Lily Shaffer at Pine Tree Frosty (Don’t forget to tip!) Tim Straub

It’s back to school for Rangeley’s kids, and just in time too. They need a vacation from their vacation of 40+-hour work weeks. It can’t be denied that they are essential cogs in the machinery of our local economy. Without them Rangeley as we know it would stop functioning as the vacation destination it is. The huge influx of those from away would overwhelm the sparsely employed businesses as they are, and you think the entitled rudeness is something now just imagine the attitude of someone who has to wait more than 10 minutes for their lobster roll. Martial law would be declared.

And through it all the kids keep their poise. Most of them labor in the service industry, either directly or indirectly. And the employers sure do appreciate them. The kids learn social skills beyond the home and school. They learn the way businesses work or sometimes fail. An understanding is gained of how the almighty dollar works. Sweat and toil garner monetary rewards. Our kids respect the pecking order. They bond with co-workers, both young and old, through a shared experience. There’s something about being slammed on a Wednesday night when you’re understaffed and you’re low on everything, and the bartender is having a really rough day, and one of the waitresses just received a visit from her Aunt Flo, and a table of 12 walks in 10 minutes before closing, and you all grit your teeth, force a smile, and get through it together. Times like this build character. Times like this also make one question humanity after busting your hump providing the best possible service only to be tipped poorly. Rude customers should be recorded and forced to watch themselves. Maybe they’ll forward a better tip if they do.

So when people criticize high school-aged kids for their devotion to their phones, their hours spent playing video games, and dependence on Google for answers and their apps for ease, remember this: They didn’t invent any of them. The American obsession to buy things is the product of being inundated by advertising like solar rays. The kids are simply responding as the patriotic capitalists we have trained them to be. They didn’t invent the internet, but they sure know how to use it. Grandma doesn’t know how to use her TV controller without the help from her grandchild. Whose fault is this? Hint: not the grandchild’s.

The kids are fine. They just emerged from a pandemic and more are being diagnosed with mental health issues than ever before. Don’t blame them for this, and don’t you dare dismissively tell them to “Suck it up, buttercup.” They are stronger than you are by far. Somewhere along the way many adults believe in their own bloated narrative of how strong and brave they are. You can add and subtract in your head. Well, good for you. Someone invented the calculator and the kids use it. Whoops. And, please, spare me that walking-uphill-to-and- from-school story. We have this thing called buses, and we use them. The kids didn’t invent them either.

Most kids leave Rangeley when they graduate, some temporarily and some for good. They take with them the best and the worst of what they’ve learned while here. So as the new school year commences and tired teenagers are dragged out of their beds at godless, unhealthy hours, be kind and understanding towards them. They didn’t invent the clock they are forced to abide by. They didn’t invent the school that they legally have to attend. And if you see them staring at their phones playing games, only because you looked up long enough from your own phone, don’t harangue them for simply being good patriotic consumers. The kids are alright. The adults on the other hand…

Have a wonderful school year, kids, and enjoy your vacation.

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