My boss finally explained it to me. The Center is the CVS parking lot. Riiiight, of course! I always have to watch my rear view mirror with extra vigilance when pulling out of the CVS lot to make sure that I don’t hit any of those…kids. What are they doing there? They can’t drink or do drugs or even make out—what with all those adults milling about, shopping. They can smoke, however, because apparently while one must be 18 in my state to purchase cigarettes, the law permits people to smoke at the age of 16...as long as someone else buys them. One of my students told me that. Okay, so they can smoke at the CVS. What else? There’s a Big Y next door (that’s a supermarket around these parts), with a much bigger parking lot. But they don’t congregate there. Is CVS cooler than the Big Y?
I grew up in Brooklyn and spent most of my free time wandering the streets of Manhattan. Yeah, I’m showing off, being superior. But when I mention this to my students, they look at me with awe. It’s like saying that I was the batboy for the Yankees, or went to high school with Jennifer Aniston (actually, I did—she was a year ahead of me. But telling people that would be plain obnoxious).
Call me an idealist, but I don’t think it’s good that the CVS parking lot will figure so heavily in these kids’ memories of childhood. Here’s the question: how does a semi-rural suburban town create something for the kids to do, a place for them to go, without adultifying it and thereby making it uncool and verboten? Even if the town council put together a team of teenagers to come up with something, the very fact that adults had initiated it would probably have the same chilling effect.