I made a checklist in my mind: a great girl, two good friends, great books, a magical view from a mountaintop, and a commitment to making every day magical. Sure we would never cure cancer or paint a masterpiece—our lives would be our masterpieces. We would live out the perfect summer together in perpetuity. It would be the profession that never got old.
We sat on the top of the mountain and admired the view, us, together, a community. I saw it all right there, and I thought about it in terms of the ingredients I had already experienced. There was that summer when I was thirteen playing basketball, dreaming of greatness. The dreaming being better than the greatness, I would live on the court for hours at a time. Afterwards, I made stories in my mind, casting myself as the hero. Then there would be bonfires at the beach and nights howling at the moon.
“There’s no way,” my friend objects. “We would run out of money.”
“We would work,” I answer back. “But not real jobs, just summer jobs. You know, we would work at like video stores and wait tables and that kind of thing.”
“There’s no way. We could never live off that kind of scratch.”
My beautiful dynamic dream girl comes to my defense. “Sure we could. We would pool our money to buy beer. We would develop better strategies for saving money, for making quick money, and for making our money last.”
“Yeah,” my more optimistic friend says. “We could spend lots of time just playing frisbee and hanging out on the mountain top together. It would be great. It would be better than great, it would be the best thing ever.”
A pause hangs in the air.
“Think about it,” my more optimistic friend continues. “The worst thing in life is having to hang around with dicks. Sure, we could get jobs with high salaries and fancy offices, but who’s going to guarantee that we’re going to like our coworkers or customers? What we have here is what economist would call a ‘comparative advantage’”.
‘“Comparative advantage’? What do you mean?” my other friend asks.
“Well, when countries trade, each country has a good or a service which they can export to other countries because they do it better than anyone else. They may lose something, but they gain because they can focus on their comparative advantage. Some countries have oil, others are good at making microchips, others potato chips. People are the same: some have brains, some have money, good looks. If we were a country, well, we’d have a comparative advantage in coolness.”
“Yes,” I say coming to my optimistic friend’s aid. “That’s right. We have a comparative advantage in coolness.”
We would master it, perfect it, make it ours until it became our science. One last summer to end all summers.