I typed the phrase, “Ask Me About Concrete Parachutes” using a very large font, set it into a photo frame and put it on the shelf in my high school office. I also made a copy for my Town Hall office, and, lacking an available frame at the moment, just taped it on the wall where people would see it. That did it.
Students, clients, parents and interns all saw it, and the comments ran the gamut from, “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s that supposed to mean?” to, “Well that’s dumb. Who’d ever jump out of a plane with a concrete parachute?” Of course by then I had them! And the wakeup dialog rolled along these lines:
I’d ask, metaphorically speaking, “What things in life do we do, over and over, that don’t help, that get us into trouble and we know it and we still do these things anyway?”
“Oh, you mean,” says boy eighteen, “Smoking weed five times a day?”
“That’s like me, on a diet, and I eat two Snickers candy bars at lunchtime,” said one girl, trying to lose weight since forever.
“I suppose my concrete parachute is me staying and thinking my husband will stop drinking and just be like the good man I married,” said mom, with three young children.
Another boy said abruptly, “That phrase annoys me, Kevin. I don’t like it…and I still want to quit school and get a job.”
Responding to a question about falling asleep in class; “Listen. You don’t understand. I’ll die without Facebook. It’s my life. My homies are there and I can’t sleep anyway so that’s why I’m still on at three in the morning.”
“I only fight when someone gets in my face. Don’t want to get hit? Don’t get in my f—ing face. How hard is that for people to understand?” says she at seventeen and suspended from school yet again.
“DCF (Dept. of Children and Families) needs to back off. My kids are fine. I have a right to a life, too. Who I invite over and what we do as adults is none of their God damn business.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve been taking stuff from that store forever and never got caught. Last week I stuffed a bra in my bra because I don’t even have a decent one to wear. It’s not like I’m stealing jewelry or something. It’s underwear for God’s sake.”
Says boy, grade five, “What’s your concrete parachute, Kevin?”