The year 2000 was a transition year for my entire family, and new possibility was the title theme: My brother began attending high school; my mother started teaching at a different school. My ticket to freedom came in the form of a bus pass.

It was exhilarating. The city was my Metropolitan Transit Authority-aided oyster. As the sole arbiter of my transportation, I was free to indulge in whatever extracurricular activities my heart desired. For my mother, this naturally entailed illegal stimulants.

One day, I dragged my rolling backpack up the side-door stairs and sat down in the kitchenette.

“Where have you been?” My mother asked, her arms akimbo.

“Play practice. The show is this Friday. Guys and Dolls,” I said.

“Why are you so late? You smell like marijuana. Are you selling drugs?”

[Confused pause.]

I was speechless. I wanted to laugh, but my mom wasn’t the type to crack cannabis jokes on a Monday evening while Sam Champion was giving the weather report.

So I did what I do in most cases when I am utterly stunned and unsure of how to proceed: State the obvious.

“Um…I’m 11.”

[Pregnant pause.]

It bought me enough time to think of a proper response to the situation at hand.

“Wait, how do you know what marijuana smells like?”

[Pause again. Break in eye contact.]

She picked up a spatula and began to stir the contents of the wok on the stove.

“I knew people in college, who, had plants … go to your room.”

In the year that followed, the leash was tightened. I had to call home to let her know if I was staying late at school, what I was doing and who I was with. So much for freedom.

I try to understand how she developed such a mangled image of me: huddled in the backstage of the Louis Pasteur Middle School Auditorium in Douglaston, N.Y., unfolding the red cape of my Mission Band Member costume to engage in botanical entrepreneurship with my gang of seedy pre-teen co-conspirators in between practicing my harmony for “Follow the fold and stray no more” and “Sit down you’re rocking the boat.”


While my mother’s suspicions may have been unfounded when I was in middle school, she may have reason to worry now.

Last Tuesday, at 2:27 p.m., I leaned on the wall outside LC and checked the time on my phone when arrived the papoose I’d been expecting.

“Hey,” I said.

“Oh hey, what’s up?” He said as if I just happened upon him.

I stepped out of the way of traffic going in and out of the double doors. “You got the merchandise?”

“Yeah, I barely used it.” He opened his book bag, took it out and handed it to me.

We bade our adieus, and I left the scene, my newly acquired Microeconomics by Hal Varian safe, sound, bargain-priced and un-highlighted.

Most of what I loathe in life surfaces in the beginning of the semester: uncertainty, disorganization and extra time spent in classes. But it also has some perks: excuses to leave classes early, the avoidance of real work and most beloved of all, sketchy YaleStation book exchanges. There’s no shipping involved, and gratification is immediate. Still, the rules of executing a smooth book exchange can be a tad tenebrous.

The transaction begins with little variation from one exchange to another: an e-mail, a phone call, the establishment of a time and location. Street corners are generally acceptable; alleys, not as much. In the preliminary interaction, just for kicks, try to work in the phrase “make this magic happen.”

The rendezvous: There are a number of ways to go about it effectively. One option is to conduct a Facebook search of the individual you are to meet so that you may simply recognize them to avoid a hapless, undirected search at the proscribed location. If you’re not good with faces, hold the book in plain sight while you wait, clearly signaling your intentions. Another is to make them come to you in your room. This is contingent upon your being okay with strangers rapping upon your door.

During and after the exchange, a little talk is alright and generally expected. If someone is searching their pockets for money or checking over the book’s condition, some chatting about the class is perfectly legit. Then, wrap it up. A simple “enjoy,” “good luck” or “gracias” is all it takes.

Who says you have to deal illegal substances to get your dose of shady exchanges? My fix comes courtesy of the Yale Station book exchange. I think my mother would more than approve.

Kristen Ng is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.