As a kid, the fact that any store that I walked into around town would inevitably result in an awkward interaction with an older, cooler high schooler working behind the counter, terrified me. The thought of a charming senior in a button-down bagging my sushi in the Village Market consumed me to the point where I’d settle for a sandwich at home. Ice cream was a daunting conundrum considering the chances of me embarrassing myself in front of someone’s older sister at Scoops were unavoidable. I settled for the boxed ice cream, but only if I could dodge the few high schoolers stocking the shelves at Stop & Shop.
As a freshman, I remember meekly approaching a register at the Village Market with my mom only to look up into the eyes of an upperclassman from my math class. He smiled and called me by name. In my flustered state of freshman flattery, I stuttered a poorly phrased greeting and called him by his younger brother’s name. The incident in most cases would have flown under the radar, but my mom loudly pointed out that the name on his tag clearly did not match the one I sheepishly blurted out seconds before. Mortified, I slinked through the automatic doors and hid in the car where I decided to embark on a several-month hiatus from roaming the aisles of the market.
Then all of a sudden, those scary elders began to be replaced with my best friends. It all began in sophomore year when one of my closest friends began working at Scoops. Drawn by the allure of pocket money and the ambiance of sticky sweets, Gianna was the first of my friends to become a (part-time) working girl that would transform Wilton town center for me for the rest of my high school experience. I felt like a real adult every time she asked us to come bring her food or just to stop by. If anything, I started to feel like a hip insider whose single scoop of mud on a waffle cone was in my hand before I could get all the way through the door. Getting ice cream went from an anxiety-inducing transaction to a fun visit with a sweet reward at the end. One by one, the intimidatingly mature upperclassmen were phased out with familiar faces that gave me the confidence to roam the town with ease. Now I keep a tab on who will be working at Tusk and Cup vs. Starbucks so I always have someone to listen to me rant about the latest physics test while I sip my coffee. Gofer Ice Cream is always supportively packed with with all of my friends when one of us ends up having to work behind the counter on a Friday night.
The smallness of this town terrified me, but the closeness of this town inspires me. I used to cower in fear that someone would see me going about my day in any of the local businesses around town, but now I feel unfulfilled if I don’t have a quick chat with the barista or some banter with the librarian whether they’re one of my best friends or not. It took me a few close companions behind counters to realize that having a town that hires young people in such volume, despite our obvious lack in work experience, has spoiled me with familiarity. I can only hope that I don’t come back from college and hide from the scary high schoolers that are now intimidatingly younger, but rather appreciate the torch passing to the next generation of awkward high-schoolers in a town that wholeheartedly embraces them.
Alex Myers is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.