Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fourteen. Why, you got something to say about it?

It's steamin' in the crockpot today! Or at least it was when I initially wrote all of this. Now i'm just tired.

While roaming the streets at lunchtime, I witnessed a frustrating interaction between a caretaker and a not-yet two-year old in the parking lot area of our busy little shopping plaza. This kid was romping as she walked, enjoying to the hilt the still young innocence that allows one to get really excited from the novelty of non-traditional forward motion. Hopping, skipping, jumping – she was ready to go and going.

The caretaker was just a few steps behind the little girl, but judged herself (and accurately so) to be far enough out of grabbing range that if the child darted into traffic, something unfortunate might occur. Realizing this, and anticipating the impasse that the parked grocery carts would create in this child’s path and the soon-to-be attractive nearby alternative of a heavily trafficked street, she preemptively warned the child that, “You better not go into the street or I’ll whoop your ass!”

The child responded saying something in a voice too soft in a register too high for me to hear, one of those voices belonging only to small children and hu
mmingbirds. The caretaker’s retort was, “You better NOT talk like that!” and then relayed to a friend waiting by a parked car, “She just said, ‘Ok. Don’t whoop my ass.’”

While using the threat of physical violence to prevent a child from an action that say, holding that child’s hand in a parking lot might prevent is upsetting to witness, I found I was more enraged because the girl was being punished for being an excellent communicator and obedient child. No fair! The threat of physical punishment achieved its intended goal of preventing the child from embarking upon risky behaviors. But the child did not just process this information and obey, she verbally confirmed her understanding of the threat, her assent to its terms, and did so in the exact language of the original threat!

Confirming she knew exactly what the stakes were (a whooped ass), and that they were too high for her, she reorganized the information that had been presented as an “if then” presupposition to make it a “then if” reaction, thus allowing her to become the one extending the contract to her caretaker. “Ok, [I will meet your terms.] [And then
you] don’t whoop my ass.”

Watching her at work, joy undeterred, I wanted to hire her to negotiate my next salary. Or the terms of my next prison sentence, were I to act on the impulse to tell the caretaker exactly what was on my mind and the degree of my frustration at the injustice of the lackluster logic of the entire scenario. It was unfair. And stupid to boot. And I never wanted that little girl to have her ass whooped. Ever. That too.

I went from pleasantly walking to HULK MAD in a matter of seconds. No fair.

Lately, I hate to report, it has taken far less inspiration for me to achieve a deep shade of Hulk-green. I seem to have a chip on my shoulder, and folks, it’s not chocolate.

I recently got into a foot race with a man in his 70s at Walgreen’s.

I guess it started in the parking lot, though I did not know it. Maybe he was not satisfied with the speed with which I had parked my car, and thereby allowed an open route for him to park his Mercedes directly adjacent to the door. Whatever his reasoning, it turns out he was out to beat me (a.k.a. whoop my ass).

Once I entered Walgreen's, I started walking toward the pharmacy at the back of the store. I noticed hurried footsteps on linoleum, and turned to see who was in such a rush. As I turned, his eyes met mine, and he gave me the distinct look of “Oh, it’s ON.”

“Really?” I said out loud.

But my feet had already picked up the pace and I was trucking past the sunscreen of aisle one, ready to cut sharply past the shampoo of aisle two for the wide empty aisle three when I encountered the roadblock of an employee stocking the end cap shelves. As I thought to myself, “SHIT!” I was immediately struck by the notion that I had lost my damned mind and was engaged in a foot race with a stranger of considerable age in a Walgreen’s. I considered cooling down on the candy aisle. Then I heard his d
ocksiders double their pace on aisle two.

Not on my watch, yacht man.

Youth, and excessive rage on my side, I beat this gentleman (and I’m going to guess lifelong a.hole) to the pharmacy cash register. But I did not beat him.

The old bastard poked his head in the prescription drop-off window situated several feet before the cash register window, and let the pharmacist know he was there for pick-up. His prescription came right up, and he even threw in gracious victory touches like calling the female pharmacist “hon” and giving her the little wave you give to your favorite waitress at the lunch counter who knows to cut the crust off of the grilled cheese you order every day to avoid you sending your sandwich back. I wanted to yell, “She had to learn organic chemistry you condescending crewnecker! Go back to your boat and your dames!”

I also had to resist the urge to tell the pharmacists that this man had incited a race through the store. I thought that would seem completely insane. But NOT as insane as my strong desire to send a letter to his P.O. Box, the number of which he was asked to repeat several times to confirm his identity before his prescription was released to him.

Now, I practically whisper my address when asked, so paranoid am I (more psychoses!) about identity theft or random prescription pick-up area malcontents, but this guy (yes, I remember his name, but will refrain from using it to assert my sanity) was not shy about giving his P.O. Box number to get the hell out of there. I was already drafting the letter to him in my head.

Dear Man-who-may-answer-to Bill and probably takes blood pressure medication,

Great win over at the Walgreen's. What was your event in, what was it, high school? College? Both? Sneaky there at the end, eh? But effective. Ends justifying the means and all. I can tell you’re not accustomed to losing much in life.

Then I realized that:
1. I was crossing a line toward insanity that mere offerings of the candy aisle could not fix
2. This guy, unaccustomed to losing much in life, would have the letter fingerprinted and traced, and
3. This would be the type of thing George Costanza would do on Seinfeld, and was that really the direction I wanted to head, especially as any vengeful schemes he hatched inevitably blew up in his face?

It was really this third point that had the most effect on my decision. Sad. True.
I just assumed that, if life was anything like a popular 90s sitcom (and when WASN’T it?), that guy would end up being the one person who could give me my dream job but I would spend my first week working with him in a state of constant fear as I’d be privy to his efforts to find the crazy person who’d sent him snide congratulatory mail. So I’d be forced to be simultaneously casually interested in the steps his P.I. was taking to get to the bottom of the mail hassle, and frantic to learn the steps his P.I. was taking to get to the bottom of the mail hassle. By act two I’d get caught going through his files in a frenzy, possibly dressed as him in a sea captain’s outfit, trying to discover how close his investigator was to discovering my identity, and if there was any way I could throw them off the trail. I’d end up throwing myself over the rails of a boat at the end of the episode. They’d be puzzled about me, but all signs would indicate they had strong suspicions about Kramer.

Only by translating my life to improbable sitcom proportions could I convince myself weirdo vengeance was not a terrific, justified idea.

If only I were smokin’ hot, more coordinated, and had some interesting obsession or contact with radioactive materials, I could very easily become a superhero in my new heightened-rage-at-minor-injustices and ridiculousnesses phase of life.

When I think of characters of super-human proportions who hate injustice (primarily injustice of a fiscal nature, as in money being owed to him), I think of Dog the Bounty Hunter. He hates all injustice that is, except racial injustice. Drat. So close to super-human.

Part professional wrestler, part televangelist, part Hannibal from the A-Team, part ladies’ man, part family man, I used to love the character of Duane “Dog” Chapman as unapologetically as he went about bustin’ ice-heads. No one seemed more effective at finding, capturing, and rehabilitating Hawaiians with meth amphetamine addictions faster than the Dog. He was able to do all of the above, and throw in a few jokes at the expense of his wife before kissing her, all within a span of 56 minutes.

Incredible suspense, physical force, and heart. Dog brought the pain. Then immediately ended the pain by providing the criminals he just handcuffed with a sympathy cigarette. He was, after all, one of them. A former jailbird. A man of God without the cloth (cloth covers the tawny hide pectorals too completely). One hell of a tanner.

I dressed up as Dog the Bounty Hunter for Halloween and my friend was his wife, Beth! We even bought Dog the Bounty Hunter shirts. Mine says “Back to Justice” on the back, even though ironically, I would never intentionally turn my back to justice! All was good fun. Then Dog spouted off racial epithets like Eminem’s mom on open mic night, and my love was crushed.

While it was not entirely surprising that someone as seemingly trashy as Dog was actually a disgusting racist, it was still disappointing. I’d invested a lot of time and love into joining the crew as they hunted for their bail jumpers. Now I can’t even wear my t-shirt without covering up the Dog affiliation. Only the interlocking handcuffs that run down the sleeve are visible when I wear it now. A sad, steep decline from its original glory and suggestion of justice for all.

This morning I attempted to do some yoga stretching to work out the kinks that would not let me sleep. My shoulders live around my ears lately, hunched and tense. I sit in my cubicle looking like Barney Rubble. As I listened to the soothing voice of the yoga instructor telling me to ground myself and draw power from the earth, I realized it was hard to transition from being all fired-up to a more calm, serene, introspective state of things. The yoga plan did not entirely work. I pulled a muscle just a lil’ bit of a twinge!

But the effort involved to calm down from being ready to attack at any minute made me think of Dog. He has lost all credibility as one who should be using rage at injustice and his brute force and his mullet to take down criminals. That’s when I thought maybe he could transition to the calmer side of life and find a new center for himself. As Downward Dog: The Bounty Hunter Yogi.

He could have people stretch, feel their inner calm and really look to see if that was an inner calm from meditation or pervasive drug abuse or a blatant disregard for civil society. As wanted men and women sit on mats opening their heart centers, Downward Dog moves around the studio, correcting people’s technique and opening their pockets to check for drugs. By the end of most sessions of practice, at least three people have achieved a new pose – the Miranda. Downward Dog would coach on…

Breathe in deep while stretching both hands behind the back. Exhale and slowly lower both hands to just above your tailbone, feeling the vertebrae lengthen as you move. Inhale and cross one wrist over the other. Hold that position, and feel yourself grow even more calm as you exhale and drop your head to your chest. We’re going to spend a few more breaths here in this position, just listening to our bodies, closing out the world around us, and really appreciating what it means to have the right to remain silent.

Dog is really only a yoga mat away. If he traded lizard skin vests for lycra, he’d be in business. Just watch out for mace accidents in cobra pose. Or actual cobras.

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