When I was 16 years old, I was a darn troublemaker. Come to think of it, I was at 17 too. I don't mean "troublemaker" like the playful trouble-making fella you know these days - I mean I committed crimes. I have a history of getting caught whenever I do something wrong, so I'm not sure why I thought I could get away with criminal activities. When you get caught committing crimes as a teenager, you often get stuck doing community service. Here's the story of mine...
The Summer/Fall of 1994 just plain sucked. I was flunking out of high school, working shit jobs, getting busted by police, and generally having a miserable time. That's right, I was a regular James Dean (without the girls). I basically couldn't stay out of trouble until April 1, 1995, when I got into a near-fatal car crash and had to be hospitalized for three months. (Why don't I talk about this, you ask? I dunno, it's weird and it'll depress both of us). Anyhoo, one piece of trouble I got into in Fall 1994 got me 32 hours of community service handed down by the local police. (Why don't I talk about what I did, you ask? I dunno, it's weird and it'll depress both of us).
The first place I got assigned to do work was at the police station, washing cop cars. They left me alone in the garage to work, and I smoked clove cigarettes out of sight of the security camera in between washes. That took care of 4 whole hours. The following weekend, I got assigned to wash fire engines at the local fire station. I remember hiding behind a fire truck to smoke more clove cigarettes (which were all I had at the time). While waiting for my dad to come pick me up that day, I saw Weezer's "Buddy Holly" video and The Offspring's "Self Esteem" video for the first time on the department's TV set. 8 more hours in the can.
With 16 hours to go, I got assigned to work one Saturday at the local YMCA, helping out their staff with their father-daughter day camp. I got there early to help serve the campers and counselors their breakfast, while eating nothing myself. Afterwards, I was told to go scoop up horse shit in the camp's stables. Let me tell you something - all horses fucking DO is shit. Over and over, I scooped up the horse shit and put it in a bucket. To this day, I can still see the horses all casually standing around, dropping shit non-stop.
After I was done with shit patrol, I was assigned to help with the horse riding activities for the young girls. Keep in mind, up to this point I didn't know jack shit about horses except for how much they shit. One of the counselors told me to "walk" one of the girls and her horse to the front of the riding path. "Ok," I thought. "I'll walk them." I didn't realize that the counselor meant, "Grab the reigns, and guide the horse." As I casually walked next to the little girl on the horse up to the path, the horse began to trot faster, and then suddenly bolted off like greased lighting. I would describe the scene as going in slow motion before my eyes, but truth be told it happened very fast. The female counselor didn't realize what was happening for the first few moments. She began to chase the horse across the field next to the path, the horse kept running back and forth with the little girl rider, now screaming her head off. The whole incident took enough time that I was able to consider that this girl might be killed, and it was going to be because of me. After a minute or so of the horse running around, the girl fell off the saddle onto the muddy ground. She bounced up quickly to everyone's relief, unharmed but for a muddy face. The counselor asked me what happened, and I told her I didn't know, and that the horse just took off without warning. They put the horse in the barn for the rest of the day, figuring it was out of sorts. Seriously though? They told a 16-year old suburban delinquent to "walk" a horse. Who knew what the fuck that was supposed to mean???
After that fiasco, it was lunch time. I got to eat something this time around, and then was assigned to wash dishes afterwards. I was having a relatively pleasant conversation with a boy counselor who was helping wash dishes, when he strangely asked, "Dude, Pete, are you like on something, man?" I asked him why he asked, and he mentioned my eyes. (I have what my wife calls "droopy bedroom eyes," and I think in the past people have mistaken my being bored with them with my being high. Also, I have generally dry eyes and was wearing gas permeable contact lenses at this time, which tended to make my eyes red). I smirked and told him that I occasionally smoked pot. I probably led him to believe that I smoked more often than I actually did, but hey, I had an image to uphold. I thought nothing of it, and finished up the dishes.
Some time later, a female counselor angrily ordered me to meet her outside to talk. She asked me if I had a conversation with the dishwasher boy, and I confirmed that I did. She furiously inquired, "And what did you TELL him?!" I certainly wasn't going to giver her the satisfaction. "Look, you know what I said. So?" She righteously declared that she had the power to get me in more trouble with the police by telling them I was on pot. (I'll let that one sink in for a moment). From this moment on, the entire camp staff turned on me, whereas they had been generally friendly to me up until this point. I was pissed on behalf of all that was noble and trustworthy in this world that this little fucking peckerhead had duped me and then narc'd on me. And I knew that he had been put up to it by some dumbfuck who sent him to "get the scoop on me," and that he probably felt really proud of himself because he had helped humanity by ratting me out. In all seriousness, I felt so betrayed. I was already feeling bad about myself and the rest of the world, and for these people to at first seemingly reach out to me - I felt so, so betrayed.
After this incident, I was assigned to help with arts & crafts in a log cabin. I thought things were going well, until I received word from one of the counselors that my presence was making people nervous. I didn't do a damn thing to bring this on, my appearance was simply freaking out the squares. I wasn't even wearing anything that outlandish. Nevertheless, the counselors angrily informed me that I would spending the rest of the day working out of sight of the camp guests. They assigned me to wash the outside windows of a cabin that was in the middle of nowhere.
Later that day, I was standing near a road by the campsite, when a friend of mine who I'd been growing apart from passed by in a car with his friends; I don't believe they saw me. I was saddened by the fact that I was stuck doing community service on a Saturday with a bunch of people who hated me, and he out was living it up with his newish pals. My parents wouldn't let me get my driver's license, much less drive around with friends, because they didn't trust me. This was a very difficult day.
I can't remember what I did to get those last 8 hours of community service out of the way, but the YMCA sure as fuck didn't want me back. I think I may have worked in some capacity at the local Catholic church. I remember when I completed my time, I went to the police station and signed my name in a book. That was it, no big ceremony or anything, I was just "done." Over the next several months, things went from bad to worse for me, culminating in the aforementioned car crash. Nothing nefarious caused the accident, it just happened. Life got better for me afterwards. Funny how things work.
So I'll leave you with this advice for your children. Um...I dunno, tell them to get a hobby and stay out of trouble.