19 March 2010

Bye bye birdie

Jerry Lee Lewis flipping the bird, back when it meant something

So I got into a road rage situation a few days ago. Some jackass thought I cut him off or something, I really don't know what I did to piss him off.

What I do know is there I am, zipping along at 65 miles an hour on my morning commute and this big shiny red truck about two stories high is drifting into my lane -- whoa! -- very fucking deep into my lane, Jesus Christ whatthehell: I swerve deep into the shoulder, gravel starts flying up, and I start calculating whether to brake hard, to slam into the median, and then finally I look over in shock to see what kind of brain dead drunken moron is trying to murder us both.

He's a red haired guy, close cropped, balding, rusty goatee, same tantrum-prone ethnic family as me, probably. 

His face is nearly as red as his cherry truck. He's flipping me off and yelling at me through his window.
Now, road rage is a luxury I gave up about 15 years ago. In a rare moment of clarity, I realized that it's really not worth dying over a traffic incident. Several people are. This sound melodramatic, but a mere few weeks ago, two guys in their twenties got in an argument on the highway. One guy shot the other driver. He died, all of 21 years old. The other man, 23, went to prison for at least 25 years.

Over a lane change.

But the other day, pumped full of adrenaline and shock, that Dodge truck trying to dig its hub caps into mine, I forgot all my hard won lessons about how fighting a fool makes you a fool. I simply lost it and started yelling and flipping the asshole off myself.

That's when I realized: flipping the bird, waving that middle finger in the air? Doesn't have the same weight it used to. No satisfaction in it. It didn't come near to expressing my fury at that particular moment.

I wished, even in the upswell of my anger, that my middle finger would grow claws, fur, bristles, swell up to some nasty fat size and smash through his window like a mace. As a gesture, it's lost all it's meaning. Like the word "fuck" or "motherfucker."  They used to be shocking anywhere away from a work site, ghetto, or a piece of modern fiction. I'm screaming motherfucker and flipping the bird, and it all felt so paltry, so tiny.

It didn't used to feel that way. One could, and I, in fact, did, provoke fist fights by a simple flip of the bird. But now? Not even close.

We need some new class of really offensive gestures, something so heinous and foul and depraved that would make even hardened criminals blanche, that would be used only in the rarest of cases, that would have the same gravity as drawing a gun.

As well as a new class of curses that won't fall from the lips of 12 year olds any time soon.
I had a bunch of inventive insults just waiting to lay on that cretin, mostly involving pus and semen, and a plan to run out and punch him if the traffic ever stopped.

Luckily, the traffic didn't. 

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