Sitting next to me is a denizen of Esox, a bar that used to cater exclusively to the locals but has of late suffered a student infestation. When it comes to Burlington's old-timey taverns, if the establishment is located downtown the process is inexorable: eventually the students will encroach.
It begins with a few daring trail-blazers casually wandering in and grabbing a couple pints. This is the beachhead. Within a few weeks or months, the place is flooded with collegians. It's a matter of sheer numbers. The students are like Zebra muscles in Lake Champlain, another non-indigenous species that comes on like gangbusters; the local wildlife doesn't stand a chance.
So, I was driving Carl back to his one-room off Colchester Avenue. The guy is a hard worker at a local factory, and, when he's off-duty at nights he likes to sit at the bar at Esox and do his thing. He's heavy-set with dark hair, tightly curled and coming just over his ears and onto his forehead.
Says Carl as we wait for the light at South Winooski, "Jeez, it's busy in town tonight. Saturday night, huh?"
"Well, yeah, it is the weekend, but it's also Halloween."
"No it's not. Halloween is Wednesday, isn't it?"
"Carl," I say, incredulous, but trying not to poke fun at the guy's mind-bending obliviousness. "Halloween is on Wednesday, but people are celebrating all weekend. I mean, did you not notice that about half the folks in town are wearing costumes?"
"You don't say?" he replies, nodding his head. "No, I hadn't noticed." When Carl is drinking, nothing breaks his concentration.
The light changes and off we go. At the next set of lights at South Union Street, a bunch of costumed students are about to cross from the corner of Memorial Auditorium. A few of the girls are dressed crazy sexy, as naughty nurses, wayward cheerleaders - you name it. It seems to me that the mousiest young women can be the most daring in Halloween attire. It's an opportunity to cut loose, and I'm definitely not complaining.
Although the group has the red light and clearly sees me advancing, they slowly drift directly into my path, led by a tall white-skeletoned guy, flapping his arms wildly like he was in a Mexican "Day of the Dead" celebration. I slow to a crawl as I ease up to them. The girls are laughing uproariously as they continue to cross.
Suddenly, the skeleton guy screams and hurtles across the hood of the taxi, falling off to the side and grabbing his leg in agonizing pain. "Ya ran me over, man," he yells, "you ran me over!" The girls join in. "Omigod! The cabbie just hit him!"
Carl taps me on the shoulder. "I think you ran that guy over," he helpfully points out.
"Get the fuck outta here!" I shout through my open window at the guy grimacing on the pavement. "You are so faking. I was just going maybe 2 miles per hour."
"You hit me, man," he continues the performance. "I think you broke my leg. Call an ambulance!"
I had to admire the young man's acting chops. Like any skilled actor, he was committed. Halloween is all about pretending, so I couldn't really got too mad at him.
"Good luck with that leg," I call out, and continue up the hill with Carl.