There are exceptions, however. For every New York after 9/11, there is a New Orleans after Katrina. Every man for himself, let me get mine and get out. Such an example befell me today, and made me further question whether Anne Frank was right when she said people were basically good at heart.
I'll try not to bore you (I know, no success yet on that front). Traffic going home from work today was a crawl. I live 10 minutes from work in perfect conditions, but today everyone was slogging through the snow and the slush and the snowbanks. People were missing green lights, cars were spinning their wheels going up one-lane hills, it was generally irritating. To try and beat the traffic (as well as spare the rest of the driving public the sight of my treadless tires kicking snow behind me like a dog digging for a corpse), I decided to take a shortcut to work. The shortcut involves bypassing two streets by cutting through a small alleyway. It gets me off the road, it gets me to the street I need to a little faster, and no one gets hurt in the process. When it works, it's a pretty sweet deal.
The problem is that there is one street I have to cross that intersects the two alleys, and that street is sometimes bumper to bumper with cars going from my right to my left. This means that there are occasions where someone will be sitting in front of the alley, not knowing it's a road that people actually use for driving. No worries, I usually just wait for that driver's light to turn green and sneak in, or wait until some other good Syracusan realizes they aren't going to move very far and allow me some space. Usually works out fine.
Today was such a day, where when I got to the intersection, the car was already sitting there. I sat patiently, pointing my headlights directly at the car, indicating that he was in my way, but not flashing or honking or yelling. I was calm, I was patient. There was a little space in front of the car, so I had hoped that the car would simply move up a little bit and give me a little space to get through. Their light turned green and nobody moved. (Wouldn't you know their intersection was blocked by someone who tried to beat the light going the perpendicular direction. Hmmm, foreshadowing?) No biggie. I waited a little longer.
I slowly pulled into the intersection just to say to the other cars in the line, "Hey, don't mind me, I just have to sneak in here real quick like." (There were no cars coming the other way, from my left to my right.) Finally, the line started to move, and I planned to slide into the other half of the alleyway, on my journey home. Ahh, I could see the other side of that alleyway already.
The car behind the original car blocked the alleyway again. Here I am, clearly marking my spot, sitting in the middle of the intersection, just looking to pass through the bee-line into the next street. And whaddaya know, some jerkoff pulls right out in front of me.
Now normally, I would chalk this up to ignorance, or a person just wanting to hold their position in line. I threw up my hands in frustration, and looked at the guy in the car. Let me tell you a little about this guy before I continue...
He was your typical white trash. Boilerplate white trash. The poster boy. He drove a shitty sedan that he probably bought third hand. He wore a 25 year old, ratty baseball cap, from which a mane of unclean, ratty hair flowed from out back. He had a dirty, pockmarked face and a ratty, bushy moustache. He was about 40-45 years old. Driving by himself.
I could deduce a few things about him: He was unmarried. In fact I guarantee he hasn't smelled a woman in 6 years to whom he didn't have to give his credit card number. He smelled like either stale cigarettes or armpit; possibly both. He has hands that are always dirty, likely caked in motor oil, with fingernails that are either bitten down to nothing or long and sharp and yellowing. He probably says things like "Over dare" instead of "Over there" and "irregardless" without irony. His teeth are brown.
Okay, so here's what set me off. Like I said, I threw my hands up in frustration. I looked at the guy as if saying "Come on, dude! I just wanted to get through." Exasperated, not angry. So this shit-kicking hick looks right at me and throws his hands in the air mockingly, like he was saying "Oh, I'm soooo sorry.... You ain't gettin' in front o'me, guy." My usually squinty little eyes bugged out of my head. I made a hand gesture to try and let him know I was going straight; the gesture was not unlike one of those guys on the tarmac of an airport directing planes to start taxiing. I was just trying to let the guy know I wasn't going to blow up his spot, I just wanted to get past him. So he starts flailing his hands around, mockingly of course, basically telling me tough shit, deal with it.
I looked to my left and some cars began turning onto the street, which -- do you remember? -- I was blocking. So I had to back up into the alleyway to let the other cars do. (Note: if this douche-hole had been in my position, he would have sat there and blocked the other cars. I have no doubt.) I just shook my head and looked at him, while I put the car in reverse.
I sat for another few seconds before this hick finally inched his car forward. The car sitting behind this human stain -- God bless him or her -- stayed put, allowing me to quickly drive through and get to the other side of the alley. I opened my driver's side window (since the other side of my car was caked in snow) and threw out the biggest, most exaggerated thank-you wave in the history of thank-you waves. I looked like I was flagging down someone who just came back from WWII.
Now in my fantasies, this man -- I'm gonna call him Ed, for lack of a better name -- saw me go straight, saw me wave my grand appreciation to the car behind him, and thought to himself, "Oh, he was trying to go straight. I now realize that I'm a douchebag." (I only wish I had some sort of valuable prize that I could have given to the car who let me through in Ed's plain view.) But I have a feeling that Ed doesn't have the cranial capacity to make such stark self-realizations and went back to thinking about how much he hates blacks or how many more months he can squeeze out of his disability/unemployment benefits without having to take another physical.
So in light of this, I would like to share with Ed this open letter:
I'm sorry if you thought I was going to cut in front of you today. I didn't have any intention of doing so. All I wanted was to go by, so I could get home and use the restroom. I forgot to go before I left work and I was uncomfortable in my belly.
I can see why you wouldn't want to let anyone get in front of you. After all, you were moving about 3 feet every eight minutes. I would have impeded your progress, I'm sure. The fact that I sat at that intersection for about 10 minutes and you moved a total of maybe three yards really speaks to that fact. Sorry Ed.
If I had gotten in front of you, I'm sure that I would have delayed what would prove, I'm sure, to be a really fulfilling and rewarding evening for you. Oh the number of your interests you could have pursued!
You could have gone around to the neighborhoods, looking for broken household appliances and scrap metal on people's curbs. You already have all the streets mapped out, and you know whose trash day is tomorrow. Of course, for you, every day is trash day.
Or you could have gone to that townie bar you like and chatted up some disinterested girl or bartender about all the stuff you have going on in your life. Like how you would be qualified to do any number of tasks, if it weren't for that note from your doctor saying you couldn't work. Or you could tell some sob story about how some guy that you were more qualified for leapfrogged you for a better job. (Or should I say, "cut" in front of you? I think I'm beginning to understand now.....)
You could have called up a friend. But isn't it weird how no one ever seems to have their phone on them, because whenever you call them, they don't pick up. It goes right to voicemail. Weirdly coincidental, right? Must be a problem with the network because of the snow. Yeah.
Sorry, Ed. I realize now that I was trying to jockey for a position that wasn't rightfully mine. I know you're sick of people getting the upper hand over you. Like ... if that girl at the convenience store you go to would just give you a few minutes, she might realize what a special guy you are. That's why you go there every day for a coffee, a pack of Marbs and a paper (even though you can't read). Of course, you've used up both of your funny anecdotes, so you might have to start going to the grocery store instead.
But you can count on one thing, Ed: because of today, you will never leave this life unnoticed. Although your death will likely go unmourned, and your achievements underappreciated, you can always count on the fact that today, I recognize you for being the worthless sack of monkey-shit that you are. I'll never forget you.