Store Wars: A New Hope
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave". (No, no, not you person reading this, you can stay.)
That quote is one that most of us have heard before at some point in our lives. It was the sound of being kicked out of some place. Nowdays, getting unceremoniously thrown out of an establishment doesn't take as much effort as you may expect.(e.g.: dressing up as the Hunchback of Notre Dame and singing MBANX ad jingles - though this method always works in a pinch) All you really have to do is to be a teenager. What? You thought there was more to it than that? Nope.
Between the ages of thirteen and nineteen, people go through a change in the eyes of people who own stores, businesses, kiosks, roadside flea markets, and pretty much anything else with merchandise and a cash register. We change from being cute kids to Public Enemy Number One. It seems that until we reach the age of adulthood, we cannot enter the threshold of a store without being scrutinized, hunted, and finally dragged in for the kill ("If you're not buying that, could you please leave?" said in a curt, frosty voice). UGH. As if junior high and puberty weren't bad enough.
There are many places around town which are discriminating against teens, but when I started research for this article, I knew where to start looking as one of the best examples of this discrimination lies right under the school's nose. I know this establishment well, for it has gained infamy among the students of I.J. for its "impolite disposition" toward teenage customers. (I can think of many other adjectives to describe it, but this is probably the nicest...) This store, which is in the area surrounding our school, carries all the best in yummy foodstuffs and "highly educational" literature (MAD magazine counts, doesn't it?). Generally it's a good place to get stuff. That is, if you can get past the "bouncer". "Broomhilda", as we affectionately call her, carries out the store's strong arm tactics. Her power is absolute and her word is law. Anyone who crosses her will assuredly come out with less limbs than they started with, that is, if they're lucky. In most of my forays into the place, I have stayed on her good side but there was one incident where I barely made it out of there alive. It was a year or so ago on a nice fall day when I suddenly realized that despite my many visits to the establishment, I had never really seen the whole thing (the front of the store has the magazines and food, which is what most students come for). I had never been in the back aisles. Feeling brave, I decided to go back and look at them. Big mistake. I had just entered the baby food aisle (thinking of ten other ways to waste a lunch time), when I was stopped. BROOMHILDA!! Oh MY GAWD!! I then realized that I had never really noticed how imposing her "built like a bull-moose" figure was. She asked why I was going to the back aisles and ordered me to stay in the front. I ran from the store and looked over my shoulder all the way back to school.
Interviewee "Joe Student" whose name has been disguised, concurs, saying he has been kicked out of said store for simply looking at magazines (APPROPRIATE magazines for NORMAL AMOUNTS of time). He was too afraid to stand up for his rights as Broomhilda would have dragged him out behind the store and "taught him some manners". Interested, I decided to ask him if he had been kicked out of any other places seemingly only because he was a teenager. The answer was shocking. Of the examples he cited, two were particularly disturbing. At one time he went to see the movie, "SPEED" (Keanu Reeves can act well), and was kicked out for apparently no reason. He had purchased his grossly overpriced ticket (no, he did not lie about his age) and was stopped in the reception area by an usher "[the usher] took one look at me and told me that I wasn't old enough to get in despite the fact I had a ticket". "He then said that I could either see "The Flintstones" (Flintstones. Feh.) or nothing at all. While I was talking to the guy, a little old lady and three six year olds(!) entered the theater, no questions asked."
In another incident, Joe was refused a meal because he went to our school. He was at a store with a lunch counter and, "they wouldn't sell me [the store's] delicious CRISPY CHICKEN just because I went to I.J." laments Joe, who barely manages to retain composure against the urge to cry like a sissy baby.
In my own experiences and in my interviews, I have come to see the sorry state to which our society has fallen. People have stereotyped an entire age group due to the actions of a few misguided and troubled individuals (yes, I do acknowledge they are out there). But when I heard Joe's story about the CRISPY CHICKEN through his sobs and tears, I knew the paranoia had gone too far.
All I can say to these prejudiced companies and businesses, is that one day when we teens get our membership to the grown-up club and you come LOOKING for our patronage, instead of turning it away, you may find that you have to keep on searching...