So Rachel and I were browsing in the drugstore—she in the Makeup in Unlikely Colours section, I in the Skin Care for the Decrepit section—when the PSA interrupted the piped-in music:
“Atten-SHUN! Shoppers, did you know that prescription drugs are the the Big New Thing now? Your kids—yes, yours!—are diving into your stash of Vicodin and Valium, popping pills like there’s no tomorrow! And if they’re not gulping them down with your cooking brandy, they’re stealing them to sell to other kids! Go home immediately and stop them! Stop them NOW! These are your teenage kids we’re talking about! Come on, what are you waiting for? EVACUATE THE STORE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!! YOUR TEENS ARE ON THE RAMPAGE! DON’T COME CRYING TO US WHEN THEY WIND UP IN PRISON OR LIVING IN A GROUP HOME!”
Okay, that might not have been exactly how it went. But I think I’ve captured the essence of the message.
“They know there are probably teens in the store at this very moment, right?” she asked (rhetorically, as a couple of kids walked by in Uggs and short-shorts).
“Yep, pretty sure they know that,” I said.
“So what’s that all about? Do they think we’re deaf? Or just stupid? Have they ever heard the word ‘respect’?”
I shrugged. “I’m not sure. But apparently they think parents aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed either. For one thing, they’re assuming parents haven’t talked to their kids about drugs…”
“And they’re assuming all kids want is to get high! News flash: most of us are just keeping our heads down, trying to make it through our teens, until we get to the age where we’re actually shown a tiny bit of respect.”
“I hear you,” I said. “As I recall, that didn’t really happen until I was about 30. And even then, some old geezer in their 50s would tell me, ‘Oh, you’re just a baby yet—wait till you’re my age!’”
“So when does it happen? When do people stop judging you based on your age?”
“Um…” I thought for a minute. “I’m not entirely sure it ever does stop. When you’re young, you’re treated like a criminal in training. When you’re middle-aged, people start telling you you’re over the hill and out of touch. When you’re really old, people talk down to you like you’re some kind of quaint artifact.”
“This isn’t exactly great news,” my daughter said.
“Welcome to life,” I said. “The best you can do is treat others the way you’d like to be treated, and hope it rubs off.”
“And yell at stupid public service announcements when you hear them,” she added.
I nodded. “That too.”
And then we went home.