I met Carlos Rubio ’17 in my Winter Study course and spent four days in New York with him on a class field trip. Despite this extended bonding time together, he remained a mystery to me. We sat down with Carlos to learn more about his life, including his time off from the College and his fascination with the big city.
– Maddy McFarland
So we actually don’t know much about you at all.
I’m an enigma.
What do you do on campus?
I knew that question was coming. I’m just like … what am I going to tell these kids? Umm … I guess I listen to a lot of music. I occasionally drink with friends. I play video games. I went to my first meeting with SSDP [Students for Sensible Drug Policy] the other day. I occasionally read social theory but that’s just because I have the books. It’s not like I go out of my way to the library to pick up something.
So we heard some rumors about you being in New York City for parts of your Williams career?
So I took time off after freshman year, and that summer I lived in Manhattan … like two blocks away from Columbus circle. My friend’s dad went to China on business and basically she had an extra apartment room. She stayed in her dad’s room and let me have her room and I was just bumming it in New York City. I didn’t work. I just had an unlimited metro card and was eating dollar pizza and seeing shows on the pier. I had a great time, I would do it again. But that was the summer after my freshmen year and I came back to Williamstown for a little bit and then … I worked at a nursing home in Oklahoma for like a year before I moved back … and then when I went back to New York and I stayed in Astoria with my ex-boyfriend … which was interesting. It wasn’t planned that way, but it ended up happening and it was fun. I actually had money then and it was a little bit of a different experience than just bumming around.
What was the weirdest thing that happened at the nursing home?
There are definitely some moments that stick out. It’s a very compassionate and very sincere environment. They are dying and stuff, and they die pretty frequently, and they just bring in new people. But you try to get to know them, right? They are real people … they have stories. There is this lady named Ernestine and I really liked her. I called her “Bobblehead” because she did this [bobs head]. When I first started working there, I had a lot of interaction with the residents and so I’d see her everyday. I got to know her, greet her, she sometimes recognized me. Anyway, my position changed so I was more behind the scenes … I didn’t interact with them as much. I went up to see her and I was like “Oh Ernestine, I miss you so much … How have you been? I haven’t seen you in a while.” And she was like, “Who are you? What’s your name?” I felt really bad but they are pretty much all like that. It’s just hard to really interact with them in a normal way because of the situation they are in. There are some pretty creepy stories. My friend had her tongue pierced and one of the residents would always ask to see her tongue piercing and show his guy friends at the table. But overall it was pretty tame I guess.
So you spent the summer in
So I took three years off [total]. I spent the summer in New York City after freshman year. Over the span of those three years, that first summer I was in the city, and the year after that, I was living in Williamstown in an apartment on North Street, it’s right by the police station. It is a business, but the third floor are apartments. I was near campus, but I wasn’t taking classes. It was really weird. I don’t recommend it. I did that for a year and then I moved back to Oklahoma. So I was in a relationship this whole time, so that is kind of the underlying story. I went back to Oklahoma for a bit and worked for a while at a really shitty job, this place called the Canna Farm. It was basically the end of the season and they dug up all their flowers and dumped them on a conveyor belt. My job was, like, dust the mud off of them and count them. It was miserable and cold. It should be on that show Dirty Jobs. So I did that for a couple of weeks and then quit. I was talking to one of my friends from home when I wasn’t working, and he mentioned the job at the nursing home, and then I started working there. And then I was unemployed for a while. That is when I went back to city.
What are Canna farms?
Canna are thick-leaved flowers, they can be six or seven feet. So they have, like, these crops of giant flowers, which are beautiful in the summer, but when you take them off the ground, it is a little bit more miserable. It was just this barn room with a conveyor belt in the middle. Most of them were immigrants, [they] probably couldn’t speak English. They would just dump these muddy bulbs of giant Cannas on the belt and you just had to sort through them. It was pretty miserable and cold, but I guess I learned from it.
What did you learn?
That I will never do that kind of job again. Physical labor is not my forte. I just quit going. You can’t blame me for not wanting to do it.
What would you say to other students in general about taking time off?
So, Williams temporality: I think that there is a very strong sense of “get it done in four years” and that this is the normal way to do it. There is a perception of people who take time off as, oh, something went wrong, or maybe they did bad in school or they had personal issues. But people take time off for a plethora of different reasons and the time that they take off can range. Arguably, depending on what you do with your time off, can be just as much of a learning experience as spending time here at Williams. It is just a different type of learning experience. You’re living, you’re working, you’re paying your own bills. Or at least that is what I did. In terms of advice for anyone taking time off … I would talk to people who have taken time off before as far as their experiences and what they got out of it, and also talk to some deans and professors and get their input, because it’s not for everybody … the transition coming back is what should be most concerning.
Any other New York stories?
[I went] for a Winter Study [this year] called “Theater Festivals in New York City and Beyond.” It was taught by David Eppel, head of the theater department. We basically learned about the curatorial aspect of festivals and theater, so after we talked about it for a couple of weeks we went to the city and actually saw theater, and kind of talked about our thoughts about the production. It was really convenient though … The hotel was really great … [Eppel] was really chill about it. It’s always nice to interact with random Williams kids in an intimate setting where it’s like, okay, I need to get to know who you are … at least get to know your name. It was just all of us pack rats running around New York City together. It was a great experience in the city, but also getting to know other Williams kids.
How’s living in Garfield?
So I snagged this amazing dingle on the third floor of Garfield. It has like five bay windows. I can see the sunrise coming up over the mountains in the morning. It’s a beautiful room. I love it. [Garfield would be] a nice building if it wasn’t decrepit and pretty far away. The walk is nice, except for when it’s cold. Garfield gets further away the colder it is.