Whenever I hear the song Mother’s Little Helper by the Rolling Stones, I’m whisked away into a world of pure idiocy, a world in which I am immortal and immune to the laws of both nature and man. I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a car, and in the reality that I am detached from I am either going home, to jail, to the hospital, or to the morgue. But I don’t know this, or if I do, I simply don’t care. Mother’s Little Helper is blaring from the speakers and we are singing along, laughing maniacally, even though merely being seen by a police officer at this point is enough to ensure our arrest. I am 18 years old.
The evening began as many evenings had that summer of 1987. I came home from my summer job, scarfed down some food, and walked out of the house as my friend Curt pulled into the driveway. “When will you be home?” my mother asked from the kitchen. “Late!” I shouted over my shoulder. Even though I had to be up at 5:30 to drive to work, I had the constitution of an 18 year old: I could grab three or four hours of drunken sleep and still function the next day, catching up on my sleep during the weekend.
What started that evening has faded from my memory, simply because it was so similar to the events of every other night that summer. We picked up my friend Dan, got stoned, and hung out in a park down by the river while we drank beer. We’d laugh, play a little basketball if we felt motivated, and generally enjoy the life you have when your future is assured and you do not yet have the experience to realize that, in fact, it isn’t.
What I do remember is that at some point after midnight, Dan decided that he needed to get home. Curt had driven that night, as he had most nights that summer. We piled into his car and dropped Dan off a few minutes later. As we pulled out of Dan’s driveway, Curt asked me, “Do you have to be home?” “Hell no!” I responded. “Let’s do some fucking lawn jobs!”
A lawn job, for those of you who don’t know, is the kind of mindless, destructive activity that teenage boys find hilarious, but if someone did that to me now, I’d chase them down the block with a fucking axe. It involves driving onto someone’s lawn and doing donuts, tearing out great, big, green chunks of sod out and flinging them in every direction. A lawn job, done properly, if the kind of thing only an asshole would do, and we knew that, but it was also extremely fun. We laughed and hollered happily as we raced from lot to lot, leaving a trail of destruction behind us.
At this point, we were still in the part of town in that I grew up in which had a huge advantage in that it was private. The police were not allowed to patrol the area, only respond to calls. And so we knew that at this late hour, the odds of anyone seeing us tearing up their lawn were pretty low, and as long as we kept moving, we were almost assured of getting away, our petty vandalism undetected. Then we got brave. And really, really stupid.
Due to the quirks of the one way streets near my house, we had to briefly leave the private area of town in order to get to my house. Curt asked if I wanted to stay out “just a few minutes more” and not wanting the fun to end, I quickly assented. Curt then pulled into a very public subdivision where the houses were not placed on acre-sized lots, but rather jammed within ten feet of each other like many subdivisions are set up today. We made our way to the back of the subdivision where the only road was very long, very straight, and had no outlets or side streets that we could use to escape. We considered this place, for some moronic reason, the perfect place to flagrantly violate just about every existing traffic law.
To understand how idiotic the maneuver we were about to pull off was, you have to understand the layout of the houses. Each house had a short driveway, about 20 feet long, made out of concrete. There was a sidewalk running the length of the road, and in between the sidewalk and the road was a strip of grass punctuated by trees every ten feet or so. It is the kind of repetitive and nondescript slice of suburbia that millions have grown up with. Curt eased the car up into someone’s driveway, turned off his lights, and then turned to begin driving along the sidewalk, parallel to the road.
Almost at once, three things happened: The stereo started playing Mother’s Little Helper with it’s signature opening lines, “What a drag it is getting old”, Curt stomped on the accelerator, and I whipped out a bottle of rush, took a whiff, and stuck it under Curt’s nose. Rush, if you haven’t heard of it or tried it, is some horrible concoction of chemicals that gives you a massive head-rush, turns your face beet red, and more often than not sends you into peals of laughter. It’s short lasting, and probably takes years off of your life which, of course, we cared nothing about at the time.
As we started approaching the speed limit of the street next to us, we began noticing things that we should have expected but didn’t, things like bicycles, baseball mitts, wagons, and the random detritus of a day’s play that kids leave in their wake during the summer. As a result, we found ourselves weaving wildly, trying to avoid these things as well as the cars parked in each driveway and the trees which prevented us from swerving onto the street.
Under the influence of so many things, this didn’t worry us as much as strike us as absolutely hilarious. Instead of stopping and getting back on the road, Curt stomped on the accelerator until we were going well above the speed limit.
Doctor, please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old
By now, we were approaching 60 miles per hour, and we’d winged a few things, although luckily for us, nothing significant. A football under the tires, a tricycle off the corner of the front bumper. We couldn’t see things clearly with the lights off (let alone a head full of drugs and booze), so Curt simply turned the lights on. And just to make us extra obvious, he began laying on the horn to punctuate the song.
Men just aren’t the same today (beep!)
I hear every mother say (beep!)
They just don’t appreciate that you get tired (beep beep beep beeeeeeep!)
Finally, right as we were approaching the end of the road, we saw a car attached to a trailer, which blocked the sidewalk entirely. With a stomp on the brake and a swerve of the wheel, we lurched sickeningly to the left, just missing a tree and power sliding around the corner exactly at the same moment that Mother’s Little Helper ended with an exclaimed “HEY!”. It was so perfectly timed, that another wave of laughter broke upon us. We drove down the road, more or less in legal fashion, as we laughed so hard that tears began running from our eyes.
Fifteen minutes after this explosion of criminal behavior, I was in bed, sleeping soundly. I would awaken at 5:30 the next morning, groggy, but otherwise no worse for the previous night’s events. Although it’s hard to describe a night in which multiple laws were flagrantly violated as innocent, that’s what those nights were. Hell, that’s what I was: Innocent. I thought that life was wonderful, the days warm and sunny, the nights cool and full of laughter and that it would all last forever.