Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just remember: Someday they'll be taking care of us

They're so young. They're so thin. They're so...not smart.

I drove my fifteen-year-old daughter to school this morning. As we travelled up the narrow corridor known as 35th Avenue, one of West Seattle's main thoroughfares, I steered gently around a young cyclist. He pedaled a too-small bike, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans on this fifty-degree morning, while wearing headphones and no helmet.

"Hey, it's Justin," blurted my daughter as we came even with the wobbly rider. "He goes to my school."

"Is he smart?" I asked rhetorically.

"Yeah, I think so."

"Okay, let me change your answer," I snapped back. "He's not smart. I can count four stupid things he's doing right now. He's wearing a t-shirt in the cold weather, he's not wearing a helmet, he's listening to music and he's riding on a really narrow, busy street. Justin is stupid. Stupid Justin."

"Geez, Dad, calm down."

"Sorry, I just see these kids, and they're your age, and they make me crazy. Most of you guys are learning how to operate cars. Maybe your friend Justin needs to learn how to safely ride a bike before he can even think about driving."

"Dad, get angry much?"

"Okay, I'm done."

We picked up Zoe's friend and continued on to the high school. I don't normally converge on her academic facility at this time of morning, when all the inmates are gathered outside or entering the building.

I stopped at a crosswalk in front of the school to let a group of kids pass. They performed this task admirably, with the exception of one young man who stopped three steps into the street, after realizing he hadn't finished his cigarette yet, and couldn't bring it onto school grounds. He stayed there, blocking my way, until his frontal lobe finally engaged and sent him retreating to his original curbside locale.

We proceeded through the crosswalk as I watched him suck down the last fumes of his smoke. I found it ironic how he wore expensive basketball shoes, basketball shorts and a Jordan t-shirt, yet he'd probably struggle to sprint the length of a hoop court.

Small gaggles of kids assembled in the drop-off area, where I stopped the van to let the girls off. One young woman split off from her group and approached our car to meet my passengers, her hands clutching a two-liter bottle of Grape Crush and large bag of Lays Potato Chips.

Hmm.. well, they may not be bright, but teenagers are definitely tough. If I ate that for breakfast, I'd need the defibrillator paddles.

Tomorrow, she's taking the school bus.

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