I rarely have contact with such people, and their noise levels were high, so I watched and listened. Five females and four males, I guessed they were fifteen to eighteen years old. I’d seen several of them in the coffee shop before. One of the boys, with disheveled, thick blond hair, was louder and goofier than the rest. One girl looked older, exhibiting an awareness of body and attractiveness that the others didn’t. The swarthy, muscular guy with tight, short hair trying to get attached to her could have been eighteen.
Oddly, their syntax hadn’t changed much from teenagers I encountered decades ago. Many “Oh, my God,” “OMG,” and “I know, right,” spiced their cryptic exchanges, along with staccato bursts of laughter and giggles. The biggest difference between what I’d known as teenagers and this herd were their phones. Even while talking to one another, their phones were sirens calling their attention. Most held them close to their faces or bent their heads and peered intently, like oracles searching for the future.
Something, perhaps overheard, or in their demeanor, kept me focused on them because I thought they were planning something. Then one girl, white, with a veil of dark heavy hair swept over half her face, looked up at the others and smiled. Her mouth, with lips painted bright red, was partially open. “Okay, everyone ready?” she asked. “Got a number?”
“Yes,” answered the group with an impatient chorus. The oldest male seemed less enthused with this. I suspected whatever was happening was an obstacle to interfering with the girl sexually, and he’d been ready to get some. The group started calling out numbers. As the numbers were announced, another yelled, “Mine.” They handed phones to one another with squeals of discovery. A phone swap, I realized.
“Okay,” the dark-haired girl said. “Everyone swapped? Everyone swapped? Okay, then. For the next twenty-four hours, until this time tomorrow, everyone uses the phone they have now, acting like they’re that person, okay? Then we come back here tomorrow to give our phones back. And you can’t tell anyone, okay? Those are the rules.”
New phones in hand, laughing but somehow seeming like they were a little more malevolent than before, the group broke up, heading for the door in pairs and threes, leaving the oldest boy walking slowly in trail.
He was the only one without a smile.