someone from Hofstra took a look at theirs and was like, “eh, I’m OK with a bum peeing on this forever.” Hofstra pride!
He didn’t go to Hofstra. It’s just viral marketing for a new movie.
Maybe he’s an actor pretending to be homeless and he’s employed by a street marketing team that’s promoting a heartwarming film about a bum who befriends a bunch of Hofstra students and teaches them the real meaning of life. Ever see that Joe Pesci movie back in the ‘90s, With Honors? Kind of like that. I don’t know. OK I’ll be honest with you; this one feels like a stretch.
The guy wasn’t homeless at all, and I’m just an asshole.
This is a very real possibility, as I really have no concrete proof he was indeed homeless. I mean, I’m pretty sure he was homeless. He wasn’t pushing a shopping cart of cans or anything, but he looked dirty and he appeared to be mumbling to himself. Then again, he could’ve been just an unkempt alum who was talking on the phone with a Bluetooth headset, in which case I was super judgmental in just up and assuming he was homeless.
But what if he actually was homeless? What’s wrong with that, Chris, you fucking asshole? I see a guy on the street who I believe is homeless and my first thought is about me and the stupid college I went to. Real nice. Some people don’t even get to go to college. Maybe instead of droning on about how all of this makes my privileged white ass feel awkward, I should be doing things to actually help the homeless — like donating food and maybe some clothes. After all, I do have some old things lying around…