I had an encounter last weekend, and I was not really sure
how I wanted to express it. I am fully aware that my
tone in this column almost always comes off as angry
and bitter. As much as my encounter could have
evoked anger and bitterness, I decided that I would
look at the lighter side of things and find the
humour in what I had witnessed.
I went to meet some friends well past midnight, having been
left with the responsibility of dropping a friend
off at the airport. I was under the impression that
when I got to where my friends were, I would find a
reasonably quiet environment where things were
winding down. Boy, I was wrong.
As I was parking, I noticed a group of young men trying to
calm down someone in their midst. I was not sure
what was going on, but I heard the upset young man
cursing at some foreigner. His language was far from
couth, littered with four letter words and every
derogatory term that can be applied to Caucasians. I
figured the guy was drunk; it was, after all, two
o'clock in the morning. I got out of the car, and
went in to find my friends.
When I walked into the establishment, it was filled to the
brim. It would have been one thing if it were full
of people that had jobs and perhaps even families; I
would have attributed it to a busy Saturday night.
But no, the place was filled with a huge group of
high school students. There were about the same
number of males and females; they all could not have
been over the age of 16. Some of the boys had not
even started growing facial hair.
They were all speaking in French. They were all having a
great time, some of them had beers, others were
sharing cigarettes, but most importantly, they were
enjoying each other's company and generally doing
what kids do with some measure of recklessness.
Some of the kids were paired off into couples and the boys,
being boys, were trying to get from the girls the
only thing that boys that age think about, a kiss, a
touch, a smile, whatever physical affirmation they
could draw from the young ladies that had not even
really formed hips yet. All of them were trying to
act grown up. They were in an adult establishment,
they were doing all the things that adults do, and
best of all, there were no adults around to tell
them to stop. At least, there were no adults there
that looked or acted like they were any older than
the kids themselves.
As things began to get heated, some of the boys were
getting lucky, and I was blessed with the fortune of
watching kids mauling each other and checking one
another's tonsils with their tongues. It was one
thing to watch the foreplay but completely
shattering to my ego to watch the young girls
getting some action while I was sitting there in the
third decade of my life with no prospects. Ha! Youth
is certainly wasted on the young.
When one of the couples decided that they would lean on the
stool that I was sitting on to have their make out
session and almost topple me out of my seat, I
decided enough was enough. I gently tapped on a
shoulder - I could not really make out if it was of
the guy or the girl as they were so wrapped up in
each other - and pointed to an area that was free of
people and quite comfortable for what they were
doing. I felt like my mother. That was when I
realized that I was definitely getting old.
And that was just the thing. As I sat there watching those
kids for those couple of hours, the only thing I
could do was reminisce. I remember times like that
when we were young and foolish and a kiss made out
an entire week. When things were less complicated
and sharing a beer with four of your friends had a
sense of adventure and fun.
For once, I mean just this once, it did not occur to me to
ask where the parents of these kids thought they
were or whether they knew their kids drank and
smoked. The sort of hands off and inattentive
parenting that I was witnessing with my very eyes
Ethiopian families resort to was of no consequence
to me. At that point, it did not matter. The kids
were having such an innocent ball that you could not
help but be infected.
I know there is no condoning underage intoxication and
smoking, but there are no laws against it, right?
Sounds pretty ridiculous when you look at it like
that? Our country says it is OK for high school
students to go out, drink and smoke. If the
government says it is OK what can be the harm in
A drink for thought, with humour to boot . . .