Friday, March 8, 2013

Drinking Cokes Like an Adult

When I was thirteen, my friend Brent and I thought that since we were so old, we needed to find a way to prove our adult-readiness. We discussed various methods to accomplish this. One was hitchhiking to the west coast where we could swim in the ocean. We decided against that because we'd heard of giant squids there. Another idea was to trek through the high mountains near our house and kill an elk by hand. But we got grossed out thinking about trying to gut it with our Boy Scout pocket knives.

In the end, we decided the best plan was to take a bus from our home out in the suburbs all the way downtown, then see if we could make it back out alive. There used to be a recreation center in the city called Deseret Gym with a pool, handball courts, weight rooms, and other fun and sometimes painful activities. That seemed like a perfect destination.

So we gathered up all the money we could—about four dollars—packaged up all the sports equipment we had—a handball and our swimming suits—and boarded the number 36 bus to the city. The bus was only ten cents and admission to the gym was only about one dollar, as I recall. That left us plenty of money to rent lockers for our stuff and maybe even buy a drink.

We got to the city without incident and walked up Main Street to the gym. We bought a pass, rented a locker, and started our day with handball. I'd never played that sport before, but Brent was an expert, having played with his brother once. We ran around the little room, bumped into each other, tripped a lot, and were very glad the surrounding walls kept the ball from escaping. It didn't take long for us to go look for another activity.

We tried joining a basketball game, but most of the kids were older than us and spent their evenings in a type of gang warfare the locals called Church Ball. That was an activity where they'd chase an orange sphere around a court in a church while yelling, swearing, punching, and fouling. Then they'd return to the same church on Sundays and learn how to be Christlike.

Brent and I didn't last too long with the Church Ball veterans, so we tried demonstrating our might by lifting weights. It was mostly very old men in the weight room—they were all at least thirty—and they could lift weights much heavier than we could, so we gave that up. Besides, the equipment was a little frightening.

We decided to buy a drink then went swimming. That seemed like a safe activity. My regular swimming suit was really dorky-looking, so I had brought a pair of white gym shorts instead. I jumped into the cold water, immediately climbed right back out, and discovered a problem with my gym shorts idea—they became quite transparent as soon as they got wet. I hadn't thought that through too well. I jumped back into the freezing water and stayed there as long as I could.

We eventually decided to call it quits and head back home. As we were changing, we had a new realization even more chilling than the see-through shorts. We'd used the rental locker so many times—at ten cents a pop—we'd depleted all our money and didn't have twenty cents left to ride the bus home. We scrounged around the locker room looking for any fallen change, but couldn't even find one thin dime. We were in trouble. Maybe we should have tried our luck with the giant squids instead.

We went outside and walked down Main Street. It shouldn't take more than two or three hours to get home, we figured. About four blocks later, we realized that bus drivers knew the route home but we didn't. We needed a better plan. My mom worked downtown and I briefly thought of finding her office and asking for two dimes. But our whole purpose was to prove our adult-ness. We stopped near a small grocery store to rest, and after some discussion, came up with a fantastic plan.

The grocery store was one of those tiny family shops you don't see too often anymore. An older man sat on a stool behind the counter reading a newspaper. I casually went inside and talked to him about bus schedules and other important things, while Brent meandered over to the soda pop cooler. When he thought I'd sufficiently distracted the shopkeeper, Brent slipped two bottles of Coke into his gym bag, then strolled back outside.

I thanked the man for his help and joined Brent. We ran down the street until we found a pay phone, and used the change return slot to open the Cokes. We then strutted around an empty lot, drinking the Coke and toasting our brilliant plan. As soon as we finished, we went back into the same grocery store, returned the empty bottles, and got back two dimes.

Then, our money in hand, we boarded the next number 36 and headed back to the suburbs. Not even an adult could have come up with an excellent plan like that!

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