If one were to ever ask me what was the joy of being a personal driver for others, it's dealing with people. Particularly teenagers. You see, teenagers are pretty much the greatest middle ground you have in pop culture. Either they like something or they don't, and their observations on life are about as ridiculous as you can imagine.
In the past three years, I've dealt with taking teenage girls to see Mac Miller, Mary J. Blige, Kid Rock, Jimmy Buffett (don't ask how) and One Direction. Each story somehow revolved around social awkwardness, the love of a local radio station, high-school drama and, of course, the actual concert.
Sunday, I was subjected to fun.
Now, this is not to deliver shots or terrible death threats toward the Grammy-winning New York pop-rockers, because they're rather harmless. Instead, this is about dealing with teenagers, particularly three of them who are rather sweet and nice and possibly aloof to 600 things about life.
One girl we'll call S. (She's a teenager, for Christ's sake.) She's the dominant one in her conversation while sandwiched between two others, one a girl (call her M) who discovered her shin cracked during a cross-country meet and ran that shit off like a boss, and a boy (let's name him Pac) who is shaggy-haired and heavyset. S claims to be the moral compass, a girl who is "deep" for all of 15, with an idea of fun that revolves around getting randomly set up for dates to homecoming dances and Starbucks.
Lots of Starbucks.
"Can we stop and get some before we go to the concert?" she asked me as I was leaving her parents' house, a rather modest piece of humble pie in West University. "There's one around the corner."
There was a Starbucks there. I parked, the three kids went inside and got their drinks. Outside, my eyes peered at a scruffy man in a ballcap pulled down to the bridge of his nose talking to the police.
"You know I could have thrown you in jail twice now, right?" the cop tells the man.
He's inaudible but I mean, he had to have been a regular. You know, the type of creeper who asks questions about your life while you sit in line trying to get a grande espresso, standing there in a mustard-stained T-shirt offering stock tips. That kind of sweet, gentle weirdo.
"He's always in there," S reports back to me as the kids climb back in. "He's nice."
Yes, future serial killers of America are nice. That they are.
A trek to The Woodlands takes 40 minutes from West University, meaning there are about to be stories that will subject my brain to its limits. There will be a tale about a boy who got into a major car accident because he was pissed at his father but felt better when S stayed with him, as opposed to going to a football game. Or S's thoughts on car-crash PSAs: "Oh, she wasn't wearing a seat belt but she's fine!"
Or how Instagramming while in the car will get you knocked loopy.
This sweet child, who figured it best to argue about her time living in England for four years and her lack of likes on Instagram because of how often she posted photos of her dogs, at least asks a few smart questions.
"You write, right? So what type of music do you listen to?"
I have to give her the general rundown, you know -- listen to everything, don't necessarily discriminate except for the pop version of country songs -- before S chimes in with, "I'm starting to dig country music!"
We may need to send her to Washington to help fix everything.
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Oddly enough, there was not a single mention of the concert itself on the ride there. Not a peep. Just talks about life and homework and S being big on her morality and how deep she is. By the time they rejoin me three hours later, it's all large gasps and deep sighs about how awesome fun. is.
"He's beautiful," M remarks on lead singer Nate Ruess, who had probably gobbled them up inside of his thin voice and turned them into pixies or something. S agrees while playing some part of the show she recorded on her phone.
"I bought some fun. shorts."
Then the tipping point happened. After the shrieking realization that a sleepover on a school night was set to commence, S cranked up 97.9 while M gasped as loud as you possibly can over getting a favorite from a band. "Holy bejesus!"
How it wound up segueing into a RiFF RaFF story I have no earthly idea, but S, as clever as she may be, originally thought his name was Li'l Ray. But that's not the worst part of knowing how awkwardly sheltered these kids were. I almost wished Pac would say something, anything awesome and witty, but instead he just laughed and offered minor comebacks and retorts. Next time Pac, next time.
Halfway back home, during a discussion about rap songs, J.Cole's "Work Out" came on the radio.
"I think this was the first dirty rap song I liked," M says. Pac laughs and then S counters with "Soulja Boy." I wanted to cry Indian tears right then and there. She, our fun. concert MVP, goes into the story of how she discovered Usher's "Love In the Club" and would only sing the chorus around her parents -- in public.
That's right, we live in a world where some poor child was subjected to Soulja Boy as her first bad rap song. And Instagram is the new end-all, be-all for social popularity. God help us.
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