Monday, August 11, 2014

More Encounters with Weirdos

I spent the last eight days traveling in a big circle from Denver, up through Wyoming to Washington and Oregon, then back through SLC and east into Kansas and Nebraska, before finally alighting again in D-Town.

This first little exchange took place in a truck stop outside Aurora, NE. The TV was tuned to ESPN and they were showing a highlights package, which ended with a “feel-good” clip of youngsters racing around the infield of a baseball park dressed as foam-rubber hotdogs. One of the youngsters couldn’t run in his bulky costume and kept tripping and sprawling on his face. It was, I have to admit, funny, in a precious sort of way.

Sitting at the next table was an elderly man. Very elderly. Methuselah, Jr. But, he looked like everyone’s favorite octogenarian – tidy plaid shirt; brown high-water slacks, belted just below his arm pits; even a plastic pocket protector to protect his pocket from pens. As I began to chuckle a bit at the trials of the kid in the sausage outfit, the elderly fellow started laughing a wheezy laugh. I looked his way, indicated the TV with a nod, and said:

“Poor little guy.”

The elderly fellow glared at me through a film of ill-will and cataracts, and said:

“Fuckin’ retard’s what he is.”

“Well,” I responded, “can’t be easy running around in those suits.”

The elderly fellow made a bah-humbug gesture at me, looking back at the TV, where the clip was running again. His tubercular laugh reappeared, gurgling from the hair-clogged drain of his esophagus.

“Lookit ‘im!  Lookit that fuckin’ retard!” He almost choked he was laughing so hard. “Why d’they let ‘em out in public? They’re disgusting!”

“He’s just a little kid,” I said, which earned me another bah-humbug finger flick. I wanted to say something nasty to the silly old fuck, but just couldn’t summon the resolve.

“Your kid a retard?” the man asked abruptly.

“Uh, no. No, I don’t have any kids.”

“Yers’d prob’ly be retards anyway.”

I stared at him. He stared at me. And he wheezed. And gurgled.

“Normally,” I said, with a big ol’ smile on my face, “I try to show my elders respect. But you, you are a repulsive old cocksucker, and the world will be a better place when you die. Fuck you.”

As I left the restaurant, he croak-snorted something at my back, but I couldn’t make it out.  And I’m glad, actually.


And then I was in Ontario, OR, which seems to be a Mecca for aberrancy and mutation.

I had a night off, and didn’t have to rise early the next morning, so I decided to visit a few of Oregon’s fabled craft breweries, of which Ontario had but one. Oh, well. I put on some decent clothes, my favorite black, fedora-like hat, and headed out.

Parked on a stool at the corner of an L-shaped bar, I was enjoying a rather good barleywine when two guys planted themselves on the other leg of the L. We nodded at one another in acknowledgement, and went back to our own business – them to a wall-mounted TV showing auto racing, and me to my book. Time passed. Then more time passed. More than a few beers passed.

“Hey, buddy!” one of the duo called, but it took me a moment to realize that I was the ‘buddy’ thus indicated, so he shouted again. “Hey, buddy!”

I looked in the direction of the pair. Both were already looking at me. They more or less resembled each other: medium height, gangly, trucker’s caps (who the fuck still wears those dippy things?) wife-beaters, etc.

“I like your hat.”

“Oh. Cool. Thanks, man.”

“You look like Heisenberg.”

“OK,” I said, nodding. “It’s not a pork pie hat, but I’ll—”

The guy raised his voice. “I said you look like Heisenberg.”

“That’s great. All I meant was our hats are different. Heisenberg —”

Right here, the other guy entered into this diverting little tête-à-tête: “You a smartass, or what?”

“Yes,” I answered, “but not in this specific case.”

“So what’s yer problem?”

“I have no problem. All I was —”

Guy One interrupted again. “I said you look like Heisenberg.”

“And I said ‘thank-you,’ and then pointed out that my hat is nothing like Heisenberg’s.”

Undaunted, Guy One aimed a finger at me and declared: “You have a goatee,” as if that fact erased any lingering traces of complication and conflict.

My goatee is nothing like Heisenberg’s. His is tidy, trimmed, and looks pretty slick. Mine is bushy, untrimmed, and makes me resemble a mixture of Kris Kringle and one of the Mujahideen.  But there would have been zero profit in venturing down that particular road. Just as there would have been zero profit in my further engagement with this pop-cultural exchange.

“Hey,” I burbled (in so far as I am capable of burbling), “You’re right! I never thought of that. The hat and the goatee. Guess I kinda do look like Heisenberg. Neat.”

Fulfilling all of my hopes, this seemed to satisfy them, as they returned to their Bud Lights, nachos, and shiny things going around in circles on TV. I knocked back the rest of my barleywine, and took my leave.

Should you ever feel like traveling with me, remember this one thing. No matter where I am, or what I am doing, if there is a looney-bird about he or she will locate me as surely as wombats have cube-shaped poop.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Encounters with Rudeness & Responses

Almost back to back last week I had it pointed out to me — hugely, insanely — that my Freak Magnet, which I had been thinking was undertaking a hiatus, was still wide awake and ready for action.

So, here we go…

I was in Tacoma. Had some time to kill, and popped by a bookshop. Love me some bookshops. Shopped around a bit, bought an Evelyn Waugh I hadn’t read, and set off again to continue working.

Now, as it occasionally happens in Tacoma, it was raining. Pissing rain, in fact. I scurried out to my car, hopped in, programmed my GPS for my next stop, and put the car in reverse. I was parked between two pickups. Between them and the downpour, I inched backward out of my space; cautiously, gently. When I could see around the trucks, I noticed there was a Volvo waiting at the end of the aisle, presumably for my parking space. I wheeled around, allowing it ample space to angle around me, and started forward. That’s when I looked over at the driver.

She was in her mid-twenties, brown-haired, bespectacled, and screaming at me. I mean SCREAMING, man. Frothing at the mouth. Spittle flying against the windows. Complete and total RAGE creasing her face. Her outburst was so energetic, so ugly, I was taken aback. She gunned the Volvo by and hurtled into the space I had vacated.

And I was, well, just kind of sitting there. Just sitting there and wondering what I possibly might’ve done to cause this girl uncork such a colossal gout of invective. So, I thought I’d ask her.

I reversed back down the aisle until I was idling behind her car. She glared at me in her rearview mirror. I made a little gesture at her, like “C’mere for a sec.” She climbed from the car. I stuck my head out into the rain.

“Excuse me,” I said. “What did I do to make you so angry?”

Her glare deepened. “Just drive on, Sir,” she growled.

“No,” I said. “But wait. Why are you —”

“Fuck off you cocksucker!” she screamed, showing me the middle fingers on both of her hands. “Fuck off! I’ll fucking kill you, motherfucker!! I’ll fucking kick your ass!! Get the FUCK out!!”

Holy shit. I was staring at her with my mouth open. But only for a second. I do, as it happens, have my limits.

“You know what?” I hollered back. “Go fuck yourself, you ugly cunt.”

And here is where it all got really weird.

Another voice, female, some woman lurking outside my field of vision, chimed in.

“Hey! Don’t you call her that!”

If the newcomer was close enough to have heard me call the crazy woman a cunt, she had surely been close enough to have heard the crazy woman’s original diatribe. But, in true SeaTac lefty bullshit fashion, I was the asshole since I was the one who had uttered the dreaded “C” word.

I scanned around for a form to go with the face, found nothing, and, dropping my car into “drive” and hitting the gas, shouted “Fuck you too, you goddamn crazy bitch!”

I still have no idea, no idea at all, what I did to instigate the thing. For the next hour and a half, I churned it over in my head, and still nothing. But then it hit me. 

Freak Magnet.


And now, the Second Baffling Occurrence.

I was in, of all places, the scenic hamlet of Hays, KS. Population: Who Cares.

I needed to stop off at a convenience store for gas and coffee. Filled up and went inside. Wandered the store for a time, just to see if anything yummy wanted me to free it from its stultifying Life on the Shelf. Turned out, one thing did. Right up by the impulse items. They were selling those peanut-butter eggs from Easter at fifty-cents a pop. And I loves me some peanut-butter eggs. Grabbed two, dropped them with my extra-massive cup of joe on the counter, and extracted wallet from pocket.

The woman manning the counter was probably, I dunno, thirty. Give or take a tricky pregnancy or two.

She rang-up my purchases, then paused. She held one of the peanut-butter eggs in her hand.

“Are you sure you want this?” she asked.

“Oh, how come?” I responded. “Are they that far out of date?”

“No,” she said, “but…”

And she drifted off, gesturing in a general sort of way at my (admittedly rather acutely striking) girth. She was, I gathered, suggesting a weight-loss stratagem.

“Really?” I said, my eyes going all wide and sort of buggy.

“Well…” she murmured.

“Are you actually suggesting that I — a total stranger — might be too fat to purchase that candy?”

“I’m just trying to be helpful,” she said stiffly.

“Really. Trying to be helpful.” I think my voice had taken on a somewhat…well…steely aspect. “Here’s an idea,” I continued. “Your ass is the size of a fucking foot-stool, so how about you work on that, and mind your own fucking business.”

The rest of our interaction passed in total silence.

So, anyway… Not sure why I encounter people like these two, but there it is.

The Freak Magnet, folks. Damn.

Oh, and by the way, I ate those motherfucking peanut-butter eggs. And they were fuckin’ yummy.