Imagine: You’ve been out for a few hours with some friends on Penn’s campus, and you can feel the night winding down. You don’t attend school here; you’re just visiting for the Women’s March on Philadelphia, which is starting early the next morning. After walking past several pizza shops and sandwich places overrun with students searching for midnight munchies, you and your group stumble into the campus convenience store. The store is filled with students in various states of inebriation, and the checkout queue curls around the parfait display. One of the members of your party orders a mac ‘n cheese at the food counter; the rest of you wait and take free 32 oz. cups of water from the dispenser.
Abruptly, you hear a commotion to your right; a tall white man in a tailored blue suit is yelling about something over the counter. “Whatever,” you think at first. Nothing’s impossible in the middle of the night at the campus Wawa. You glance at the loud dude again as he stalks around the space, looking indignant. You’re pretty convinced that he’s a Wharton undergrad. Who else wears a suit on a night out? Must be one of the frat boys your group saw earlier, the ones who were carrying cheap boxes of Franzia up into their frat house in disproportionately expensive outfits.
Then you see the frazzled elderly man pacing right behind him. His moustache is grey and ungroomed, and his sweater and jeans hang from his limbs. He’s insistently tagging along with the kid in the suit, looking equally agitated and possibly angrier. He keeps pointing at his phone or gesturing wildly, and the kid keeps yelling back at him — “I’ve already paid for my food! Stop following me. Hey! Tell this man to stop! This is ridiculous.” — but the man doesn’t let up, and the rest of the late-night wanderers start to speculate as to who’s the real bad guy in the situation.
“I heard something about a taxi,” my friend whispers as we all exchange glances.
“It’s probably a scam,” one of the other group members says. “Like a candid camera or something. Anything can happen in a Wawa.” We exchange nervous laughter, but the altercation has only continued in the meantime. The loud kid and the man have already made several large circles around the rows of snacks and rounded coffee counters, and the confusion only grows. Is it a trick? Who’s telling the truth? My group’s interest fades out as the wait for our food grows longer, and the loud kid’s voice drowns out in the hubbub of other students.
A few minutes later. “Oh my god! You’re my taxi driver, and I didn’t pay you?” The loud voice is back, and suddenly all of the pieces fall into place. “Can I Venmo you?”
So, how to be a frat boy at Penn: First, get so drunk (preferably off of Franzia) that you manage to call a taxi, ride it and on the way there completely forget that you’ve even called one. Then, when you arrive at Wawa, hop out of that taxi as if it’s your own personal chauffeur, thus leaving the driver affronted and confused. Finally, once you realize that you’ve wrongfully accused your own taxi driver of wrongfully accusing you of theft, remain unable to even string together enough logic to know that, no — you cannot pay a traditional Philly cab driver with Venmo. And that’s how that dude’s night ended: Standing sheepishly in front of an ATM at the front of the convenience store, withdrawing however much money to compensate for however much trouble he had caused the driver.
What can you learn from a night out a Penn? In the end, the elderly man following the drunk kid around had just been a guy trying to get his fair pay — not a pest, not a liar and certainly not a scam. As one of the guys in our group that night put it, “That’s why you never trust a white guy in a suit.” They get the benefit of the doubt, even when they’re drunk and spouting complete nonsense in a Wawa at midnight.