Almost six years ago, I proudly stepped away from college with a crisp, fresh college degree. I was certified educated, ready to take on the world. Almost six years ago, I ended up working on a community farm, growing squash, killing bugs, and watching over the community service volunteers. Great use of my fine arts degree.
The farm was fairly small, about 150 by 250 feet. It had sections of squash, plots of peppers, innumerable baby tomatoes, even a row of grapes that never, ever grew. My partners in crime and grime were Lou, Geoff, and my brother, Sam. To help us tend to the crops we had a league of volunteers. They came in all shapes and sizes; high school students trying to earn summer credits, juvies doing community service in lieu of jail time, and recovering cokeheads from halfway houses. Our worst volunteers were teenagers.
Teenagers are the Worst
I could write an entire doctoral thesis about why being a teenager is the worst and what sort of island we should build to house every teen in America, but I’ll leave that for another time. While Emir was our honor roll student at the Farm, we had our share of delinquents. One such example was a high school sophomore, who would make an appearance from time to time, “Julie.” She was short, she was white, she was a brunette, she thought “booty shorts” were appropriate garden wear, and she was whiny. Julie would often refuse to pick any of the “dirtier” vegetables, for fear of a dirt getting on her fingers. She would refuse to work with other volunteers if they were pungent (meaning, anyone). The only lasting impression Julie made was on a picnic table, where someone wrote Julie is a bitch in sunscreen, which burned into the wood. However, she acted as a catalyst for our next story.
While Julie was a no-wage slave on the Farm for school credit, “Rob” was with us because he was a troubled teen. His options were working with idiots like us or going to juvenile hall. He chose the idiots. Rob was just your standard skinny white boy, trying to look tough. He spoke with a thick “Row dyland” accent, which punctuated his many, many tall tales.
It seems that when you combine an adolescent male and an adolescent female, they both begin to suffer from a case of “stupid brain.” In order to impress Julie, young Rob would spin tales while stuffing cardboard boxes with malnourished squash. He claimed to be a smooth criminal, until he slipped up. Rob regaled us with the time he snagged 10lbs of marijuana from Amsterdam. When he arrived back in these United States, our post-9/11 TSA just laughed him off, even as they pulled brick after brick of pot out of his bag in front of the entire airport.
“Yo dawg, put that back,” Rob demanded of the TSA agent, with swagger literally pouring out of his ears. Naturally – because a TSA agent would listen to a 16 year old – they put all the pot back and sent Rob on his way.
The crime that resulted in Rob’s 240 hours of community service was one of passion and tragedy. Rob had discovered that his mother had been diagnosed with cancer, which is always terrible. People react to the news of a terminal illness in a number of different ways. Some cry. Some begin drinking. Some turn to God. Rob took things in stride. As in he walked a stride or two down to a local gas station, waited for a car to stop at a red light, and shot the driver in the face with a .22.
Rob told enough stories to fertilize the farm for a week. Sadly, there are many details that have been lost to the ether of my memory. He was the 16 year old equivalent of that barfly who spins a new pub lore after his 10th beer of the evening. Why Rob felt the need to transparently lie in order to impress a few strangers and some idiot girl, I will never understand.
Wait, no. I just got it.