Schaumburg: not a small town. (Survey says: 75,000+. Where I grew up that’s a city.)

Perhaps the summer’s most visible change is occurring in the downtown strips of small towns where, for decades, cruising on Friday and Saturday nights has been a teenage rite of passage. It is a peculiarly American phenomenon — driving around in a big loop, listening to music, waving at one another and wasting gasoline.

“We’re not cruising around anymore, with gas costing $4.50 a gallon,” said Ewelina Smosna, a recent graduate of Taft High School in Chicago, as she hung out the other night at the Streets of Woodfield, an outdoor mall in Schaumburg. “We just park the car and walk around.”

Related: I used to work the night shift for a Major Catalog Company’s phone center. I worked the night shift when the movie Duets came out, and one of my co-workers listened to Lite FM all night, and so whenever I hear about cruising (which you hear more about in southwestern Virginia than here–hey, Williamson Road) I can’t get the awful creepy awful incest-chic Huey Lewis/Gwenyth Paltrow cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin'” out of my head because you have no idea how many times lite FM radio stations could play that song over 8 hours.

And now you will suffer like I did,* provided you click play.

*Unfortunately I cannot make you suffer the ultimate indignity of listening to Lite FM while trying to convince a woman that even though her personalized pet gravestone was delayed because of a shipment of low-quality granite, she should proceed to bury her dog anyway. The tradeoff was that for every 15 minutes of SOP service-industry misery I got to read for about 2 hours because no one calls at 4 AM from anywhere except crazy people and occasionally someone in the foreign services. For $8.50 an hour circa 2000**, it was in some ways a dream job for an insomniac shut-in like myself.

**More than I’d like to admit of this went to fuel a $1,200*** avocado-green 4-door 1972 Impala. Gas in Botetourt County back then was cheap.

***No truer song has been written than the Bottle Rockets’ “$1000 Car”: “sink your money in it, and there you are / the proud owner of a $2,000 thousand-dollar car” isn’t just clever, it’s a philosophical truth.