I never set out to become the voice of my generation.
It’s not like I woke up one day and had this little voice inside my head go, “Hey Dustin, what do you feel like doing today?” To which I said, “I don’t know. What did you have in mind?” And it said, “You could play video games…you seem to like those a lot. Or, you could become the voice of your generation. Change the world, and all that good stuff.” Then I went, “What??!! Becoming the voice of my generation sounds heavy, man and like a ton of work. Although, if it gets me out of Friday’s History exam….let’s do it!” Et voila, a few hours later I became the most reasonable sounding person in the room.
I was making a cappuccino when it all started. Brody, the barista working next to me said, “Hey, did you hear? Our little cafe is now famous!”
“What do you mean?” I asked. For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine how in the world a little cafe in a town of twenty thousand people could suddenly become famous.
“One of our customers wrote something about us on Facebook yesterday and it’s gone viral,” he answered.
“Oh yeah? What was it about?”
It turns out, it wasn’t actually about us; we just played a supporting role. The woman who originally posted the story claimed to have come in two nights ago to get a scone and a tea before heading to her Monday night book club meeting. She’s supposedly been doing this every Monday night for the past year. While she was waiting for her turn, she heard some teenage girls that were standing in line in front of her making fun of an unpopular girl who had auditioned for the lead role in their school play and failed miserably.
“Obviously that fat cow didn’t stand a chance. Everyone knows you’re the best actress at school….and way prettier,” one of the girls said to another girl in the group.
All of the girls giggled. The woman was so upset she had to leave the cafe immediately. She then went to her book club and told everyone what had happened.
“Do you know what you should do?” one of the ladies in her book club said. “You should write a letter about everything you’re feeling right now, go back to the cafe and then give it to those girls. They need to learn that bullying is wrong.”
So that’s what she did. She also took a picture of the letter. She wrote about how words have the power to lift a person up and to knock them down. Next time, they should use their popularity and their looks to help that poor girl who was only trying to find her way in the world. Within twenty-four hours, the story had been shared one hundred thousand times.
“I heard that the major network morning shows want to interview her,” Brody said.
“Do they?” I said. “Will they be asking her why she’s such a liar?”
Brody was taken aback by that, but before he had a chance to say anything else he had another customer come up to the till. By the time he was done serving them, he had forgotten to ask me what I meant about her being a liar. That’s okay, I saved my answer for the reporter who came in an hour later to do a set-up for the piece they’d be doing Friday morning on the lady.
“You weren’t working by any chance on Monday night, were you?” he asked.
“I sure was,” I answered. “I work every Monday through Wednesday from four until eight to earn money for college.'”
“So you were here when it happened,” he then said.
“I was here alright, but it didn’t happen.”
The reporter was just as floored by what I said as Brody. Here’s the thing about working the same shifts every week: you get to know the regulars, and this lady wasn’t one of them. And here’s the thing about someone who is working to save money for college: they’re smart, otherwise they wouldn’t be entertaining the thought of college. My best subject is math. I can add things up faster than anybody – and without a calculator; so it was pretty easy for me to figure out that there was no way this woman had enough time to head off to her book club, tell them her sad story, write an anti-bullying letter, take a picture of it, and then make it back to the cafe before the snotty popular girls left. Sure, teenagers have a tendency to dawdle in places like cafes, but they’d have to be slower than my Grandpa out for a Sunday drive to still be there after all of that time.
“Plus,” I said, “who hasn’t made fun of someone behind their back? I’m not saying it’s right, but we’ve all done it at least once. At least they didn’t publicly shame their classmate, unlike this woman who – if her story is to believed, not only shamed these girls but the one they supposedly made fun of as well. I live in town of twenty thousand people. We only have two high schools. You wouldn’t need to be a detective to find out which one was putting on a play, who got the lead female role, and then who the most unpopular girl at that school was. Either she’s guilty of the same thing she’s accusing these girls of, or she’s one of those needy people looking for her fifteen minutes of fame. Let me guess: someone has started a Go Fund Me page to send this woman to Disney.”
The reporter looked into this woman’s story even further and guess what? I called it, so tomorrow I’m the one who gets to be a guest on a morning talk show. They want to get my thoughts on how unfairly teenagers are portrayed as evil bullies and how there are more smart, hardworking good ones like me than there are bad ones.
So that’s how I became the voice of a generation…and how I got out Friday’s History exam.