In Search Of A Better Life, Teen Moves Downstairs
DEERFIELD, IL—Like generations of teenagers before him, 16-year-old Eric Jankowski has pulled up stakes to seek a future in a distant land of opportunity and independence. Bravely facing the difficulties of a harsh new world, he placed his meager possessions on his back and made a journey of 70 feet in search of a better life downstairs.\n
DEERFIELD, IL—Like generations of teenagers before him, 16-year-old Eric Jankowski has pulled up stakes to seek a future in a distant land of opportunity and independence. Bravely facing the difficulties of a harsh new world, he placed his meager possessions on his back and made a journey of 70 feet in search of a better life downstairs.
Jankowski arrives in the basement, where he hopes to find increased freedom and opportunity.Advertisement"Life's gonna be so much better down here," Jankowski said, his eyes gleaming as he placed a backpack on the unfinished basement's concrete floor Monday. "There's totally enough room to set up some old couches so me and my friends can hang out. Plus, Dad says maybe I can put an air-hockey table down there if I promise to keep the noise down."
A sophomore at Edna Dane Memorial High School, Jankowski requested permission to move to a little-used storage room in his family's basement last month. After an excruciating three-week wait, his parents granted him emigration rights.Advertisement
"I have no idea why Eric wants to live down there in that dark basement, but fine," Jankowski's mother Ellen said. "All I can say is that he'd better understand that there's not going to be any funny business. I told him, 'This house has rules. I don't care what floor you're on.'"
In spite of such warnings, Jankowski is looking forward to the freedoms the basement offers, such as the ability to play his stereo loud and stay up late.Advertisement"This room is totally gonna kick ass once I get it set up," Jankowski said. "I got a line on a great set of speakers. Once I start making more money at Popeye's, I can save up to get a bigger TV. As for the walls, I'm getting rid of all my old posters and starting fresh from square one."
Determined as he is, Jankowski faces many difficulties. The basement bathroom has no working shower, so he will have to install one himself with the help of his friend, Rob Gaer. Carpet remnants will need to be collected. Cordless drills must be borrowed from an unwilling and suspicious father. Additionally, Jankowski will have to brave the elements during the harsh winter months, when temperatures in the basement dip as low as 50 degrees, necessitating the use of a space heater.
AdvertisementAccording to Jankowski, the move offers the opportunity to escape an oppressive regime."Mom and Dad watch everything I do," Jankowski said. "But now, I'll be able to hear them coming down the stairs. And, if I'm slick about it, I'll be able to sneak out the basement window and, like, party."
AdvertisementAcross the country, millions of suburban teens have sought better lives in the subterranean realm, a topic Dr. Grant Tompkins explores inWhere The Floor Is Paved With Cement: An Adolescent's Quest For His Underground Domain, an account of his own teenage post-war journey downstairs.
"Downstairs migration surged in the '50s, with the proliferation of suburbs," Tompkins said. "Teens were excited by the taste of freedom that the economic prosperity of post-WWII America brought, and they wanted more. The conflict between the freewheeling beatniks and their strict forebears was reaching a boiling point. This, combined with large territories of virgin basement acreage, created conditions leading to a mass exodus of teens into the rough-hewn land below."
AdvertisementThough some would-be pioneers were told "absolutely not, young man," a great many made the journey down the stairs."For these trailblazers, the path was strewn with obstacles," Tompkins said. "Early suburban basements were dingy, drafty places filled with cobwebs and firewood. Many had only rudimentary, crumbling stairs. Nevertheless, the basement offered opportunities children of the Great Depression thought possible only in their dreams."
AdvertisementThe upstairs room Jankowski escaped.Gus Kleinbold, 89, was one such Depression-era teen."When I was a boy, fat chance I would have my own basement room," Kleinbold said. "We slept five to a bed! When the war began, forget it. Not like the young people today, with their carpeted basements and X-Boxes."
AdvertisementBy the '70s, the room downstairs was a cherished part of the American youth experience, Tompkins said."Some of them were squeezed out of the basement by baby-boomer parents claiming the territory for rec rooms. These teens were often forced to seek out new lives in the roof space of their homes, as dramatized in the
Brady Bunchepisode where Greg sets up a room in the attic," Tompkins said. "But for the most part, teens continued to settle in the basement—a land of peace and undisturbed independence far below the war-torn lands of family strife and authoritarianism above."
AdvertisementIn the '90s, teens began to populate their parents' basements even after graduation. Indeed, with easy access to pornography via the Internet and a depressed job market creating strong cultural and economic incentives to stay, some have inhabited their parents' basements well into their 30s.
The way is still not easy for the population Tompkins calls the "downwardly mobile," but teens like Jankowski continue to be lured by the chance to pursue happiness on their own terms, combined with the opportunity to dream big.Advertisement
"This room is gonna rule," Jankowski said, hauling a cinderblock downstairs to serve as the cornerstone of a shelf. "The chicks are gonna go crazy for it, too. I bet I'll totally get a girlfriend this year." Read more: The Onion »
more independent down the basement MayaLorinda TheRyanHatchett This could happen in my house soon Upstairs is the new downstairs. no need to call me out killendscott mood Is this article about my teenager life? NolanPaar I truly am worried and hope that he doesn’t forget his slippers from his upstairs room. Could be helpful if the basement gets cold. ChipChipCheerio HoneyNutCheerios GlutenFree cheerios Please see article and give SaturdayThoughts
Looks like someone upgraded the Zuckerbot to look more human. This hurt my soul sounds like me in a few years... Korn 🤣🤣🤣 trintran It works, though. Just a little. I would do Rice Crispies. OscarNunezLA nickk0927 you that one time It’s called PROGRESS. Say hello to the mice, spiders, and radon. That's no teen!
.....He didn’t leave for another 24 years ..... trintran Having the whole floor to yourself is a privilege few share with me the teen is from late 90's it seems A teen would never eat regular cheerios, HONEY NUT ONLY lol I always wanted to but them basement spiders were no joke That’s like me trying to run away from home at age 8 by moving to the living room
I could write a book on doing this, but not without incriminating myself please don't post articles about me Godspeed my friend! He looks about 25 Is he a teenager tho? My kid actually did that.... Such a drastic change! 😱 I feel attacked 'Virgin basement acreage' is a label that he's going to have to get used to.
Been there done that got the t-shirt I did this in the summer of ‘90 Cheerios Stupid people & Hard Truths. Also my son wants to be Batman!! via YouTube New Episode Check it out everyone!! That's gonna be me in a few months Excuse me. Leave the Cherios. Baby is leaving the nest . Baaaa ha ha ha lol Korn sticker
PatrickQuinton ParrySound48 TheMQ32 The Onion once again for the win I feel attacked That Korn sticker. It's really doing it for me. I don't think that's a teen someone please help this teen, he’s stuck in 1995 The Korn sticker just completes it. Is nu-metal still a thing? how much did Korn pay for this ad huh?
The basement is where the best memories happen
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