Here in smalltown USA, everybody smiles and waves, every stranger is assumed to be a friend, and nobody locks their doors. (The previous renter of our house told us, "We never locked a door the whole time we lived there, day or night!") There is no suspicion toward anyone, and no concern about being taken advantage of by your neighbors. It is completely foreign to my previous mindset and the way people act toward each other back home, but I like it, and I'm trying to embrace it. My new outlook was tested today, however, when my doorbell rang and I opened the door to a long-haired, creatively pierced teen with a spaced-out look on his face. "Assume the best!" I chided myself internally as I pasted on a questioning smile. "People are friendly here, he's not going to bite!"
Then he opened his mouth and it was all I could do not to burst out laughing. If you've seen the kids' movie "Finding Nemo", the best description I can give is that this guy was the human version of Crush, the sea turtle/surfer bum in the movie.
"Dude!" He greeted me happily. "So how're you doing and everything?"
He lounged to the side as he talked, feet and hands moving rhythymically to a beat that only he could hear. As I stared at him in amazement, he continued,
"Check this out, you get to help me out today! See, I'm in a program that'll send me to college, which is a totally sweet place to go, ya know? Like, if I just do the program, then I get a scholarship to go, and I mean dude! That's the best plan for the future, ya know? So did you go to college and everything?"
Biting the inside of my cheek to keep back my laughter, I informed him seriously that so far I've done more of the "everything" part of that question than the "college" part, as I'm only partway through my degree but I'm married with three little girls. Pure delight took over his face.
"Ahhh, dude, you're livin' the life! For real! I mean, that's why I need to go to college, just to live the life. So like, do you love it?"
Strangely comfortable and greatly enjoying the encounter, I told him how we'd just moved to town and that I do, indeed, love my incredibly beautiful life. With a big grin he put his fingers to his temple and closed his eyes.
"Check it out, I'm psychic! I've got it, I've got it, you're from...Washington! Am I totally right?!"
Smiling wryly as I glanced at my Washington license plate on the car a few feet away from him, I told him that his talent was astonishing, and then tried to direct him back to his purpose in coming.
"Right, so I totally just get to travel around the country this summer and have people buy these magazines and books and everything from me," from nowhere he produced a list of various magazines, "and when they do, I get points, and when I get points, I get to have my scholarship, and start livin' the life like you are!"
As I looked over the list I told him thanks, but I don't need any of these....
"Oh totally! Like, nobody needs them, but they just do it to help me out, ya know? Are you sure you won't buy one? What'll I do if I don't get any points? I'll feel, like, unloved and everything!"
The anxious words were belied by a happy grin, and somewhat reluctantly I stuck to my refusal to buy, and offered him an icy Mt. Dew instead.
"Oh dude!" He joyfully poppped it open and gulped down half the drink at once. "You are so totally awesome! I mean you really do know how to live the life!"
"Well," the rhythymic movement stopped for a moment and he stared at me earnestly, "this has been so awesome. It's just what life is all about, ya know? And so we'll always have this, and that keeps it real. For real."
With that profound statement he nodded at me, and then the odd swaying movements started up again as he turned and sauntered casually out of my yard and back down the street, heading out into his totally sweet future. Livin' the life.