You know, I wanted to talk about how to be a better listener to people around you, but as I’m writing later in the day, it’s become so far from my train of thought that I can’t even recall how, why, or really what I wanted to hit on.
What HAS gripped my attention is how I got verbally attacked by a frustrated old man at a red light. In his defense, I cruised through an empty (and in my opinion, pretty pointless red light by my gym) to get to yet ANOTHER red light 20 yards down the road. He laid on his horn from 100 yards away, pulled into a lane two lanes over, and started a conversation with, “You went through the light you fuckin’ knucklehead.”
Now, years after having finally gotten a grip on my anger problem that would have resembled a water balloon bouncing on a hot bed of nails, my curiosity piqued. I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t scared, it was a genuine moment that had me wondering what hell this dude had been through, so much so that he was ready to pick a fight, albeit verbal, with someone he doesn’t know from a hole in the wall. After hanging my head out the window and asking, “What did you call me?” because… there’s no way I just got called a knucklehead. That’s the cute insult you call the clumsy 5 year old, who then makes you regret ever saying it because you hear it for 2 days straight. In fact, I’m rolling my insults back. Bozo, fartface, and knucklehead are making a comeback.
He repeated it, loud and clear. “You’re a FUCKIN’ KNUCKLEHEAD.” Before we’re quick to say anything, let’s check the web and define “knucklehead” shall we?
- a stupid person.
Damn. OKAY, he’s not wrong. That’s fine. Touché sir. I definitely do have a touch of the “stupid.” I’m not working for NASA and I’ve had to google more information than I care to admit to. But what kind of problems burn inside of someone to the point that they’re willing to start an argument with a stranger at a red light, especially over something so trivial? He was never in danger, nor was I, and we both were in separate lanes. In fact, if we just sat at those red lights in the same scenario at 3am, I would say we’re BOTH knuckleheads. So sure, I’m stupid, but what kind of intelligence level does it take to get into it with some random person at a red light?
So as I gained the understanding that he, in fact, did call me a .. ahem… “Knucklehead,” I hung my head out of the window further. The type of hanging your head closer to a person when they intrigue you mid-conversation, so that they have your full attention. Maybe we do it to lesson the consumption of our visual window?. That’s a really interesting human behavior to look into…. another time. But to keep things on track, I leaned deeper into the conversation…
“What’s your problem?” After having no problem cussing me out, he paused and become quiet. It looked like I caused him some mental overload or he shit his pants. I don’t know which is worse.
He was a man that was probably in his 50’s but put enough miles on his body to be 70, his car looked quite rundown, he also looked like he had been covered in grease/dirt/sweat for the past 12 hours… who knows what it was but it probably wasn’t his first choice of body oil. Now, please, before you think I’m judging anyone of these characteristics, that’s not the case. I have the utmost respect for people that engage in manual labor as a source of income. All I could really figure out about him was that he was living in a bubble of misery.
I wanted to judge him, think that he’s the type that goes down to the dive bar down the street… you know the one. The wannabe Irish bar that reeks of cigarettes and stale beer, sounds like people drowning sorrows and losing too much to Keno. It’s the same one that’s just as busy at 11am as it is at 11pm. He’ll then drunk=drive home, yell at his wife (if he has one), eat like shit, pass out in his recliner with the spoon still in the Chunky Monkey, wake up at 6am and do it all over again.
Will you look at this? Now I’M the asshole. Who am I to judge? I have no right. He could have had a shit day and lacks the ability to control his emotions. Sure, he should be adult enough to do such a thing, but maybe I just caught him when he lost his job and his wife the same day. Maybe someone just robbed his house? Maybe he’s even a man working two jobs to get his kid through college? Maybe he’s getting himself through college. What an upstanding guy he turned out to be.
Now, all we can really do is speculate, but I wanted to use this minor event as a quick way to praise the ideology of sparing people our judgement. It really doesn’t help all that much unless it’s in a life-threatening scenario. At no point did I fear that this man was going to pull a firearm, he just seemed like a dude down on his luck that wanted to take it out on the first person he saw. So I guess I’m glad it was me and I could let it roll off my shoulder. I spared his wife a beating or the bartender an earful about his poorly mixed drink.
But I made sure that when the light turned green he knew I had to depart. Our meeting-by-chance had to come to a conclusion. “Sorry, I have to go… green light and all that.” All I heard was a bunch of cussing with a dialect of “I’m-a-miserable-Prick.” Then he went the bar, drank too much, got pulled over by the cops, sat in jail all night for his 3rd DUI that year, lost his job, and lived happily ever after paying lawyer and court fees until he died from drinking too much.
Or went to college. Who cares.