Friday, October 26, 2012

Teenage Wasteland

Work hard, party harder. Ah, college, when it was ok to be so young, so dumb, and have so much fun.  Remember all the free food, all-nighters, and especially the huge parties? The parties with beer on the ground, dark corners, and unlimited alcohol for pretty freshman girls? Labor Day weekend was the prime kick-off school-year party time and I was nostalgic, almost.

Sitting in the drunk tank on the morning after the first big party weekend of the year, I had a full-house, but an unusually young one. The college girls had awoken and were giggling at the snoring homeless man between them. They had probably never been so close to one before. The drunk tank is a great equalizer in that respect.  Their expensive clothes were disheveled, their recently trimmed hair mussed, but they were still young, still beautiful, still able to recover gracefully from being blackout drunk.  They were also great socializers, still in the middle of that magical period of freshman year where everyone could potentially be your friend. They made fast friends amongst each other and discussed outfits, boyfriends, and the Iliad. They also attempted to needle me into letting them leave, as infrequent visitors to our fine establishment usually do when they have gotten bored of sitting in the drunk tank.

We had an assortment of students that day, male and female, ranging from the super pretentious schools to state schools to community colleges. They quickly fell into a hierarchy, the ringleader a clever-looking brunette from one of the most prestigious institutions in the country. Finding me sympathetic but impermeable to begging, she needled, wheedled, and stopped everyone who walked by with her sad story.  She flashed a bright smile and smoothed her hair, sitting rigidly upright with her hand raised as if she were in lecture. She was charming and I have to admit, I thought she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time...

After 2 hours of fruitless attempts, however, the underage little minx slouched down, sighing, "well, I might as well get comfortable since it looks like I won't be leaving anytime soon." Her whole countenance had been an act! I asked her nonchalantly what she meant and she grinned, explaining that people tend to do what you want them to do when you look pretty, neat, and are charming. "I wish I had a mirror. I probably look horrible, otherwise, I'd have been out of here if that resident thought I was cute," she sighed. She knew so much yet so little. She was well-practiced in the art of manipulation way beyond her years; perhaps that's how she came to matriculate at one of the most competitive undergraduate schools in the world.

People like my little patient often do slide around the rules- their increased intelligence and will to mislead do confer them advantages. For example, she did not get expelled that day like some of her drunk tank compatriots from state and community colleges. In fact, I would be surprised if she came off with more than a slap on the wrist.

I'm sure I won't see her again, but I know that she will be out there in society, slithering her way up to the top on the golden ivy-laced path.


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