mardi, octobre 28, 2008

Death Wish

Traffic Court is a nightmare. Worse than a nightmare. They tell you to be there at 10AM. At which point the judge is still trying to finish up with the idiots who still believe in the myth that if you go to trial the cops never show up and you get off Scot free. Almost without exception, the guilty parties stand and, after listening to law enforcement's clear, undebatable version, get up and say words to the effect of: "I cannot dispute any of the facts; please admit my opinion that I should be able to break the law as exculpatory evidence." One by one the judge, who has the courage of a lion and the mercy of a legion of angels in the face of ultimate stupidity that often crosses the line and becomes actual rudeness, graciously and patiently adjudicates the cases, does everything he can to ensure the minimum sentence. He is either drunk, or some kind of half man, half god sent from above to ensure that democracy's most annoying side effect is processed and evacuated from the body politic. I don't know how he does it. More than once I wanted to sentence the sundry violators to 10 years cruel and unusual punishment. My teeth were ground to a powder.

At 10:20 the poor man needs a break, and calls a 20 minute recess. Others who were told to be there at 10 were miffed. I imagined the judge going back to his chambers and overturning all his bookcases, punching holes in the drywall, screaming red faced to the heavens until his scarred vocal chords leave him sounding like Clint Eastwood. I'm glad he has the time to get that out of his system before he has to listen to me say: "I know I'm guilty of talking on my cell phone. If my wife wasn't sick I wouldn't have taken the call. I'm also very poor. If you could see your way clear to lower the fine, I promise I'll never darken your doorstep again." At 10:36 I couldn't hold it anymore, but I didn't want to lose my place. "I'll be right back," I said to the hot girl texting behind her bangs next to me, "If someone tries to sit here, kick 'em in the shins."

To describe what comes next would not be fair to the reader. The lower circles of Hell are best left to the imagination. Suffice it to say that, after 3 HOURS of listening to people completely ignore the simplest instructions ever given by an authority figure, I was ready to take off my shirt, put on a black hood, pick up an ax, and behead in the name of the Queen the next person who said something stupid to the judge, who, miraculously, only seemed to get more patient and kind as the morning drew on.

My talk with the judge went as expected. But the lowered fine was cold comfort. As I drove home I was overcome with fear. First of all, the thought of returning to traffic court was unbearable. I swear before God I will go to jail before setting foot in that circus again. So I suppose the experience did its job: you won't find me breaking any laws or codes of the road. But secondly, court had helped me understand, more clearly than ever, that, all around me, in explosive death machines, were the stupidest, rudest spawn of hell ever disguised as humanity. Needless to say, I'm driving extra careful at this point.

I exited at a given exit, came to a stop, and heard a honk. I thought the person next to me was impatient of my caution at the stop sign. I turned left and came to a stop light. He honked again. In my rear view mirror was an older gentleman in a crummy car with a dog on his lap, gesturing violently for me to pull over. I thought maybe I'd left my gas cap open, or had a cat stuck to my bumper or something. I pulled over, but as he did his macho-posturing swagger to my truck, I elected to remain in my vehicle. I rolled my window down halfway.

He stared at me for just a second, obviously for dramatic effect. I asked what was up. He sneered, "Do you have a f*ckin' death wish?" It took me a second to process the question. [ed.note: one Jason Adair, who was listening to the whole affair through the legally mandated blue tooth ear piece, has since advised us that if anyone asks you if you have a death wish, the answer is always, ALWAYS, an unqualified YES.] Maybe I was distracted by the horrific state of the poor man's teeth, chipped and stained beyond any hope of a normal American social life, but all I could muster as a befuddled: "I don't know what you're talking about." I've realized since that one of the principle problems in our society is that a certain class of person always believes they're about to be on television. Deep inside he must have thought cameras might be rolling, for he took of his glasses with no small degree of trashy flare and repeated the question, a little louder and slower. I repeated my response, trying to be honest about having no idea what his problem could be, and trying not to think about his teeth, or what kind of maniac drives around with a dog on his lap.
"Six miles back you cut me off! I called the cops and gave them your plate number, they're on their way."

Maybe it was the fact that I hadn't made a lane change for more than six miles. Or maybe is was my gigantic ego filling me with condescension. Perhaps it was my reasonable assurance that this man could not have called the cops, because he obviously couldn't have operated a cell phone even if he owned one. I'd like to think the love of a higher power filled my heart with sincere love and pity for this lonely, deranged soul. But for whatever reason, what should have been a colossal fear of having to return to traffic court at the behest of this manchild became a bemused sense of novelty. I was interested in resolving the situation amicably. I tried to apologize. I told him that I was sorry if I cut him off, and that I always try to be careful, etc. It didn't help. He looked into my eyes. "Your pupils look dilated! You're on something! Now they're gonna get you for drunk driving, too!" He was still seething. A small part of me wanted to step out of my gutless economy truck, stare the doughy, wispy haired baby boomer down, and offer an alternative. "I tell you what, let's exchange information. I need your name, address and insurance information so my lawyer knows who to sue for harassment and making death threats." There were a thousand options, a plethora of pithy retorts, but at this point, as inexplicably as I had gained it, I lost interest entirely. I said "I'm sorry" one more time and simply drove away, leaving him at the side of the road.

Take from this what you will. This isn't a plea for more civil conduct, or judicial reform. That would be pointless. Stupid people, like cockroaches, are with us for the long haul. They're not capable of processing the idea of improvement or change. And no matter how many cheap motels you trap them in, their kind will be here long after you and I are food for their numberless children.

mardi, octobre 14, 2008

Ear Peace

Sitting in this Internet cafe, surrounded by up and coming go-getters, I came to realize how judgemental I am.

People sitting in a crowded room talking through a blue tooth head set appear to be talking to themselves. Or, if you can see the ear piece, they present, for all intents and purposes, as freelance telemarketers. People who love talking to distant parties so deeply that they can't stop the conversation, even to order a beverage, or enjoy a quiet moment.

And I think they look stupid.

But I have to get used to it. In the Bright and Shiny Future, there just isn't going to be a reason to hold a phone to your ear. I might ask myself a simple question: Did the denizens of the Federation of Planets grouse when the Next Generation replaced their archaic "communicators" with those super slick chest insignia models?

mardi, octobre 07, 2008

Full of Bull

I saw the edited version as a youth, and was taken, like almost everyone else at the time, by the Crash Davis "I believe" monologue in Bull Durham. It seemed like a unifying event. A cultural flagstone. A well constructed house of philosophical cards. A string of clear, unqualified beliefs stated briefly and with unimpeachable conviction. When he said "I believe in the small of a woman's back," it was a revelation, written with fire on the stone tablets of my heart. I believed in the same thing--deeply, without reservation--but would never have thought to make it part of my moral fiber.

(It even holds up, mostly. Check it out here:
but watch out for where he says some "bad words" at the beginning. Like I said, I had only seen the edited version.)

Might we not all benefit from a small, but healthy dose of moral clarity by way of reduction? What if you had to encapsulate yourself in a 30 second speech? We don't have to do it as part of a plot to get into Susan Sarandon's pants, but we should all compose our own version. Lay it on the line. Forget about who might take offence and dance to the music that plays on our innermost gramophone.

I believe in the Body, and the Spirit, and that the two together constitute the Soul. I believe in Sushi, Green Tea Ice Cream, steamed Broccoli, artichoke hearts, avocado, and whole wheat pasta. I believe in Garlic Salt and Lemon Pepper. I believe in Nectarines, and that any apple besides the Fuji is a waste of my time. I believe in fiber. I believe it is morally, logistically, and sanitarily impossible to mass produce meat. I believe that cats serve Satan. I believe that pornography is poisonous. I believe Wuthering Heights is worth reading once a year. I believe in the Cohen Brothers, Sketch Comedy, and that someday the world will be rid of classic rock and that it will be a better place. I believe that the Smiths were the greatest band of all time. I believe that the only thing more evil than a person who doesn't share with those less fortunate is the person who thinks it's OK force people to share with those less fortunate. And that the only thing worse than an overbearing evangelical christian is an overbearing evangelical atheist. I believe in the necessity of preserving green, open places, because I believe in Nature, even as I believe her primary objective is to kill me and everyone else. I believe in perfection. I believe in words. I believe that Joseph Smith saw and spoke with God the Father and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees. And I believe in long, soft, deep, passionate kisses that last three days.

(Sorry, I had to steal his final line. It's just too good. And you'll note I failed fit in anything about my disdain for obese people--there just isn't space enough.)

Your turn.