When a "herd" of teenagers exploded around the corner after curfew and went tearing down the street toward the Red Line, I experienced a slew of emotions: anger (they were scaring my dog), fear, excitement—but in the end there was only one that really mattered: concern.
It's 11:30 on a Friday night. I just got home from walking Mickey. While I was standing near the tracks just south of Triangle Park (located at Juneway and Hermitage), encouraging my dog to take care of business, a herd of teenagers came tearing around the corner, startling both me and my dog.
"Hey!" I yelled as the first couple of young men went tearing past Mickey and me. "Don't run by dogs!"
"Yeah!" Mickey barked for emphasis.
But they were already gone, running down Paulina toward the Howard Red Line station. Several of their friends followed.
I didn't get a head count as the boys and girls went whizzing by, but when I called 911 I told the dispatcher there were 20 to 30 of them.
Kids. My neighbors' children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. I'm guessing they ranged in age from 13 to 19 at most. I'm sure I've said hi to some of them or complimented them on a cute hairstyle while out walking the dog. And I'm pretty sure a bunch of them were breaking curfew (which is something I did more than once back in the day. But we mostly hung out in somebody's basement, listening to music—and whatnot).
So, how come I don't want the kids in my neighborhood doing what I did when I was their age? With age come experience? It's a different day and age now? For instance, they came running from several different directions and sort of converged at Jonquil and Paulina, before heading toward the L, which indicated to me there was texting going on. (When I was their age we had barely graduated from rotary dial to push-button phones—with cords.)
Is it because they're black and I automatically started stereotyping them as the "flash mobs" I've been reading about in The Tribune and online. Oh no! They're going to go terrorize some poor innocent person and beat them up.
Sitting here at my computer, TV droning in the background, I now have time to reflect. And I think it comes down to wanting them to be safe. Goodness knows I made my share of mistakes over the years—a lot of them when I was a teenager. I didn't have much structure or discipline at home. Both of my parents worked and I was left to my own devices a lot of the time. My brothers had all moved away/ gone on to college by the time I was staying out late, breaking curfew. So, while I accept responsibility today for my actions, I can also admit to making some bad choices back then.
I guess it comes down to wanting the kids in my neighborhood to make better choices than I did. Isn't that really what generation gap is all about? The grown-ups simply want the children to make better choices and the kids think they already know it all and don't want to be told what to do—especially if they come from a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do household.
Therefore, the best I can do from the comfort of my home office is hope they make it home safely and that they don't get into any trouble they can't get out of, which includes getting smacked by their mom or grandma when they come straggling in well after midnight.
Be safe, ya'll.