It was late at night in a dodgy neighborhood of Athens, Greece. I argued with a cab driver who clearly wanted to be rid of his irksome passenger and call it a night. I’d arrived at the Athens train station after midnight after a long ferry and train trip from Brindisi, Italy. I clutched a piece of paper with the phonetic spelling of the address I wanted to go to, a house owned by the American embassy. The cabbie, probably thinking he’d get in one last fare before heading home, had put my luggage in the trunk and ushered me into his car.
Apparently my phonetic spelling and pronunciation were off the mark—it was, roughly, Popiomati Street—and the cabby started to unload my luggage on the corner of a neighborhood that was not the type the embassy would find amenable. No, I insisted, this isn’t right, pointing at my piece of paper and throwing my luggage back into the cab. (This was long before the days of cell phones.) He pointed to the street sign written in Greek lettering and, using volume to make up for my lack of comprehension, emphatically said … something. Unfortunately, it was all, quite literally, Greek to me.
I remembered that experience when I read about a new book by sociologist Christian Smith called Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. In it, Smith, along with his co-author Patricia Snell, interviewed thousands of “emerging adults” ages 18 to 23 for their views on religious and moral issues.