One late afternoon a few weeks ago, I was leaving the junior high where I work. Those who are familiar with junior highs know that, once the final bell rings, those doors are locked. Locked tighter than Lance Armstrong’s bike. And if you don’t lock the doors, you’re asking for trouble. Overturned garbage cans, holes in the carpet, the words “Kevin Reyes smells” written everywhere — they’re like raccoons with Sharpies.
Anyway, I was exiting out the front of the school when two or three girls snuck in through the gap just as I opened it (like snowflakes in a blizzard). Normally, I would have been yelling and trying to sweep them out the door, but one of them yelped “bathroom emergency!” and they seemed pretty clean-cut. Also, I couldn’t see any Sharpies. So I let them through.
Unfortunately, a skinny-jeaned troop of skateboarding boys were fast on their heels, and they almost got through the door before I shut it in their anarchistic little faces.
“But you let those girls in!” one of the nihilists yelled, smearing the windows with his Hot Cheeto-y fingers. “We have a bathroom emergency too!”
“No, you don’t,” I said through the glass. “You just want to hang out inside where it’s warm and wreck your skateboards everywhere and throw water from the toilets on each other and practice ‘shuffling’ on every possible surface in the school.”
“You’re prejudiced against skaters!” one of the boys yelled, which I vehemently denied, and then sent them on their malcontented ways.
As I waited those few minutes for the girls to exit the bathroom, I thought, ‘Is that boy right? Could it be that I saw those girls and let them in only because they seemed to be wholesome? Did I keep those boys out based on their appearance?”
And that’s when I realized it: I really am subtly prejudiced against skateboarders.
Actually, let me rephrase that: I’m blatantly prejudiced against them.
Of course, I’m not talking about real skaters, by which I mean the six people living who actually ride on actual skateboards, which have been scientifically proven to be the least efficient mode of ground transportation since the Chrysler Leviathan. These real skaters have to be admired for being so dedicated to a man-powered vehicle that, as far as I know, can’t go over a popcorn kernel without crashing.
No, I’m talking about “sk8ers,” or, as they were referred to in ancient times, “the brood of Satan.” I hate everything about the lifestyle: Mountain Dew, saggy jeans, oversized T-shirts, undersized T-shirts, D.C. Shoes, wearing wool hats in the summer, annoying small-town cops for fun, microwave burritos, 64-ounce energy drinks, general lawlessness and calling each other “sick.”
The only part of the lifestyle I have minor sympathy for is the occasional skipping of classes, but when I skip, it’s usually to nap or work on homework for other classes. It is definitely not to get hopped up on convenience-store taquitos and try to urinate in as many public places as I can.
But as I stood there in the school lobby, I chastised myself. Maybe these boys really did need to use the bathroom, and I was the bad guy. Maybe all they needed was a positive adult role model. Feeling more than a little guilty, I opened the door to invite them inside.
They were throwing a piece of dog poop they’d found at each other.