The other day after I got home from work and shed the constraints of corporate clothing to don my comfy around-the-house duds, I swore loudly when I went to pull out a new trash bag from the EMPTY BOX. *sigh* So, I got myself into public-appropriate uncomfy attire and crammed my tired, achy feet back into shoes so I could drive down to the store to pick up stuff I forgot to get before I left the store I worked at allllll day.
I hate that shit.
Anyway, I went, got the stupid trash bags and a couple other things my stupid ass forgot to pick up at the stupid store I worked at allllll stupid day. I was standing in line when a kid I knew from school walked in.
Now, we weren’t pals or anything, but I’ve mentioned before that my town is small. I had a graduating class of less than 30. The entire population of school children from kindergarten through seniors in high school was only around 400. I didn’t have to be friends with everyone to know who everyone was.
In school, the kid was one of the…hm. I don’t want to say “cool kids”, because that wasn’t it. He wasn’t the classic popular sportsy type. He was more “small town cool.” Into cars. Liked edgy music. Had a switchblade comb. Wore old heavy metal band t-shirts with the arms cut off to school picture day. You know, a real hometown rebel.
I can’t really tell this story without giving you an idea of my age. I graduated high school in 1996. It wasn’t exactly a few years ago. I think I can safely call those times “back in the day” now.
The dude walked in. He was still wearing an old heavy metal band t-shirt with the arms cut off. He still had the slicked back hair he no doubt styled with his switchblade comb. He had an earring, a dangly cross, and a chain necklace that was actual chain. He looked like he could have stepped right out of his yearbook photo.
…for the briefest of moments before my mind and eyes reconciled what I remembered with what was actually real, and I looked at him as he is now, not as he was 20 years ago.
Yes, he had all the trappings of teen rebellion still…with a pot belly. And a whole lot less hair to slick back. Half of what was left was graying. There were bags under his eyes that spoke of unpaid bills and kids who didn’t get home before curfew and the damn hot water heater that broke again.
He smiled and gave a nod. He was always friendly enough even if we weren’t friends. He stood in the line behind me to buy the same cigarettes he used to smoke, and then climbed into the same car he fixed up for himself in high school, an 80s Camaro-type rig that has now seen better days.
I sat there at the lights on the way back home and watched him peel out as soon as it turned green, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” blaring from his stereo.
When I was in high school, there were a couple of guys in town who used to hang out at the now-defunct convenience store. Not the new fangled gas station that was brightly lit on the corner, but the one in the older, run down part of town. You know…about 100 feet away from the “good” part of town.
No, seriously. The section of main street we were not allowed to hang out in was honestly less than a block from the section we were allowed to hang around. Small town, remember? We have two traffic lights, folks. Two. That’s it. On one side of the street, you’ve got Town Hall, the library, and the police/fire station. On the other side of that very street, when I was a kid, you had the seedy part of town, where the people your folks did not want you to grow up and become liked to chill.
They were ON THE SAME STREET. Directly across from each other. One side good, one side bad. Left side for preppies and prudes, right side for scrubs and skanks.
I can’t stress enough how small my town is.
Anyway, there were a couple of guys well into their 30s who used to hang out in front of the wrong convenience store. They drove a late 70s Ford, a huge boat of a vehicle. They would stand up against their car in their 80s cut off sweatshirts and board shorts. You remember the cut off sweatshirts. They’d stand there and listen to their old music and flick their long, thinning, bleached hair back and nod at people who passed by like they still owned the world, never realizing that the world had moved on without them.
As I watched my former schoolmate peel out, I it hit me. I realized that he’s become one of Those Guys. One who never realized that they got older. Or that there’s a time and place for Def Leppard, and that time has passed. That dangly cross earrings and a switchblade comb sticking out of the back pocket of stone washed jeans is probably not the look that’s going to get you that promotion you want. That no muscle shirt in the world can make a pot belly look cool.
I’m old enough to be in the same boat as our town’s new That Guy.
Am I “that guy”, too?
I’d like to say no, but at the very moment he was blaring Def Leppard, I was playing The Little Mermaid soundtrack in my car. Soooo….
When the hell did this happen? When exactly was the torch passed? Why didn’t I get the memo?!
Of course, I suppose instead of being That Guy, folks my age could be saying “fam” and “bae” unironically. I know people who do that, too; embrace the new as if they’re young enough to actually get it and be part of the fresh and young generation. I suppose a man bun in thinning hair looks just as dumb as a pot belly in a muscle shirt.
Poll time: Which is sadder? Someone who can’t move on from the past, or someone who pretends to be from a younger generation?
Thus concludes a quick and slightly depressing Musing for Saturday, July 8, 2017. I’m going to try very hard not to blare “Under the Sea” on my way to work. What are people my age supposed to listen to? Sports radio? Country? NPR?