I turned forty on Friday and as I sat on the cruise ship sipping a Malibu and Diet Coke, I reflected on my life, especially my childhood years. My childhood was scary and difficult in many ways. Yet, my teenage years, while also chaotic and scary at times, were amazing in the way only the teenage years can be.
My favorite activity in high school was ditching. When my mom dropped us off at Chaffey High, my twin sister Jackie and I ran and grabbed our best friends Melinda and Tracy and maneuvered ourselves off campus to the bus stop. We rode the bus to the Montclair Plaza and walked around and begged for quarters. "Could we please have a quarter," one of us would say in a sweet voice. "We need to call our mom to pick us up."
Picture this. Melinda has spiked black hair and is wearing her typical attire of ripped jeans and a tight blouse. Tracy and I have thick black Siouxsie eyeliner on and concert tees with thermals covered by men's boxers and combat boots. Jackie has blond bangs and is probably wearing some type of lace dress. Suffice to say, Jackie and Melinda usually did the asking. I would not have given us a dime, but people did.
We earned a little or a lot of dough depending on how crowded the mall was. Sometimes, we accidentally asked the same people twice and they looked at us with a scowl sensing a scam. With our stash, we shared fast food in the mall's food court. Melinda and Jackie preferred pizza rolls from Sbarro's. Tracy and I usually wanted a corn dog.
After eating, we stood out in the front of the mall and chain smoked. We bought our cigarettes at the liquor store next door to Melinda's duplex with a note signed by my mom (aka my handwriting). We smoked Marlboro Lights. I first started smoking in seventh grade when a girl named Christy asked me to come to her house after school. She lived in the Section Eight apartments across the street. We took a pack of her mom's Virginia Slims from the freezer. Christy taught me how to smoke in the park behind the restrooms. I only coughed a little.
Back to the ditching, one day, Melinda and I ditched without Jackie and Tracy and drove to Hollywood in Melinda's 1964 White Covair. We had heard a rumor that the new Oingo Boingo album was going on sale at Tower Records. When we arrived at the record store, we noticed some commotion and realized that the band was there. I shook hands with the lead singer Danny Elfman while Melinda chatted with Vato the drummer. We screamed the whole way home.
When we got back late that afternoon, I raved to Jackie about meeting Oingo Boingo and she yelled with tears in her eyes, "Oingo is my favorite band, not yours!" To this day, Jackie still harbors a grudge.
Our other favorite pastime was crank calling. We flipped through the phone book and picked a random number to call. When someone answered we asked, "Is your refrigerator running? Yes? Then go catch it." The joke was old and stale but it never got old to us. Elderly people's reactions were always the funniest.
Tracy and I also figured out a way to get free food by calling restaurants to complain. For some reason, we always used an English accent. Tracy would call McDonald's and say in her best British voice, "I just bought some food and found a hair in my Big Mac." Typically, the manager would get on the phone and say, "Please accept our apologies and pick up food on us." I remember one time, we picked up our food wearing my mom's fake furs, high heels and huge sunglasses. I suppose we thought we were incognito, but the reality was that we just didn't care what people thought.
In the end, I suppose that is what I miss the most as an adult. I worry about everything and am always analyzing my behavior (sometimes admittedly over analyzing). But. as a child and teenager, I never worried about the effect of my actions. I just wanted to have fun.
Maybe I need a little more fun and little less worrying. Cheers to that.