Some time ago, after a particularly vitriolic post, an acquaintance contacted me to offer his opinion that I was/am in desperate need of anger management therapy. I responded to his pop-psychological critique of my intracranial workings by informing him that this is my anger management therapy. Something pisses me off, and instead of causing a whole public scene I purge the bile by writing about it. It’s rather Aristotelian, actually. Not only that, but it works like an ace on the river. Since I began venting my spleen like this, and sharing it with my readers, I’ve been a much more cheerful guy all the way around.
Yeah. Until last week.
See, I had a couple of encounters—one outside Miami, OK, and one in Olathe, KS—during which the dam that holds back my inner reservoir of irascibility crumbled and inundated the idyllic valley below under a wave of thick, gooey opprobrium.
Neither event was my fault. Not technically. But, still…I’m not exactly proud of my behavior, either.
Crazy as a Bedbug
I’d just gotten a big iced tea at a convenience store in Miami, OK, and was walking toward my car. Over by the corner of the building, I noticed a woman leaning against the wall. Even from a distance it was obvious she was crying. I mean really crying. Sobbing. Her body shaking and the whole deal. This being Oklahoma, where a woman’s unhappiness can result from any one of a gazillion shitty possibilities, I eased over toward her. I figured that, if nothing else, I could hang with her until friends or family or whomever arrived on the scene.
When I’d drifted close enough to be heard, but not so close that I might frighten her, I spoke in a low, calm voice.
“Excuse me, miss?”
She went rigid. Fuck.
“Miss? I’m sorry to intrude, but can I do anything for you?”
She slowly turned, wiping her eyes, cheeks and under her nose with a flurry of small gestures. She looked about as miserable as anyone I’ve seen. Her eyes, filled with a really pitiful kind of need, focused on mine.
“Got a cigarette?” she asked, her voice thick and sniffly.
Well, didn’t that just figure? The one thing she wanted, and I was in the midst of one of my periodic attempts to quit.
“Damn,” I said. “I’m sorry, but I don’t. I c—”
I was about to say: I could go find one for you. But she didn’t let me finish.
Her eyes, the ones that only seconds ago had so effectively made me feel for her, suddenly went all crazy. That’s the only way I can describe the change. They widened and bulged. If she’d been a cartoon character they would’ve spiraled around in their sockets.
And then she screamed, loud enough that her neck tightened and spit flew off her lips.
“Then you can go fuck yourself! MotherFUCKER!!”
I took a step back. She flung her hands out at me.
“Fuck off! Fuck off! FUCK OFF!!”
I stood my ground, but just barely. The woman screeched at me some more, a discordant jumble of syllables.
“Hey,” I said. “Hey. Listen to me. Stop.”
For a wonder, she did, her malice-filled gaze on my face.
“Now,” I began. “I don’t know what’s bothering you, but I sincerely—sincerely—hope that whatever it is, it lasts for a really long fucking time.”
I left her there. Driving away, I realized that this was exactly how Jason must’ve felt when Medea was in one of her moods.
Litter Bug! Litter Bug!
The vagaries of my job occasionally require me to kill some time between one stop and the next. For the most part, I while away my excess minutes or hours by, 1) roaming around a bookstore, or, 2) laying my seat back as a prelude to the vigorous pursuit of a nap. I had so much surplus time in Olathe, that I was able to enjoy both. After browsing the shelves of a used-book store, I browsed the insides of my eyelids for about an hour before my phone offered its wake-up chirp. I got myself organized for travel and prepared to depart. My final act of preparation was to take the empty coffee cup in the console and deposit it gently on the ground outside my door.
Yes. I littered. More than that, I littered with intent. I considered my options carefully—To litter, or Not to Litter? That was the Question—decided I didn’t give a shit, and put thought to action.
A moment later the air around my vehicle was filled with the unpleasant blare of a car horn. I opened the door again and poked my head out to see about the rumpus. The horn blared again, long and hard. It originated from a bright red Cadillac Escalade that was idling behind me. Inside it, a woman—blondish, fortyish—was waggling her finger at me, and shouting. Couldn’t hear what she was saying because her window was up, but it was plain she wasn’t happy. I gave her a sort of aww-get-outta-here wave and closed my door.
She didn’t leave. I put my car in reverse, thinking she would see the lights. She either saw them, or not, but she didn’t move. Putting the car back in park, I hoisted myself out and stared at her over my sunnies. Her window slid down.
“Pick up your garbage, fatass!” she yelled.
Her demeanor and her phraseology both struck me as slightly excessive. It was a coffee cup, for fuck’s sake, not a leaky crate of medical waste. I paused, mulling over the situation and her clever locution, and so I wasn’t moving with the spring in my step that Escalade owners apparently require of their inferiors, so she repeated her directive.
“Pick that up!” she demanded, aiming a long, manicured fingernail at the offending offal.
“Why don’t you calm the fuck down, lady,” I said. Not yelled. Not yet. Said.
“This is a clean city!” she bawled. “We don’t need a bunch of fat Okies [I have Oklahoma plates on my car] ruining it!”
OK. We had arrived at something of a crossroads. I could’ve just collected the cup and been done with it, but she’d called me “fat” twice. Not that she was wrong, you understand. “Fat” is a perfectly accurate description of me. (On the Celebrity Weight Scale, I'm .82 of a Louis Anderson or 9 Mary-Kate Olsons.) But I didn’t need to have my widecomings pointed out by some idiot with an overdeveloped sense of her position in the hierarchy of things I choose to care about.
She started saying something else, and her finger went full-waggle, but I interrupted them both.
“Jesus-fuckin’-Christ, lady,” I began, removing my sunnies and stepping toward the Escalade. “Take a look around you, ya fucking moron.”
I threw my arms wide, taking in the whole parking lot. It was a biggie. One of those that wrap around suburban strip malls with all the usual big-box hellholes—Target, Pets Smart, Office Max, bunch of restaurants, the works.
Now I was yelling…
“Do you see where you are?? All this asphalt?? You’re sitting in the middle of like a hundred fucking acres of petroleum-based poison! If this mall closed today it’d take decades before anything green could grow here! We’re standing on an ocean of fucking litter!”
She opened her mouth in another attempt at debate, but I was way beyond listening to any more of her hyper-moral bullshit.
“Oh, just shut the fuck up, OK? And for future reference, before you light the fuse on your tampon, try thinking for half a fucking second and be sure what you’re about to say isn’t completely fucking STUPID! You ridiculous BITCH!”
Before I could take another step her window started up and the Escalade lurched forward as she dropped it into drive without putting her foot on the brake. She flopped forward in her seat, righted herself, and sped away across the parking lot.
It dawned on me that this Fat Okie had better put tread to the road, too. She struck me as just the sort of nitwit who would call the cops and report the fun we’d just had together. I left through the nearest exit, and was soon cruising down I-35 with scenic Olathe diminishing behind me.
So What’s It All About?
Well, I have no idea what it’s all about. But I do know this: I feel better now.