Don’t you just love them? No, really, don’t you? I do. What else is so gorgeous or so fucked up? Both the most beautiful and the most hideous of human beings walking the planet right now are probably teenagers. Sometimes the two can be perfectly melded into one, like that Miss Teen Southern Beauty (sic) girl whose minutely-perfected good looks and crippled long-term memory abilities led her to come up with a beautifully-mangled pageant statement of legend, indecipherable in its rambling flatulence. Or a young man I know who has the countenance of a young, greasy, upright Stephen Hawking, and writes much much funnier stuff than I do, or you, or probably even them over there. It is the inherent absurdity of the teenager that I just want to hug to death. The elderly child. The Jackson Pollock of human development. Millions of gangly, pouting Icaruses (or would that be Icarii, whatever), leaping off a cliff to fly again and again, despite the burned wings, hormonal blasts, and tinnitus from their Ipods.

Some people are intimidated by teenagers, especially if they are in packs of three or more, but this is unnecessary. You must always remember: teenagers are more messed up than you. Every one of them, even the most high-achieving and pimple-free, spends hours and hours per day trying to cope with their insecurities and multi-media platform management. I recently read an article about teenage brain development and driving. Recent research suggests that teenagers have no business driving anything that can go over 2 mph, and it’s possible that even walking is a little too much for them on some days. The example given in the article was of a teenage girl driving along, maybe texting or applying eyeliner or both, when she sees the car in front of her suddenly apply its brakes, hard. A crash is imminent. Unlike the adult driver, who instinctively will move to stand on the brakes or steer away to avoid impact, the researchers noted that our teen will instead throw her hands up and off the steering wheel in panic, and scream. The brakes are untouched. The theory is that the adolescent brain is not yet developed enough to connect RED BRAKE LIGHTS to PUT YOUR DAMN UGG BOOTED FEET ON THE BRAKES, HONEY. In a panic situation, the teen brain breaks down (or doesn’t brake down, haw haw haw), undeniably and reliably, similar to Grandpa’s reaction if you try to serve him anything other than Quaker Oats and a single prune for breakfast. Not pretty.

If I were a teen again, I would use this clever bit of research to my advantage. Failing a test? Drop it and scream. Busted smoking pot by the cops? Drop it and scream. Wear the exact wrong outfit the first day of school? Strip it off and scream. You have science to back you up. It could be the heydey, the nirvana of protected irresponsibility. But of course, the teens also cannot plan well from moment to moment, so this is wasted. On the young. Yes, I said it.

You can have fun with teenagers, though. You may not believe me, but it is true. You, too, can use those latest scientific findings for your own amusement. If you see a group of teens, shuffling along and hooting and kicking each other and smoking, you can point and laugh at them and say, “HA HA! UNFORMED! LOL!” They might look at you with their mushy features and flip you off, but it would be so worth it. If you have to give a teenager a ride somewhere, make the most of it. He or she will probably ask for a drop off somewhere between a block and a quarter-mile of the destination, as to avoid being seen with a formed person. Use your fully-functional driving skills to very slowly follow the child walking along after he or she exits the car, beep the horn repeatedly, roll down the window and shout, “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, SWEETIE! BE SAFE! I’LL PUT MR. BUN BUN ON YOUR PILLOW FOR YOU! SMOOCHES!” Keep trolling. You could install lowrider hydraulics in your vehicle as a surprise embarrassment, and violently raise and lower the car as well, or just keep slamming on the brakes and squealing the tires until you cannot laugh any harder at the youth’s desperate shame and discomfort. With any luck after a couple of incidents like this, your teen will be eager to take the public bus system instead and you can stay home and surf the internet for travel deals or porn, unfettered.

I like my house teen. He is handsome, funny, smart, lazy, combative, and rude. His latter three characteristics may serve to make him my house young unemployed adult soon, but I am hoping his former three will help him land a rich, independent, and naïve girlfriend, who will offer him a place to live, free food and laundry service, following in the time-honored footsteps of his dad. What more could a mother hope for? LOL.

So, to teens everywhere, I salute you all. You, Middle-Class Wigger with the pants belted at your knees! I LOVE YOU! You, Smiling Braces Girl who sings off-key at the bus stop! I LOVE YOU! You, 85-Pound International Supermodel with an intractable thumb-sucking habit! I LOVE YOU! Keep on being your roller-coastery, mentally-fluffy, beautiful selves. Just stay the hell away from me on the road.


One of the grocery stores I frequent to spend my $300 a week is a clean and pleasant Safeway, just off a busy street that winds down to my little yup town. Most often, it is quiet and uncrowded when I get there after dropping off the surly silent teen and his coolly-disheveled self at school. I yank a cart out of the stack, after perusing the line of them to get one that is not wet from the CONSTANT RAIN HERE or has any leftover peoples’ crap in it. That creeps me out. It’s like if someone leaves their shopping list or Starbucks cup in the cart I think I will get their cooties, and I get pissed off. Damn filthy apes.

The first thing I go by is the floral department, where a couple of middle-aged ladies (older than me, of course) tend to the many gorgeous bouquets. I never buy any, and something stops me from standing and appreciating them longer. Perhaps it is too pretty. I wonder what happens to the unsold cut flowers. Do they get dumpstered? That would be the loveliest dumpster ever.

I buy the same stuff every week – steaks, salad, apples, bottled water, yogurt, granola, blah blah blah – so I have mental space while heaving my cart around to pay attention to the people there. I think corporate must tell the Safeway workers that if a customer passes within 8 feet of them, they must greet you warmly and ask if you are finding everything you need. Of course, I always say I am doing just swell. I hate anyone asking me anything there, because I assume they would rather be telling me to eat lead or f-off and die or just give up and weep uncontrollably on my shoulder about the state of the broccoli. I think about how anyone ended up working at Safeway. It is not a bad place to be. It is not anyone’s dream job, is it? Maybe.

There’s the Japanese guy, maybe about 35 or 40, who works in the meat department and always wears a baseball cap. I swear he makes a beeline for me as soon as I make it to the iced jumbo shrimp refrigerator case. He is overly-enthusiastic about his meats and seems to desperately want to assist me in finding many, many pieces of beef carcass and chicken flesh to throw in my silver supersized cart. If I see him first, I duck down the Specialty and Organic Food aisle until he goes into the abattoir or whatever it is they have back behind the display case. If he catches me, his joy burbles uncontrollably and I feel I must at least let him tell me about the King Salmon for a full minute. I think he is very happy to work at Safeway. I could hardly see how a person could be happier. Maybe he drinks to excess at home, though, or beats his dog. I could see that. No one should be that happy.

The women who restock the Hallmark card displays and the magazines seem to be evil twins. They go about grimly with their mission of removing the old and unwanted paper goods, and replacing the displays with “GRANDMOTHER, WE ARE SENDING THIS CARD ON YOUR BIRTHDAY BECAUSE WE CAN’T REALLY STAND TO LISTEN TO YOUR ENDLESS REPETITIVE STORIES IN PERSON” cards, or periodicals with screaming competing headlines referring to how to beat stress, lose 15 pounds before (fill in the holiday/season), or something about Britney Spears’ genital area. The women doing these jobs seem slightly snobby, and look like they want to finish up and get the hell out. I give them wide berth.

The most interesting checkout person is Hard Rock Mom. She chews gum, nicotine I assume, like she is ready to spit it out in your eye if you cross her. Her glory days are long past, and the growing harshness in her face belies many many many smokes of all kinds, beers on tap, metal concerts long past when she had big hair, and a fair count of bad boys, some of who left her with children who looked just like Daddy. She knows my face, glad to see me because she can relax because I will shoot the shit with her. I will comment on her Van Halen t-shirt she is wearing under her blue Safeway jacket and she lights up, and I can see the 17-year-old who stole her grandpa’s truck with her giggling, stoned girlfriends to get to Tacoma to see Ratt. The ring of heavy black eyeliner she carefully paints on each morning both makes her light green eyes pop out, and drags them down. I can see her in 5 years, still furiously chewing the gum and worrying over her teenager’s toddler. Even she knows it’s coming. She’s already seen it all.

But there is one person, and one person only, that makes my Safeway experience more than just another shopping run at a well-lit, obscenely-bountiful American supermarket. She is Customer Service Girl. I have never seen her. I don’t need to go over to her counter as I am not buying cigarettes or lottery tickets or cashing a check or whatever else the hell goes on there. But I hear her. OH, HOW I HEAR HER. Every single time I am there, it is the same. I hear the click of the store’s public address system switch on and she speaks. Have you ever heard a child who whines with every single syllable and inflection? Where the sentence goes way way up in pitch at the end and the last word is held far too long? The kind of sound that makes you want to kill kittens?

Imagine this then, with a nasal, stuffy, singsong-y, INFURIATING woman’s voice. “CAAAARRRLLLLLLL??” Cawwwlllll holding on Line WUUUUUUNNNNNN???? CAAAARRRLLLLLLLLLL? CAAWWWLLLLL HOLDING ON LINE WUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNN???????” I swear, I have stopped dead in my tracks in the dairy aisle and just said, “JESUS CHRIST!!” at the sound of this. The only way I have found to at all cope with this is that I must, the second she starts speaking, wherever I am in the store and whoever is nearby, copy and mock her perfectly as she once again asks for Carl to pick up goddamn Line One. I do not care if anyone thinks I am crazy. It stops me from going back to the Customer Service Counter and wringing her (as I imagine it to be) geeky little pencil neck. I know I am not alone. I have seen Stock Boy Jason giggle knowingly, and Soccer Mom With Baby Eating Cheerios From A Baggie smile widely in my direction.

I go to Safeway once a week. Maybe I will apply for a job in Customer Service.