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I am a public-school teacher in the Commonwealth of Virginia...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I am a public-school teacher in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I make tons of money (!) and am, therefore, able to send our 16-year-old son to the prestigious Milton Academy prep school, where he is learning to be a true liberal and rebel. He has adopted James Dean's attitude toward life -- that it is better to be sullen than not, and that it is better to ride than to walk. He wants a Vespa motorbike to travel from east campus to classes (in the rain) and from his dorm to the grocery store in East Milton. How dangerous is the Vespa, as compared to his living in a state of "blue funk" for the rest of his life? -- Linda

TOM: Linda, I'd tell this kid to take a flying leap. The Vespa is an absolute death trap, in my opinion. It's basically an unprotected, motorized projectile with which he can fling himself into an oncoming car or another immovable object. Absolutely not, Linda.

RAY: Aw, don't be such a pill, Tommy. Let the kid have a Vespa. The world is full of dangers. You can't protect kids from everything. I mean, we used to snack on lead paint when we were kids. We didn't know any better, and look how we turned out.

TOM: I rest my case. Linda, I know teen-agers can be persuasive (read: whiny). And you think you can solve their moodiness by giving them things, but you can't. The moodiness is a symptom of adolescence, not of having to walk a few hundred yards in the rain.

RAY: My brother's right about that. If you think a Vespa is going to snap him out of his teen-age blue funk, it won't. And imagine how blue his funk's going to get when he's reduced to operating his motorized wheelchair with his tongue.

TOM: So tell him it's just too dangerous. Tell you him you're saying no because you love him too much. Then stay in touch with him, be loving and supportive, and eventually he'll come out of this funk.

RAY: And if you ignore our advice and end up buying him the Vespa, Linda, ask him if I can borrow it on the weekends, because my wife is dead set against letting me get one.
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