Every baby boomer has had this experience: the awakening that young people don’t think you’re cool. Maybe they don’t even think you’re there! This is what happened to Perry Block of Havertown, Pennsylvania, when he found himself Riding In Cars With Boys.
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 a small out-of-the-way music venue in a misbegotten but vaguely hip neighborhood of the big city where I and the others were living.
It felt familiar. It felt like many a night I’d spent previously, eager with anticipation for the music, the fellowship, the likely accompanying drug experience, and whatever else I hoped might lie ahead, but which almost always didn’t.
There was only one difference: it was last year, and it was me driving a car of five 17 to 18-year-old boys, one of whom was my son Brandon, to a concert in Center City Philadelphia.
“Thank you for the ride, Mr. Block,” said each one of guys as they climbed into the car.
I never wanted to be a “Mr. Block” at any time 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 been pressed into emergency transportation service earlier in the evening. “What about Tim’s dad?”
“Tim’s dad works a day job, Dad,” he answered.
“Oh. So I’ve been selected based on reduced job status and perceived indolence.”
Well, truth was, I didn’t really mind. But once the car was loaded with millennials, I realized 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 below age 60, I’d have had to bungee jump to reach them.
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 us 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, please tell me what it is that comes naturally!”
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 decade is called.
But it’s the stage of life I’m at, and I’m going to do my best to enjoy it. Too bad for Tim’s dad, who works a day job.