Mighty questions blow with the predictability of standards in a breeze.
We look at the soft ripples of the fabric and attempt to extrapolate meaning and, in turn, create a framework for predictability. This is, in the end, so much folly. Predictability (outside of commercial ventures) is often a vanity play.
“Behold the veracity of my prognostications, rubes!!! I know more than you do!”
If the pontificators are correct that is… if they are wrong, they just slink back into the shadows until the next moment arises for them to beat their chests and point towards the moon.
These scenarios tend to play out, the most obnoxiously in doomsday cults and those who have created a fetish of the Rapture. Never underestimate the audacity of man to believe that he, after an eternal line of ancestors, has found himself uniquely seated at the pinnacle of history. Place a charismatic prognosticator at the helm, and now you’ve got yourself some real idiocy on display.
That is until the prognostications of doom do not come to pass… then we realize their statements had a bit of a slippery quality to them.
“It’s not that I said it would happen… I said that it could happen… and it could happen this time again next year!”
…and so it goes.
These thoughts went through my head last weekend as Sandy and I made our domestic errand runs. This little journey usually involves going to Costco (depleting them of their toilet paper supply), surreptitiously making multiple trips to the free samples kiosks (not the crappy flavored water, or salad dressing ones, the good ones), then betting which checkout line is faster. This is usually a failed exercise. But once one has been secured, I abandon Sandy and join the other husbands to stare at the obligatory Mercedes that is always parked inside next to the optical department.
I don’t know why I, or should I say we, do this. None of us are really in the market for another car, let alone a Mercedes. Yet, congregate we do.
After Costco we make the trip to CVS. This seems to be more of a frequent necessity as we get older.
It was at this point in the journey I noticed them.
At the entrance to the CVS there were seven young e-bike riders sitting on their steeds on the sidewalk next to the entrance. The young men… (well… I assume they were male, but to be quite candid, gender ambivalence does seem to be a thing… it is entirely possible that some of them might have been females)… were all about 12 to 13 years in age.
They were just sitting on their bikes talking to one another.
There was something odd, and frankly disturbing, in the scene but I could not put my finger on it. Other patrons did look at them with a mild degree of scorn as they entered CVS.
Once we had gone inside, Sandy abandoned me to go to her aisle and I made my way to the shaving section to pick up my Cremo Shave Cream (sandalwood scented, thank you very much).
After securing my Cremo, I went to the front to wait for Sandy to check out. It was at this point I noticed one of the riders from outside enter the store… on his bike!
The rider slowly made his way down one of the aisles, almost to the pharmacy, turned around and slowly rode out.
No… he did not shoplift or engage in any criminal conduct. He just simply rode in and out, almost as if he had been dared to do so. Which he, frankly, might have been.
Sandy noticed him as she approached and he was just exiting the store.
“Can they do that?”
“I doubt it, but he did.”
“Hmmm,” she said with a disapproving tone.
We paid our bill and made our way back to her car. The riders had moved on down the sidewalk and were now posted up by the UPS store still talking amongst themselves. As I was about to get into our car I paused and watched them for a couple of minutes.
That’s when it hit me.
I got inside the car and started the engine and looked at Sandy.
“What did you notice about those kids?”
“The ones on the bikes?”
“Well, one of them drove into CVS.”
“Yes… and we will get to that in a second, but before that. What were they doing? More specifically, what were they not doing?”
“Ummmm… I don’t know, what are you getting at?”
“That was us! Well… that was me at their age. Outside, on our bikes, developing social structures and adhering to those social structures, learning how to develop interpersonal skills.”
“Oh my God… not one of them was holding a phone!”
“That is right! Not one was disconnected from their immediate reality by scrolling, texting, or generally disengaging. They were outside, playing… actually playing… with other age-appropriate people, in a public setting!”
“People hate those kids on e-bikes.”
“Of course they do! That is because they are adults and adults have been hating adolescent behavior for generations. It’s part of the deal. In fact, it must be part of the deal. Kids need to have something to rebel against, gently rebel against. Social norms are one of those things. Pushing boundaries is part of the human developmental condition.”
“You seem to be really into this.”
“I am. Now… about that kid going into CVS. Of course that is not allowed. But why? People with disabilities go in there on motorized carts all the time… so it can’t be the presence of a powered vehicle. It’s just… I don’t know… not acceptable, because we have all subconsciously agreed it should not be acceptable. But he did it anyway. He pushed a boundary.”
“You think this is a good thing?”
“Damn right I do! The great Fredrick Douglass was asked by an abolitionist what she could do to help the cause. He answered her with one word: agitate.”
“Steven… do you really think those e-bike adolescents are destined to be the next Fredrick Douglass?”
“Sandy… I pray to God one is… what I have just seen gives me the slightest glimmer of hope that perhaps one might be.”