On any given summer night, the teens of our great nation take to the streets of their respective towns in search of something fun to do. They can be seen outside pizza joints, ice cream stands and movie theaters, doing what teenagers do best – hanging out.
Except for certain insignificant differences like parachute pants, banana clips and Pat Benatar, things were pretty much the same when I was a teenager.
After summer chores like grass cutting and weeding green beans, usually tempered with an hour or two of laying out coated in tanning oil, I was released by my parents to find whatever fun was available in our little town.
The first step in hatching a plan for the evening was a telephone call to my best friend, Patti (except for that boring summer when she had a boyfriend.) Such calls were always made from the candlestick phone in my bedroom. The second step was to confirm that neither of us was invited to a party (a rarity) or had a date (almost never happened.) The final step was to decide on transportation, which was almost always my dad’s enormous 1977 Chevy Blazer.
I picked Patti up at her house, and after applying copious amounts of lip gloss and making sure our bangs looked just right, we would cruise the town.
Our journey usually started with a drive by the local arcade. “Games 101” was a hangout of sorts, and although Patti and I didn’t really give two shakes about Asteroids or Ms. Pacman, we knew that the arcade was a veritable Command Center where all information on teenage social events was collected.
Sometimes we scored big and received word of a bonfire in Bennett’s woods or a party at the house of a classmate we all referred to as “Meatball,” but usually, Patti and I drove around for hours, all glossed up, trying to not look too desperate.
Some nights, Patti and I would scrape together a few of our fellow goofy girlfriends to pile in the Blazer and go check out the Drive In Movie Theater. The Palace Gardens wasn’t cheap; however, and we refused to spend our hard earned grass cutting/ice cream scooping money on overpriced admission. There were certain well-known strategies of avoiding the normal fees, and we employed them all at one time or another.
On nights when the Palace Gardens offered a one-price-per-carload special, we discovered that we could pack nearly a dozen teenagers, big bangs and all, into the Blazer. On regular admission nights, we would stuff two friends into the dog crate my father had built into the back of the Blazer in order to reduce our expenses, and had a great time trying to keep a straight face while driving by the ticket booth.
If we were feeling particularly daring (or cheap) we would sneak through the woods surrounding the Palace Gardens, and crawl through an opening in the fence to gain cost-free entrance into the theater. On one such occasion, six of us made the attempt as a group.
We had heard the rumors that the management was cracking down on teens who refused to pay by lacing the fence with some kind of foul concoction made from watered down cow manure. We all knew that nothing could ruin one’s chances of getting a boyfriend like stepping in poo, so we were all particularly cautious that night
Using hand signals as if it was some kind of special ops raid on an Al-Qaeda compound, we snuck through the woods and permeated the fence without being hit. Or so we thought.
The nightly double feature included the new hit “Porky’s” but we weren’t interested. We headed straight for the large group of loitering teens near the concessions. Just before we reached the group, we realized that one of our comrades had been hit.
“What’s that smell?” Peggy whispered. Our sniffing noses quickly found the source of the pungent odor – Andrea’s Jordache jean cuff had been tainted by the enemy’s foul biological weapon.
Poor Andrea was a goner, but the rest of us had a great time mingling among the cars under the stars on that balmy summer night.
And now, when I see today’s teens acting out their own version of A Midsummer Night’s Scheme, I remember my youth, smile, and hope that all their dreams of summer fun come true.