Teenage Kicks

By Michael Williams

A pathetic act of pure middle class boyish rebellion - but one that decades later still brings a smile to my face.

The setting for my rebellious story is the WH Smith on Hemel Hempstead High Street.

Despite living two minutes from Watford town centre, my friends and I - who were 13 at the time - would often arrange a Saturday excursion to Hemel, known throughout the South of England as a glittering beacon of art and culture, and home to the “magic roundabout” - voted Britain’s second worst roundabout in a 2005 national poll. Our routine was familiar - we were dropped off by a responsible adult, enjoyed a sweaty game of Laser Quest, then feasted at McDonald’s, adrenaline pumping and the heady smell of smoke machine vapour lingering in our hair and on our clothes. After lunch, we would kill some time by kicking around the shops in the Marlowes Shopping Centre before heading to watch our beloved but hapless basketball team, The Hemel Royals, get a total hammering. It was the best of times - a band of brothers living the suburban, teenage daydream.

On the Saturday in question, we decided to take a trip to WH Smith. Smith’s was my favourite shop as a child. Where else could you find such a dazzling array of books, CDs and stationery - the holy trinity of shopping for any young prepubescent boy. Our unassuming group of five lads entered the store and made a beeline for the top 40 CDs. It quickly became apparent that our presence in the shop was unwelcome. An over-zealous security guard loitered within earshot and proceeded to stalk us as we casually browsed the music displays. Indignant at the assumption that we were trouble-makers or on the rob, we decided to goad the security guard by talking loudly and laughing in an exaggerated manner. The guard continued to eyeball us with suspicion, and obviously resented our presence. Our unspoken plan was working. We began wandering around the store but the guard remained glued to our heals. Gradually, our pace increased and we soon found ourselves speed-walking around the shop, the security guard awkwardly cantering in hot pursuit. 

We had done nothing wrong but you could see in the whites of the guard's eyes that enough was enough. As we sensed the inevitable conclusion to our mischief-making, we decided to separate and circle the store independently, swiftly weaving in and out of the aisles. This made us a much harder target. Two of my friends eventually collided and were an easy catch for the guard. They were promptly ejected from the store, and dumped unceremoniously on the pavement outside. I was next, snickering with laughter as I was shoved out the door. It wasn't long before the final two joined us, and we trundled along the road to our basketball match beaming with pride as we reflected on our eviction.

teenage rebellion, shop antics