Saturday, June 24, 2006

adventures with stupid

I had a couple Cokes tonight, so I'm a little buzzy with caffeine. So I'm going to use this opportunity to talk to you all about a problem that I believe is destroying our world. That problem, my darling readers, is stupidity. I know you have witnessed stupidity in your own lives -- in those around you and maybe even occasionally in yourselves. I know I have.

Last night as I was about to go through the Ft. Pitt tunnel, I saw that the left lane was closed. Specifically, I noticed the first of several large orange signs conveniently placed by the shoulder of the road telling me about the lane closure. I also saw the road flares, line of giant orange-and-white barrels, the giant red X hanging over the lane, and the flashing yellow arrow that is the size of my (now normal-sized) car. So I changed lanes. I slowed down a little, put on my turn signal, looked to my right, and moved over. This is all standard car-operating procedure, right? I don't really recall a question on the driver's test that asks "what do you do when PennDOT has closed your lane?" or "what does a giant flashing arrow pointing to the right mean?"

Clearly, they have overestimated the intelligence of the average Pittsburgh driver.

Apparently somewhere in the possible answers for both of the imaginary questions I have just posed is the option of "slow down, swerve around as though drunk, then jam the accelerator while you have an average space of 3.8 inches between a) your front bumper and a giant orange-and-white barrel and b) your rear bumper and the car behind you."

See? I didn't know that, but that's what you do. Assuming, of course, that you are not only illiterate and color-blind, but also drunk. (Those are what we call "variables.")

They had out every warning system that is currently available. They just hired a guy to stand out there on stilts juggling more yellow arrows, but his drug test results won't be back until Monday. The sooner he gets out there on the job, the better. Lives depend on the PennDOT juggler.

There's all kinds of road morons. Like the people who think it's my job to let them into traffic. If I slow down and flash my lights at you, I'm doing you a fucking favor. It was not your excellent driving skills that hit my brake -- it was my right foot. Acknowledge this with a little wave. Just a flick of the wrist will say to me "Thank you, fellow human, for letting me in." Because otherwise, I will spend the rest of my drive wishing horrible, agonizing death upon you -- I will wish that you run over Ben Roethlisberger's foot and break his Big Toe. See what happens to you then.

Or the people who think they're going to drive over the edge of a cliff if they don't merge into the fast lane in wall-to-fucking-wall traffic. First of all, if you don't know how to merge correctly, then you do not get to drive over here on the left with the rest of us. Also, holding up the right lane for three miles while you try to somehow navigate your Chevy Behemoth into a space in the coveted left lane that is more fitted for a moped does not make life better for you, me, or the 9,000 people you just made late for work.

And if you are this jackass and I let you in to do the people BEHIND you a favor because you are clearly so stupid that you need help from those around you just in order to function on the road, and you don't so much as nod your head towards's on, bitch.

The thing is, these might be otherwise-intelligent people. They live life perfectly fine except they should be forced to take the damn bus wherever they go so as to spare the rest of us a brain aneurysm someday as we are sitting next to the stupid goddamn sign on 376 that says "Maintain Speed Through Tunnel. Your Speed Is:" and the electronic display reads something like "12" because everyone who passes it is for some reason humbled and awed by a digital display.

Then there are the unforgivable kinds of stupid. I can forgive people who get to the front of the Cash-Only line and whip out a Visa. I can forgive people who randomly ask me if I'm a Christian, as though any answer but "yes" means that I sacrifice infants to Satan. I can even forgive people who think that seafood and marinara sauce is a good combination.

Unforgivable stupid is stuff like voting for Rick Santorum or still insisting that this war was a great idea or being racist. There are even degrees of racist. There are the two-faced racists, who smile at their black cashier at the Giant Eagle and then count their change in the car because they "don't trust those people." Or the ones who chat up a white person in the elevator and ignore the Indian person right next to them.

But then there's another level of racist. These aren't even the KKK members, who keep their identity secret because they know, deep inside themselves, that they should be ashamed of themselves. I'm talking about the people who are proud of their racism like the rest of us are proud of our own accomplishments.

"I graduated from college!"
"I threw a rock at a Navajo!"

I actually had a conversation with one of these Nazis once. He seemed normal, and I gave him my number when he asked for it. And then when he called me, he started dangling his "I'm a racist fucker" medals all around the conversation.

One of the first things he asked me was "Have you ever dated a black person?" (His phrasing was slightly different.)

I was hanging up laundry while we were talking and my mouth hung open for a minute while I formulated a response.

"Of course I have," I lied. I had started seeing a black man once, but it didn't work out.

"Really," he said.

"Yeah -- and I infer from your word choice that you have some sort of problem with that."


If only I had a cave wall to paint something on for him so I could make him understand.

He went on to tell me why black people are all drug-dealing thugs because he got into a fight with a black guy once and the black guy's friends all joined in the fight and kicked the shit out of him. (I was glad we were on the phone so he couldn't see me celebrating when he got to that part of the story.) And that was it. One bar fight means every single person who is slightly more brown than alabaster is sub-human. Follow the logic from point A to...hey, where'd it go?

Isn't it amazing that I'm single when I have guys like this around to choose from? Not that the women are much more sane, but at least I've never met a racist lesbian. (Ah, but I am still young.)

Then there's the kinds of stupidity that you don't even realize exist until you start overthinking. Just today in the Post-Gazette, I read a little blurb about a serial killer who was charged with killing "11 prostitutes and another woman." The more I thought about this, the angrier I got. Do we have to specifically say that they were prostitutes? Yes, serial killers often target prostitutes because they're easy targets and because it's easy to forget their humanity. And when we refer to the victim of a horrible crime as a prostitute instead of a person, it helps reinforce that status. It didn't say "11 prostitutes and an investment banker," so why does it matter how those 11 other women paid their rent?

I'm not saying that I think prostitution is some wonderful institution. But let's not be so fucking Biblical, shall we? Leave the moralizing to Fox News. After all, there are a lot of worse jobs that pay a lot less. But at least you get health insurance if you work at the dump, and you don't get serial fucking killers trying to get you into the back of their van.

So there are some Adventures With Stupid for you.

Next time I'll tell you why the only thing more idiotic than the War on Drugs was the advice to crawl under a piece of furniture if an atomic bomb is dropped on your town.*

*This is tied with the Terror Alert system, which makes all Pennsylvanians wish for a whiskey IV drip because we remember Tom Ridge before his skull cracked open and vital parts of his brain died and frankly, this just makes us sad and wish for drunken oblivion.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

20,000 wolverines and my very own episode of psychic detectives (sort of)

On Sunday night, Trina, Peter, and I went to Flagstaff to watch the movie. Good times -- we even remembered a blanket. On our way back to the car, this homeless guy was yelling nonsense at all the people filing past. I'm going to break these few seconds down to give you all the full experience of walking past this guy.

He screamed to no one in particular, "I need 20..."

And I thought, "Is this guy really going to ask for $20? That's balls, even for a schizophrenic."

"I need 20 thousand..."

And then I thought, "$20,000? No kidding -- me too. That's more than I make in a year."

"I need 20,000 wolverines!"

And I thought, "How many Woodland Hills class reunions would that take, factoring in all the shooting deaths?"

Then as we walked by him, he leaned in to the three of us and addressed no one in particular in a sultry almost-whisper, "Baby..."

And I thought of that guy who told me I had "more stories than Storybook Forest," which I think is because that's the only time I've ever heard someone begin a sentence with "Baby."

"Baby," he said, "start the bath water."

The shenanigans don't stop there. Don't you know me by now?

So for several months, I've had this sort of notion in my head that one night on my way home from work, I'd find my friend Dave (a guy I work with who has a particularly amusing blog that, like this one, gets updated a couple times a month) broken down on the side of the road and I'd wind up helping him out in some way.

And since getting this new car, I've had this occasional image of him sitting in my passenger seat when it's dark. I didn't think much of this, as I love taking people for a ride in my new car. However, the feeling that I'd one day see Dave pulled over on the side of the road was incredibly strong, and I developed a habit of looking at every car I'd see on the side of the road to make sure it wasn't him.

I was behind Dave tonight as we were leaving work, and even though I had more than enough gas to get me home (about a quarter of a tank) I had the feeling I should go get gas. I hate getting gas on my way to work because it always makes me run late, no matter how early I go. So, as Dave turned left, I decided to switch my turn signal from left to right and go through Canonsburg, get gas, and be on my merry way. I wondered as I merged onto 79 if I'd wind up passing Dave anyway, which has happened before, oddly enough. I was almost to the 279 ramp when I saw a car on the side of the road. I slowed down, and of course, I saw it was Dave's car. I pulled over and rolled down the window.

What else could he say, really, other than "Holy shit!"

I wasn't expecting him to tell me that he had tripped over what appeared to be a body in a garbage bag on the side of the road at the strategically located emergency pull-off spot where he'd left his car.

"As I was walking down the road there my foot hit what felt like a skull."

I didn't want to ask him why he knew what a skull against his foot would feel like. Instead I told him that I'd help him investigate.

"Ever since all those episodes of Forensic Files," he said, referring to the countless hours we spent at work on Court TV shows, "I've been hoping I'd find a body somewhere. And what better place to dump a body than on a highway emergency pulloff?"

(Dream it, you fucking dreamers. We all need dreams.)

So we took off down to a gas station and did some figure-8s around 79 and we got back to his car. We all know I'm always up for a good adventure, so I did indeed climb out of my car on a highway shoulder and go scrambling over the gravel, grass, and bizarrely huge piece of cardboard that looked like it could conceivably be part of a body-dumping plan.

And then we saw the bag. Black, densely packed, tied several times with expert knots. Dave tried to move it. It just lay there. It seemed smaller than I expected. It couldn't be a kid, could it? My heart pounding, I felt the bag. It seemed oddly familiar. And then I knew.

"I think it's sand to keep this sign from moving." Next to the sign, a few feet away and concealed by the darkness, were several identical bags. I assumed these were bags of sand and not a family of obese midgets murdered by PennDOT.

"Damn," said Dave. And really, he was right.

Still, that would have made a kick-ass half-hour of television. "79 Northbound: Expect Delays."