Yes, there I was in riding in a car with boys, all of us on our way to a late night performance of an obscure rock band at an small out-of-the-way music venue in a misbegotten but vaguely hip neighborhood of the big city I called home.
It felt familiar. It felt like many a night I'd spent before eager with anticipation for the music, the fellowship, the likely accompanying drug experience, and whatever else I hoped might lie ahead, but which usually didn't.
There was only one difference.
It was last year, and it was me driving a car of five 17-18 year old boys, one of whom was my son Brandon, to a concert in a slightly off downtown neighborhood of Philadelphia.
"Thank you for the ride, Mr. Block," said each one of guys as they in turn climbed into the car.
I never wanted to be a "Mr. Block" at any juncture in my life, but now it seemed odd to be anything other. "Call me Perry" would have sounded as forced and phony under the circumstances as "gather round, dudes, and let me tell you about the Sixties!"
"So why do I have to drive?" I'd asked Brandon while being pressed into emergency transportation service earlier in the evening. "What about Tim's dad?"
"Tim's dad works a day job," he answered.
"So I've been selected based on diminished job status and perceived fecklessness?"
"No, Dad. Just availability."
The truth is I didn't really mind. But once the car was loaded with millennials and we were on our way, I realized I'd been thrust into a situation in which I had a difficult choice to make.
Do I join in the guys' conversation? Brandon and his friends were talking school, college, majors, summer jobs, and all things so far under age 60, I’d have to bungee jump to reach them. Still there were a few opportunities to offer an opinion, a dollop of alleged wisdom, and even a cross generational joke or two.
But how would they respond? Would they think ...
"That was funny! I like Mr. Block. He's a cool guy unlike my dad with his knock-knock jokes!"
or would they think ...
What is Mr. Block jabbering about?! Who's Jack Benny? Doesn't he realize he's here only as a means to an end?"
Or perhaps I should just keep silent, pretend I'm not listening, focus on the driving. In which case, would they think ...
"Mr. Block really has it together! Stays out of our way unlike my mom always boring my friends about the time she rode in an elevator with David Crosby!"
or would they think ...
"God, Mr. Block has nothing to say about anything. Poor Brandon, his dad's a moron!"
"What do your friends prefer?" I asked Brandon as he exited the car at the club. "That I join in the conversation or keep it to myself?"
"Dad, you're over thinking it. Do what comes naturally."
"Well, tell me what it is that comes naturally!"
I chose to judiciously join in the talk on the way home. It seemed to go fine.
Some of Bran’s friends were quite friendly and talkative, others a bit more quiet.
Just like any group of folks anywhere at any age.
As I dropped each one of the guys off, "Thank you for the ride, Mr. Block" reverberated throughout the car.
Riding in cars with boys --- yep, I wish I could be one of the boys again. The gap between me and Brandon and his friends seems as wide as the gap between the Sixties and the Tweenies, or whatever this current decade is called.
But it's the stage of life I'm at, and I'm going to relish it. Too bad for Tim's dad, who works a day job.
Note: Despite the nose, that is not me in the picture.
I bet you played Lawrence Welk in the eight track on the way to the concert, or at least told the story about the time Betsy Ross saw stars after you banged her against the liberty bell. Those boys could learn a lot from you, Mr. Block.
I tried to interest them in my brand spanking new collection of "Polyesters by Perry" and this vintage tape from the Lawrence Welk Show (http://bit.ly/1aEZgqq), but no dice. However, I'm sure they thought I was, in the parlance of the young, a true "hep cat!"
It sounds like you did just fine, and Brandon has some pretty cool friends who have respect for their elders. I like that in a kid.
I don't know if I did fine or not, but I'll step out of character long enough to say Brandon is a very cool kid and he has lots of nice friends. Thank you, Patti.
Now back into character: who are you calling an "elder?!!"
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