College has been a weird experience for me so far. This is my sixth semester in almost as many years. I know, Dad. I’m going really slow, but just give me a little while. I’m getting there.
It seems no matter how long I’ve been here or how much I try to progress, every single semester I am surrounded by nothing but 18-year-olds. At 23 years old, I should be feeling young and gleeful about my youth, but it’s hard when I’m the only person they all know who owns a car. Whenever I’m playing chauffeur, I feel like I am a mother taking the neighborhood kids to soccer practice. I spend most of the drive shouting things like “Put your seatbelts on!” “Don’t touch the radio!” “Roll up your window and put your whole body into the car!” “I swear I will never give you a ride again if one drop from your juice box spills onto my seat!”
It’s a really good thing I got married. Going on dates with girls four or five years younger than me made for plenty of awkward experiences. I went on a date with an 18-year-old, and during the date, she asked me what I was afraid of. After thinking for a moment, I said, “I’m afraid of the government either getting too much or too little power. If it had too much, we could lose a lot of the freedoms that we enjoy, and if it had too little, it could lead to a lot of anarchy and vigilantism.” After I made this statement, I got this awkward vibe from her that sent the clear message that this was not the kind of answer she was looking for, so I added, “I’m also afraid of heights.”
“Oh,” she said. “I’m afraid of bees.”
The thing about 18-year-olds is they have yet to learn to go without the luxuries that you have while living with your parents. For example, last summer I roomed with a kid named Joe who was straight out of high school. He, a couple of other guys who lived in the apartment and I had been given some hot dogs. We decided to capitalize on the opportunity by having a barbecue. While shopping for supplies, we passed through the bread aisle, and Joe tossed a couple of bags of hot dog buns into our cart. The rest of us responded in horror and said, “Joe, what the heck are these for?”
Confused, Joe replied, “The hot dogs.”
Angrily and somehow in unison, we all yelled, “Joe! Do you know how much these cost?”
“It says $2.50.”
“Exactly, Joe! What, do you think we’re made of money? Go back and grab the 88-cent loaf of white bread.”
Joe, still confused, said, “For hot dogs?”
Even more frustrated, we replied, “Yes, Joe! You take the slice of bread, you put the hot dog in the bread, you fold it and you eat it. And for heaven’s sake, don’t you dare come back with any ketchup. We have plenty of Wendy’s packets left in the fridge.”
Every day I spent with Joe was like watching a newborn lamb wobble through the dew-laden field of life. I will forever remember a conversation I had with Joe one night in the kitchen.
I was preparing dinner and Joe was looking into the fridge when he turned to me and said, “Whose ‘Shake Well’ is this?”
“What?” I responded.
“In the fridge. The carton that says ‘shake well’ on it.”
“That’s orange juice, Joe. ‘Shake well’ is the instruction.”
“Well, can I have some?”