Yesterday morning at around 8:45 I was on my way to work, sitting on the back of the 22 Fillmore, when I noticed a kid sitting across the back bench from me acting really weird. I looked over and sized him up to be about a high school freshman, maybe 13, African American, with a backpack next to him, and a bagged tall boy in his hand.
He was moaning loudly and it looked like his head was too heavy to keep above his body. He kept awkwardly shifting himself around, knocking into the walls of the bus. I leaned over to him.
“Hey man, are you okay?” He looked at me, not really able to get his eyes to focus on mine.
“Huh?” “Are you all right?” “Yeah, yeah.” He smiled with his eyes closed. “I’m cool.” I reached over to him “Well, you’re gonna spill your drink, let me get that for you.” “Nah, I got it.” And his head smacked against the bench seat. He quickly jerked himself back up. “Okay, I know you’ve got it, but I’m just saying, me, I wouldn’t mess with that stuff.” “I know . . . it’s just soda.” “Uh huh.” “I’m cool . . . thanks for your concern.” He tried to drink it but was having trouble getting it to meet with his mouth.
I didn’t want to be giving him a lecture or anything, but he was pretty out of it. “Okay, well lemme just get that from you.” “Oh! I think I have to get off here! I gotta get to school. Okay, hold on.” He took a huge gulp and handed it to me. I looked at the can, watermelon flavored 4 Loko. Caffeine, taurine, guarana and the alcohol of 3 beers. “Thanks, man.” He said and stood up to get off the bus, taking one step that took him right down to the floor. “I gotta get off!” He yelled as he crawled to the back door and down the steps. The bus drove away and I looked out the back window. He waved at me and then stumbled off.
I don’t think it takes a lot to prove that colorful, fruity sweet alcopops are marketed to kids. And I know that high school kids do stupid things. I did. But this made me pretty sad. Brown bagging it on the back of the bus early in the morning. He reminded me of a lot of guys I see on the bus every day. I don’t mean young urban professionals trying to look edgy in Luna Park. I mean old homeless people.