That was my first thought today when a young man, appearing to be about 15 years old, sitting in the front passenger seat of the car that pulled up next to me at the gas station asked me a question. Another boy, looking 16 or 17 hopped out and started pumping gas and as he did the younger boy yelled over to me, “hey, do you have a cigarette?” I was flabbergasted and said no as I was shaking my head in amazement at the question. No one has asked me that question in many years. Before I sit here in traction and analyze why he asked me, what do I look like, somebody that smokes, was it my sunglasses, my youthful appearance, nope, I have a shitty spinal column, but I’m not delusional. I’ve already recognized he simply found himself in a convenient situation to ask. Yet, I do find myself focused on how sad the random experience left me feeling.
After I got over the shock of the question I wanted to ask him some questions, I wanted to preach to him, I wanted to tell him what a gift his health was, how fragile it will seem someday. I wanted to tell him, heck no I don’t have a cigarette, that stuff will kill you and you are too young, yada, yada, yada….but I felt like all he’d hear was the parental voice from the Charlie Brown animations and just see it as some crazy person at the gas station “yelling” at him.
All the things any reasonable person would want to say to a teenager about the dangers of smoking crossed my mind, but also came with it the bigger question, WHY! Why on earth in 2011 is a kid still asking to bum a cigarette and in a gas station where we could blow up no less!
I need to get out more, or maybe less.
When you’re a kid gum is a big deal, you think about when you’ll be allowed to have it, how much will you get, what flavor will it be. At some point an adult tells you to close your mouth as you chew your long-awaited treat and it’s your first hint that maybe gum is not as exciting for everyone as you thought. When it gets stuck to your school uniform and your Mom is taking an ice-cube to your hideous plaid skirt you start to get a new look at gum. When a giant bubble bursts all over your face and tangles in your hair you can’t believe that gum can hurt. On a dare when you reach under the cafeteria table at lunch you have your first realization of the sheer horror of dead gum left behind. Somewhere over time you too begin to develop rules about gum.
I don’t care deeply about a lot of things. I save my energy and passion for what I believe are the big issues, anything else just doesn’t garner much of a fight from me or for that matter, even a strong opinion. I am the kind of person that picks their battles carefully, I don’t go out on a limb or strongly commit unless it’s huge for me. So where does the earth shattering topic of gum fall in all of this…..I think there should be a couple basic rules, when finished with your chewing sensation properly dispose of said gum, if you don’t know what that means, you probably shouldn’t be chewing it. No chewing in church, and that includes all funerals and weddings, no matter their location. Recently after watching the news the other day I’m now willing to add another location to the list. I have to admit it’s one that I never thought about before I saw it. I don’t think you should chew gum if you are on trial for murder. Or I guess maybe on trial for anything, but definitely not murder. For me, it’s hard to take a person seriously when they are chewing gum. I mean why bother to have a nice hair cut or a new outfit to impress the jury if you are chomping on gum. I’m not saying you’re a killer but it just isn’t right. Same as my feelings for just as you are about to say ‘I do,” I’d prefer you not be chewing gum or blowing a bubble. So on further close consideration I now think it’s best to keep gum out of the court room. In fact I’m willing to say, chew away in the class room, you’re a kid, but when or if you are ever on trial, NO CHEWING. I know I’m going out on a limb here, but I just thought this was worthy of amending my rules.
Ok, just some more thoughts while in traction that I know you can’t live without, carry on.