June 24th, 2003

This, in case anyone has been wondering (you have, haven’t you?), is why I only go to the latest possible show on a Wednesday or Thursday night three to four weeks after a movie is released. (You might have to scroll down a little bit, ’til you see Henning’s post that begins “Dear little kid … .”) OK, here’s the deal (this isn’t directed at Henning, it’s for everyone) people, the vast majority of people, are jackasses. People stop in doorways. People chat at the top and bottom of escalators. People wear hats in theaters (I’m not even doing the whole men wearing hats indoors thing today). People cross between the lights. People are just friggin’ insufferable.

I’m walking into Cumberland Farms in Florence one night last week (normally would have gone to Coopers, since I hate, hate, hate Cumberland Farms, but I was picking up takeout at the Greek place next door and they didn’t have any ginger ale — and I needed ginger ale, ’cause sometimes you just bloody well need ginger ale) — wait, where was I? — oh, right, right — so I’m headed for the door and this guy is walking out, and I’m like half a step away as he comes out, so I reach for the handle, figuring he’s gonna set me up (because that’s what you do, right?) only he doesn’t. He just lets the door go. And the tips of my fingers miss the handle by less than an inch. Entirely involuntarily (OK, maybe not entirely) I say, “Thanks a lot, jackass” and immediately brace for a confrontation, maybe a fight (though, really, honestly, I’m not trying to pick one), ’cause I’m certainly not expecting an apology. Do I get so much as a “Fuck you, buddy”? No. I get a big old jackass just continuing about his day like he couldn’t possibly give a shit about the world around him. Why? Because he couldn’t possibly give a shit about the world around him, that’s why.

Now, the question becomes what do you do in response to living in such a world? You can’t go around letting doors close on people, can you? I don’t know. I can’t. I see someone coming, I hold the damned door. And on the odd occasion when I don’t see someone coming until it’s too late, I apologize, ’cause I want them to know that even though I kinda left them hanging, I didn’t do it to screw them, I just messed up.

OK, so then what? Do you go around calling everyone who ever lets a door close on you, or sets up camp at the bottom of the escalator, or tries to push their way onto the elevator before they give you a chance to get off, a jackass? Yeah. But under your breath. Or in your head. ‘Cause otherwise you end up like Larry David (you do watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, right?) and, way, way, way too often, like me, going around getting into pointless confrontations with total strangers. That is, until someone clocks you good, or worse, puts a bullet in you.

But even if you could say something to all these people without getting hurt (or just messing up your karma in an utterly stupid way) you wouldn’t be solving anything. I guarantee that jackass at the Cumberland Farms heard me. And I guarantee he knew what I was talking about. But I also guarantee he let another door close on another person within days or hours of that happening. Why? Because he’s a jackass and that’s what jackasses do. And the world is full to overflowing with jackasses who walk around acting like jackasses and never caring one bit about it.

Is Henning’s new little friend really gonna end up an alcoholic wife beater? Probably not. The truth is that he’s probably gonna end up a stock broker or a chiropractor or something. And he’s probably gonna take his salary and go to the movies and sit behind people and talk loudly. Then he’ll teach his kids to do the same. And they’ll go around letting doors close on people and waiting ’til they get to the front of the line at the crowded deli during lunch hour to start thinking about what they want to eat.

Why? Because that’s how it happens. Jackasses beget jackasses who beget jackasses. And the world keeps spinning. And people like Henning get annoyed at movies and write open letters on their blogs. And people like me do everything we can to avoid the rest of humanity to as great a degree as possible, which is never enough. And we get angrier and angrier and less and less interested in social interaction. And then one day our heads (or, more likely, our hearts) just explode, and we leave the world for the jackasses to inherit. And then the jackasses have a great big jackass party at the bottom of some escalator somewhere and everyone is happy because no one has any idea that they’re surrounded by jackasses, because they’re too damned busy being self-involved, utterly annoying jackasses to notice anyone else. And they don’t care if they can’t hear the movie, because they’re too damned busy talking about nothing (on their cell phones) to really even notice that there’s a movie playing to begin with.

Geez, Henning, thanks for pissing me off.

“It is what it is. You are what you it. There are no mistakes.” — Tom Robbins. Someday that little mantra’s gonna work for me (just like someday this whole Zen thing is actually gonna sink in and I’m gonna stop getting worked up about nothing) but apparently it ain’t today.

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