Thursday, May 17, 2012

Teenagers are our future... Really?

We all grew up thinking about teenage angst. We may have even done some rather stupid and crazy things growing up. Shhh...we don't want to talk about that - that was so long ago.
Honestly, I was  a really good kid growing up. However, I wasn't perfect. One time my parents were out and I had a few friends over. We hit the liquor cabinet. In order that they wouldn't know we took anything I made a mixture of different liquors and placed them in our soda of choice - easy choice really since we only had one soda available - rootbeer. What came out was something between castor oil and cough syrup. It was not at all good. Nonetheless we drank it. It was potent. It was so potent I threw up.
My friends went home. One mother found out he had been drinking and gave him the third degree. He told her the truth. She called him a liar. After all, I was a the good child. I would never do anything wrong.
Okay, so mixing liquor today seems rather mild. A lot of kids drink. A lot of kids do more than just drink. If, when I was a teenager, it was unheard of to have my nose or my nipple pierced. I would never have wanted to do that anyway. But it's not what you do with your body or how you look that really defines a person. What defines us as people, even teenagers, is how we do things and how we react to things. Looking around at today's teenagers can be very scary. They are our future?
Today I got a call from a teenage girl. She had driven about 120 miles in a car to take a friend to meet a boy that just got out of prison. Her car was not running well. Half the time they were afraid she wouldn't be able to make it across town. She has no job. She has no money. Her father gives her an allowance on a prepaid credit card. The girl she was taking didn't care if the car was running. She didn't offer any money to help her pay for the trip. Between the two of them they literally had $5 and a broken car.
Here is how the conversation went:
"Pasty, my mom gave me your number. I'm in trouble and I need help," says the girl. "I'm stuck in Milwaukee. My car broke down. I think it overheated."
"Did you put fluid in it and try to start it?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, but it wouldn't start.
"What is it doing?" I ask.
"I don't know," she answered. "It's 27 miles from me right now. I left it on the highway. I hitchhiked to where I am now."
"You hitchhiked and left your car?" I asked, thinking to myself that she shouldn't have just left her car on the highway. There are things that could have been done if she had stayed with the vehicle. But okay. That's not an option now. Let's move on.
"I need you to come and get me," she said.
"I don't have a car to come and get you," I answer. "My car is in the shop."
"What about your other car?" She asks.
"I don't have a car."
"Where is your car?"
"Okay, listen, I don't have a car to come and get you. How much money do you have?" I ask.
"I don't have any money. I brought a friend down here."
"How much money does your friend have?" I ask.
"I don't know. Let me put her on the phone," she responds.
"Hi. I was just asking how much money you have so that we can see what you guys can do to get home," I say.
"I have $5," she responds.
"You guys went to Milwaukee with an iffy car and only took $5?" I start laughing.
"Hey, I don't know who you are, but I don't need you laughing at me!" She hands the phone back to the teenage girl.
"You went to Milwaukee in your car that you knew wasn't running well and you only had $5 between you?" I asked her.
"Yeah. She said. Can you get a friend of yours to come and get us?" she asks.
"I don't know of a friend that wants to drive 100 miles or more to pick up two people they have never met for only $5," I say.
"What about your car?" she asks again.
"I don't have a car." I respond.
"Hold on." I hear a shuffle. Then some man gets on the phone.
"Hello?" he starts. "You should come down here and pick us up."
I'm laughing. This is getting ridiculous. "I don't have a car," I say. "It's in the shop."
Now I'm thinking, two of these people I don't even know. Have never met them before in my life. They think that because I know the girl that took them there I'm obligated somehow. Nice.
"Well," he says, "Go take it out of the shop and come down here."
I'm laughing harder now. I can't help myself.
"Wait a minute," I respond. "First off, even if I did take my car out of the shop it wouldn't make it down there, and if, by some miracle, it did all you would have is another person stranded with you. So, no. I won't do that."
"Okay," he says. "What do you want us to do?"
Now this is my problem? Seriously?
"You are telling me that you had those two girls come down there in a car that they knew didn't run well with only $5 between them and now you expect someone else to run down there and rescue all of you? Well, I don't have a car. I don't know anyone that would come down and pick up three strangers for only $5 to drive them more than 120 miles. I'm sorry."
"Well, yeah," he says, "Okay."
I call the girls mother and find out they had been there since last night. The teenage girl's father knew already.  He didn't go get her. None of her relatives had gone to get her. Now, being the type of person I am I priced a Greyhound ticket. It would cost them each less than $20 to get back to Green Bay.
A few things dawned on me about this particular incident:
1.  A real friend wouldn't ask you to drive in a breaking car to go and meet a guy with no consideration or plan.
2. An intelligent plan was not thought out. After all, she could have called and sold the car for some cash - $100-$300 depending - and asked for a ride to the bus station. Now her car was probably towed by the city having been left for hours on the highway. Instead she will get a $350 towing and storage bill.
3. She had no ideas of her own or any viable way to help herself. She wanted to be rescued, and her friends were not coming up with any relatives, friends, or plans of their own. They were expecting her to fix it since she drove.
Not all teenagers are like this. I know for a fact that my teenage son would never have agreed to drive down there with a bad car and no money. He wouldn't be afraid to tell a friend no, and if that friend got hateful he would have the sense enough to realize this wasn't a true friend. My son is very secure in himself.
Many teenagers are not so self-assured. They think that being liked and popular is the most important thing in life. If they don't have a social life they don't have a life. This is so untrue and unfair to them. Simple facts of relationships have been lost on today's youth.

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