I'm not sure that I've yet paid back the karmic debt that I owe for some of the things that I did as a teenager.
It's not that I was a horrible teenager.
I could have been a lot worse.
I didn't drink, smoke or do drugs. (I still don't.)
I wasn't a mugger or a date rapist. (When I needed money when my allowance was cut off I sold aluminum cans, and I was much too shy to even date.)
I wasn't a bully. (Although I was bullied at one point. Until I pulled a knife on him. Another story for another time.)
But I still did my share of the things that earn teenagers dirty looks from "the Man" whether they are deserved or not.
I will go into one shortly. First some back story.
This took place during my first year of Junior High (they call it Middle School now). I was the same age as my son is now, which is probably why I started thinking about this again.
After my parents divorced my mom and I moved from the house where I grew up to a tiny, run down apartment all the way across town to live with her new boyfriend.
I went into Junior High without a single friend and feeling very out of place. Toss in a very bad body image, the introduction of group showering after gym and a huge case of introversion and my school life was hell.
My home life was just as bad due to the aforementioned "mom's boyfriend", although for different reasons. If I saw him bleeding on the street today, I would see if there was any way that I could get him to bleed more. And that is toned down from the hatred that I had for him by the time I left to go live with my dad. Again, another story for another time. Possibly.
A few months into the school year a student transfered in from (if I recall correctly, which is unlikely) California. He was in a few of my classes and he was having even more trouble fitting in than I was because not only did he talk strangely, he was an albino. Something I thought was pretty cool, but the rest of the kids ostracized him for. I noticed that we walked almost the exact same route home after school so I figured he must live somewhat close.
One day we were walking so near to each other that it seemed ridiculous to not talk. It turned out that we had a lot in common. He was living alone with his mom who had recently divorced and was trying to make it on her own. She worked nights at a hospital so he was alone most of the week.
We became great friends. His name, if I recall correctly (again, probably not) was Mike McCartney.*
I finally had a place to go to get away from my mom's boyfriend. I would go over to Mike's house after school, say hi to his mom as she was leaving (She liked me and I thought she was hot. Raging hormones do that to a kid. Sorry Mike.), and then just hang out and do whatever we wanted until I had to go home for dinner.
With nobody keeping track of what we did.
Two eleven year old boys with time on their hands and nobody watching them can get into a lot of trouble. I'm actually amazed we didn't do far worse.
One thing we did stands out as particularly cruel (yes, finally, the point of the story). As an adult I realize that. Then, it just seemed very funny.
I'm sure most of you have seen the valve stem caps (the cap you screw onto your tire to keep the air valve covered) that have a notched bit that sticks out from the top. If not, click the link. I'll wait.
Okay, I found a very nice chrome one on the road one day while walking to Mike's house after school. I'm not sure if I already knew what that little notch was for, or if I found out by experimenting, or if Mike knew. In any case, what you do is flip the cap over, insert that notched end into the valve stem and unscrew the valve core. This lets the air out of the tire.
My little, devious pre-teen monkey brain said, "Hey! If you only LOOSEN the valve core a little, that makes a slow leak without actually damaging the tire!" And, not being a driver, this struck me as quite an amusing thing to do.
When I got to Mike's house I told him about my idea and he found it to be a good, practical way of spending that evening.
It was a Friday night, so we made our plans. I went home to eat and changed into some dark clothes, then took off to meet up with him after dark.
We figured it would be best to engage in this activity far from home so we walked about eight blocks away and started to scope out cars. When we would find one in shadows and the house behind it was dark we would sneak up, remove a valve cap from a tire, loosen the core a tiny amount and then replace the original cap less than finger tight. Then we would head off in search of another car.
One of our target vehicles was a truck that turned out to have the same kind of valve caps we were using for Evil so we snagged all four of those suckers. This meant that we could both work at once instead of one of us keeping a lookout.
That was our downfall.
The next night we went out to engage in our evil deeds, each armed with a couple of stem caps. We went through a few cars in a different area than the night before and were feeling all happy and stuff. Then Mike saw a cop car approaching after having just finished his side of the car (we were doing four tires at a time by that point).
He said something like, "OH SHIT!"
I jumped up and turned around right when the cop turned on his lights. We dropped our caps and ran. The cop kicked on his siren and came after us.
We were in an unfamiliar neighborhood, but we were near some multi level apartments so we took off in that direction hoping to lose him. They were big buildings with indoor corridors and one main entrance. We rounded a few corners and lost sight of the car, but we heard it stop and the door open so we kept on running.
We got a bit of distance and tried one of the doors, but it was locked. We ran to the next building and tried it's door and it too was locked. We still didn't see the cop but to be safe we ran around a couple of more corners away from where he was (we hoped), across a playground and tried one more building. That door opened.
We dove inside, closed the door behind us and crouched down while trying to catch our breath. Fortunately nobody was in the hallway. Shortly after we got there we saw a shadow cross the frosted glass in the door but nobody tried the knob.
We stayed there for what felt like an hour before either of us had the courage to peek out. In that hour we agreed that it was time to retire this prank and try something different.
When we finally came out of cover there was no sign of the cop. We made it safely back to Mike's house, still a bit shaken and watched Cinemax the rest of the evening.
*During the Summer we would play Jarts. Only we lacked real Jarts since they had been declared unsafe and illegal. So we used actual darts. And instead of trying to throw them into a circle we tossed them straight up into the air as hard as we could. The object of the game at that point was to try to be the last one to run for cover. It was a total blast up until Mike took a dart in the foot. Or the head, I'm not sure. Either way, he won that round.