Revisiting your high school haunts

Recalling some hometown hangouts

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Sure. You’ve got me there. However, absence can also make the heart sit back, furrow its brow and realize how downright weird certain places from your past seem with added time and distance. Over the course of your school break, you might find yourself returning to once-familiar places and thinking, “Hey, uh, were there always this many empty Wendy’s parking lots per capita or is this a new look the zip code is trying out?”

Although the specific scenery and cast of characters may vary by area, there are certain hometown haunts we all encounter. It seems only fitting to honor each one.

Go-to coffee shop or restaurant

The same stock of characters seems to inhabit this place. However, now they lack their prior element of mystery. For example, there’s the guy at the counter who may or may not be immortal. The jury’s still out on that one. The man doesn’t seem to age. Nor does his ensemble. Despite the fact that he graduated years ago, he wears the same fedora and puka shell necklace combo that set your little heart on fire back in 2012. The nonchalant pen-flipping routine he executes while taking your order — the same one that was once so devastatingly cool — strikes you with a deep anxiety as he almost drops it every 30 seconds.

You can also spot your younger counterparts dominating a table in the back, giggling about some teacher’s comb-over like you and your friends used to. The scene, however, seems far less cinematic now and you wonder if you talked as loudly as they do.

High school parking lot

Of all the places to revisit, this stretch of asphalt is the most peculiar destination. Regardless, you’ll find yourself wondering how this swath of pavement and its assorted collection of discarded Monster Energy cans and loose-leaf paper once seemed so charged with excitement and potential after classes let out every day. What once brimmed with life and the ever-present threat of a head-on collision with Jeep-driving 16-year-olds revved up on muscle-country music and Accutane is now just a parking lot in need of a few pothole repairs.

Gym/recreational center

Honestly not much has changed here. That one guy is still powering it out on the elliptical in jeans, but someone changed the TV channel from the Home Shopping Network to a Tom Hanks movie marathon. So. That’s something.

Your grocery store

Your town, city or suburb and its outlying area were most likely chock-full of grocery stores with varying price ranges, retail quality and leniency of employees who handed out deli samples when it came to the one-per-customer rule. There were many, yes, but like the protagonist of every early 2000s romantic comedy, your heart belonged to just one. Perhaps you favored the sense of plenty peddled by big box stores. Maybe you preferred your local purveyor of regionally-sourced produce, fancy soaps and $12 kombucha. Regardless of your pick, one grocery store beat out the rest.

You might find, when swinging by to pick up just enough snacks to breeze through the “Ten Items or Less” line, that this one-time tried-and-true oasis of fluorescent lighting and spills on aisle nine seems more functional than nostalgic.

Ultimately, though, there’s a familiarity in the many parking lots, strip malls and basement sanctuaries of home. Something comforting lingers in your many high school haunts — a kind of solace only afforded to the places in your life where you’ve spent prolonged periods of time trying to hide your sweat stains from your peers. Every opportunity to return home provides this odd kind of comfort and the friendly reminder that, despite your love for all your favorite weirdos back home, you have a place to return to before your next Monday 9 a.m. 

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