They had a plan:
“None of this drink-drink and pass out right away,” said the kid with the trucker cap askew and the lollipop-stick legs.
“Yeah,” agreed his even-lankier sidekick. “So what do we do?”
I was dodging herds of bikini babes and packs of panting young men to keep eavesdropping on the pair.
Lollipop was excited. “Long, sustained drinking. Sustained. We just keep drinking and drinking.” He took a swill of his Cherry Coke.
This was zero hour in a rite of passage for thousands of high school seniors: the monthlong bacchanal in Ocean City, Md., known as Senior Week. And these two characters were on the ground early, making their plan. And Cherry Coke wasn’t part of it.
Senior Week is a tradition that has been dreaded by parents for decades. It’s the annual migration of newly graduated, newly liberated, barely legal teens to the shore, where they party, plot, puke, hook up, scheme, swim, roam, dirty dance in foam and — for about 10 percent of them — get locked up for everything from underage drinking to drug possession to assault.
For the kids, it’s a weeklong dress rehearsal for college frat parties. For their mothers and fathers, it amounts to a parenting final exam.
“I’ve been planning this since my freshman year!” hollered one 17-year-old from Virginia, both fists in the air, triumphant after a police pat-down that didn’t get him locked up.
“We had meetings once a month since February,” said a 17-year-old Catholic school grad from Lebanon, Pa. “We met about plans, payment, what we were going to do, who was coming.”
I’d been sent to Ocean City on a reconnaissance mission, with orders to spy on your children and report back on exactly how heinously they were behaving. So I embedded myself with the partiers for a weekend.
My experience — which ended one night with a 4 a.m. chase after two guys who were hauling a potted palm down the boardwalk (why? I wanted to know) — was that hours in the hot sun and pounding surf mean nothing to them.
Their days are spent much the way they were when they were 7. Swimming, volleyball, sand castles, ice cream. But once the sun tips to the 5 p.m. position, they begin to hunt. Back and forth on the boardwalk, prowling.
Then there are guys like Austin Geithner, 20, who came to Senior Week from Annapolis to kinda-sorta keep an eye on his little sister. She was furious, but it’s better than dad, right?
In years past, Geithner and his pal Peter Carrico, 21, had seen people jump from balconies into hotel pools and Spider-Man from balcony to balcony. There’s skinny dipping, drinking and sex.
Occasionally, someone will bust out the eight-hosed Octabong, which I gather is made solely to hasten the drink-puke-rally cycle.
Amid the raunch queens, I spot Lollipop, who is screaming to his pal: “I got two [girls] I know, two [girls] I just met and one [girl] I wanna know at this party.” Only instead of girls, he uses the word for female dogs. And he heads out to find the party.
Then the foam starts piping in from two giant tubs overhead.
I see a familiar, skinny girl sandwiched between two other girls. They are in a triple grind, the middle girl is spanking the one in front of her, cowgirl style.
“Newspaper ladeeeeee!” middle girl squeals. It’s part of the short-shorts trio from the boardwalk, the one whose mama keeps calling her.
Oh, mama must be going crazy. No calls are being answered in the den of grind dance.
I feel old. Surely, I must be the only mom in the entire nightclub.
Then I see a girl who has decided a bikini bottom is appropriate clubwear. She’s got her shirt tucked up into her bra, so you can see the tattoos swirl around her middle, her dangling belly chain and the sparkle of an eyebrow piercing.
“I have a 2-year-old!” announces Kayla Mauz, 18. “And I just want to let loose for once, you know?”
Okay, not the only mom in the club. Surely, I’m the only one wearing Spanx, then.
“There’s a party on Third Street,” one pack yells to another.
But Third Street is quiet, except for the confused packs looking around.
At 3 a.m., I see Lollipop a third time. He has lost his cohort and his Coke. There are no [girls].
He’s eating a slice of pizza. He sustained!