Two days ago, I decided to get a haircut after work. Yesterday, I woke up early, around 7:30 in the morning, so I could get in line at the MVA, what some places call the DMV, so I could update my driver's license. I wanted it to reflect my current address. I had hoped, on a chilly Saturday morning, that the lines would be short.
Alas, it was not.
The line went around the building, and it seemed 100 people were ahead of me. Two people in front of me was a guy, perhaps in his late 40s, gray hair, dark moustache, wearing a biker shirt. Apparently, he was there to get a motorcycle license or possibly to renew it.
Bikers were made famous, I believe, from a documentary in the 70s or so about Hell's Angels. Bikers were made out to be rebels of society, groups to be feared for indiscriminate violence. However, as time passed, and fewer bikers were out riding in gangs, the notion of a biker has become more quaint. An outsider, yes, but this guy was remarking how he had withheld a driver's license from his son because he wanted his son to get better grades. According to him, this wasn't effective.
So much for biker stereotypes.
Just ahead of me was an Asian girl. She had brought her book describing the various traffic rules of Maryland. She was planning to take an exam to get her learner's permit. The biker guy was talking to her, asking how things were. I suppose I should have seen it as the casual conversation that it was, but it kept running through my mind that he was hitting on her (though, there really wasn't so much evidence of that except he was talking to her at all).
It hadn't occurred to me that the girl would have needed a ride there, but after a few minutes, her father showed up.
Apparently, she goes to the nearby Rockville high school, one Richard Montgomery, where my friend Adam is an alum. I had mentioned that he graduated around 1991 or 1992 and she pointed out that she was born in 1991. Ah, so young.
She was confident enough to talk to strangers, inquisitive enough to ask questions about college, and graduate school. I've seen the type, and perhaps been the type minus the bit of extroversion. Kids who look at their books, trying to cram facts into their heads, heading down the road of destiny that will take them to college. These are the high achievers of American society, the so-called elite that a McCain campaign so roundly decries.
At a time when most kids should be eager and ambitious in life, using their intellect to make good decisions, we seem happy to raise a generation of youth that are happy not knowing much, that listen to what's told to them, without questioning it, and more importantly, without the ability to question it. They prefer a night of drunken carousing rather than a night in front of the books.
Oh, they would argue, that people should have fun, but not at the expense of education. And most well-educated students do have a measure of fun too, and then they have real jobs.
Right now, schoolwork is this girl's life, and perhaps a few other extracurricular activities. Her life isn't so much different from the one I lived once upon a time, but things change as you get older. Priorities change. Life changes.
Still, for a brief moment, I was filled with a touch of nostalgia for days gone by, for a time when all that mattered was test scores, applications to fancy colleges, and leaving family for the first time. When I look back, it wasn't such a bad time, after all.
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1 month ago