Today, I caught a kid nodding off in English class. I tapped his shoulder and asked, up late doing homework?
Ha! he said. No, I was just up late playing Kill Monkey eXXXtreme 9000.
Oh, I said, seeing an opportunity to put my hipness on display. Is it good? I’m looking for a new game for my Wii.
Indignant, he said, no, it’s only for xBox 360 and PS3, which are way better than the Wii.
Oh, I said.
But another kid chimed in to the Wii’s defense.
My mom thinks the Wii’s pretty cool.
Yeah, said the first kid, my little cousins like it, too.
I thought back to an incident that happened a few days ago.
A student came in and greeted me with an extended right hand, which I took and shook. He shook his head at me and admonished my gesture.
Nah, he said. You’re doing it wrong.
He then took my hand and attempted to walk me slowly through an extended series of slips, slaps, shakes, bumps, and snaps.
I awkwardly attempted the maneuver, thanked him for his time, and told him that simply wasn’t how I rolled, because if it isn’t up up down down left right left right b a start, I pretty much lose interest midway through.
I prefer to kick it old school, I told him.
Nah, he told me, you gotta kick it new school.
I can kick it old school, I told him, because I am old.
What’re you, twenty? he asked.
I’m going to be thirty, I told him.
Oh shit, Carpenter, he said. You is old.
It hit me. I do have to keep it old school. I simply don’t have the time left upon this earth to memorize and execute secret gang handshakes or learn the nuances of conjugating -izzle words. Every second counts, people.
Never is this more clear to me than when I’m navigating the campus of San Jose State University, where every single student seems to be nineteen years old and in a constant state of longboarding to a kegger, and where I am currently in the process of beginning my third university tour of duty.
Now, I’ve always kept my distance from the bromos, but it used to be so that they wouldn’t spit on me. Now it’s so they don’t call me sir and ask me to buy them beer.
As much as I bristle at the young neanderthals zipping around campus, I’m not nearly as put off by them as I am by all of the walking reminders of my squandered youth I face on a weekly basis: glowing 22-year old education students with damp ink on their English degrees and naive enthusiasm sparkling in their eyes. I look at them and wonder what went wrong. These kids just got out of high school; why are they so anxious to get back there?
It’s probably because they still know the handshake. But whatever, I’m cool, too. I still remember what punctuation used to look like.