How many "serious" economists would join 22 UCLA freshmen on a Saturday five hour field trip to tour various parts of the Los Angeles River? Zero? Our tour guide was "Joe" and he is an interesting dude. I chatted with several of the students but most of them didn't want to talk to me so I studied the river and asked myself how I got myself into this situation. As a tenured full professor, I'm not sure where it says in my contract that I have to ride the Frosh bus on a Saturday. But, my father would say that one must be dedicated and make sacrifices for the greater good (he is not an economist). I am co-teaching a Freshmen Cluster course at UCLA and attending this event is one of my responsibilities.
The LA river is not beautiful. It trickles along and has health doses of garbage along its banks. I didn't feel that I was observing a "green" part of the city but it was a mildly interesting experience. I'm too old to being spending 1/2 of a Saturday with Freshmen. They didn't know who I was. I guess I'm another old dude who tells them when to get on and off the bus. This is my comparative advantage. I did do one good deed. One of the students needed to go to the bathroom so I told the bus driver and she pulled over and this guy was able to find a toilet.
I know that I have a good job but I wonder whether any of my friends at the University of Chicago have recently gotten on a 8:30 am Saturday bus filled with Freshmen to go look at garbage? You might counter that they have earned the right to turn down this opportunity.
UPDATE: I must admit that I was a pinch surprised that none of these gifted 18 year olds came up to me to ask me who I was and what I did at UCLA. When I got on the bus, I introduced myself and told them I would be their prof in Winter 2012. They showed no intellectual interest in getting to know a UCLA faculty member. I guess I was just an adult who was there to "supervise". That's nuts! They knew I was a UCLA prof and that I would be their teacher next winter but they had nothing they wanted to say to me or ask me. Strange days!