"What do I do, man?"

The Lyft/Uber driver arrived in a low-end sedan, maybe a Kia or Nissan, to take me to the airport. Within a few blocks of my house the car was nearly t-boned by an ambulance racing down a side street. My driver was distracted by family distress: his oldest son, a junior in high school, appeared to be on the path to loserdom. The kid, according to the father, lacked ambition and drive. He didn't do well in school, slept late, talked back, only cared about sneakers, and hung out with a crew that didn't value grades and resumes. Meanwhile, the second child, a girl, was the apple of her father's eye. She was her brother's opposite in every way. The father spoke of her like a billionaire might describe his prized racehorse. The driver's dreams would live through her, if not his son.

The driver launched into a monologue about his son's many shortcomings as soon as we pulled away from my building. After a few minutes he asked if I had kids. I replied that I had a 3-year-daughter, which apparently was enough for him to consider me an expert on parenting. "What do I do, man?" he asked and would ask several more times during the 40-minute drive to O'Hare. "He just doesn't have any sense." I thought about myself at age 16 or 17, a good but not great student, college-bound but without any real vision of where I wanted to go in life, and winced at the memory of my own past mistakes and foolish confidence. Each time the driver asked the big question - "What do I do, man?" - it was not done rhetorically. He really wanted me to tell him what to do. For whatever reason he thought I possessed some special wisdom. 

Alas, I do not. I don't recall exactly what I told the man, but I'm sure it was effectively worthless. Probably some drivel about planning for the future. Approximately two years later, I wonder how that driver is doing. I think about his family. Presumably his income as a Lyft and Uber driver took a hit with the pandemic. The idea of his ne'er-do-well son completing high school virtually inspires a feeling dread. I wonder how many more near misses the driver has had since our time together. I wonder if his son can narrowly avoid the catastrophe speeding toward him right now.