Defining Moment: ACT Score versus the Tag Ladies

Last weekend I took my son on a college visit in Western Massachusetts.

As I sat at the Circle K Dunkin Donuts sipping Saturday morning coffee, I began chatting with the ladies seated at the table next to me. It was a gorgeous New England morning; yet we were indoors. Surprisingly, the Dunkin Donuts was packed. Kids were coming in and out between soccer games, truck drivers were seated with their refills, college kids were stopping in, etc. It was clearly the place to be.

The ladies, who ranged in age from probably 50-80 began to tell me that this was their “ritual.” Every Saturday morning (for the last 20 years as I came to find out) they meet at Dunkin Donuts and begin their “tagging” trip. What is the definition of tagging ? Tagging is what Chicagoans call “attending a garage sale” or the History Channel might call American Pickers. Whatever one calls it, these ladies have turned it into their ritual.  They giggled and shared the sheer pleasure of tagging. It is their “reason” to get together every Saturday morning each Fall, to visit, and have a “purpose.” They love it. They told me all about their favorite treasures as well as secrets used to hide purchases from their husbands! They told me how they leave their cars in the lot next to Dunkin Donuts and all pile into one person’s car so that they can converse while going from sale to sale. By the end of our visit I felt honored when they invited me to join them tagging !

Juxtapose my chance Tag Ladies encounter  with the entire purpose of my visit to New England: college visits. (Because our son’s September ACT test results showed a 5 point increase over his prior score, he is qualified for a different tier of colleges than he had been prior.) Ask any junior or senior high-schooler his or her sense of “purpose” these days. What is it?  The ACT score.  Yes, the ACT score! What on earth are we doing wrong? How did we get to the point where the ever important critical score by which high school kids seem to measure and maybe even define one another is a SCORE!  A score. Look at our son: he is still the exact same person he was three weeks ago when his score was 5 points lower than it is now. No better, no worse. (Our words of advice are still relevant: “in life” no one will ever care about your ACT score nor will you ever be asked about your score again!)

How are we defined in life? What is the measuring stick? Is it the ACT score? Or is it the Tag Ladies who were kind, welcoming and even thought to invite me along on their 20 year Saturday morning ritual?


Which brings me back to defining the measuring stick of life. If only we could get every junior and senior high-schooler in America to visit the Tag Ladies, grab a cup of coffee, sit down, visit, and chit-chat. Surely any high schooler would figure out the absolute irrelevance of the ACT score; wouldn’t that be a defining moment?