I'm an Asshole - Denis Leary (mp3)
I sit at the bar, exchange my normal charming witty banter with my favorite waitress, place my order, and crack open to page 60 of The Passage, a guilty little King-meets-Crichton 700+pager that makes me want a Kindle something fierce.
Perhaps four paragraphs in, some dude plops down in the stool right next to me. Much like the rules of public male restrooms, the rules of a non-crowded bar are fairly simple. That is, if there are other options for seating available, a dude should never sit on a barstool directly adjacent to another dude. If the seated dude has a gal, it’s more acceptable. If the bar is crowded, then all bets are off. But Champy’s at 6:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night is neither.
“Whatcha reading?” is his introductory remark.
I wince a little and look up. He’s somewhere in the range of 30, probably a few years younger. His brown hair is short-cropped and mussy, and he has the kind of beard people in their 20s wear but have no business wearing, with noticeable missing patches in it. I am probably several inches taller and a good 20 pounds heavier, which means the dude is a truly pathetic physical specimen. But at least that makes him mostly harmless.
I tell him. “Yeah? What’s it about?”
“I don’t really know yet,” I sorta lie. “I’m only barely into it yet. But it got lots of good reviews.”
Perhaps this all makes me an asshole. In 85% of life situations, I’m completely open to pointless conversation with total strangers. Granted, when you’re talking about strange men, the number dips to about 70%, but still, my point is that I’m neither antisocial nor introverted amongst strangers. With this guy, though, anyone’s radar would’ve blipped. He was a little off.
“I teach at _______,” I say.
“Oh yeah? I work at UTC. Just wrapped up my graduate degree. Arkansas Tech. Just moved here this summer.” He likes Chattanooga alright. Better than middle of fucking nowhere Arkansas. But his words all have a bitter aftertaste, like India Pale Ale.
“What do you teach?” English, I tell him. It’s a lie, but it’s a lot easier as the basis of a meaningless conversation. Besides, any inbred moron can teach English.
“Boy. You should be proud,” he says. The condescension and sarcasm was unexpected. I just ignore it and tell him I’m in fact quite proud. Of a job I don’t actually do.
Why is it that so many people we all know are incapable of reading very obvious social clues? When, immediately following a terse response to a rude comment, a dude shifts away from you and buries his head in an inanimate object, that means he’s done with the convo.
“So what do you do?” he asks. I look at him. He’s totally serious. Best I can tell, he has no idea that he’s already asked me this question. So now I’m doubly bothered by him and also feeling a little guilty because maybe he’s schizophrenic or otherwise fucked in the head. But c’mon, all I wanted to do was sit and drink a draft beer and eat a tasty dinner and read until soccer practice was over. I didn’t ask for this shit.
“I teach. English. At _______.” And just as if we were both in The Matrix, he says, “Boy, you should be proud.”
Back to the book. Work harder to ignore him.
Ginger My Favorite Waitress comes over and hands me a second beer and asks me why I’m there at an unusual time for me (read: not lunch). I explain the soccer thing and joke that my familial obligations were keeping me from the Hanson concert in Atlanta. Which was also kinda true.
First the dude insults Hanson, which isn’t an unreasonable thing for most people to do. But then he insults the family thing. “Why would you do that?”
“Go to a Hanson concert?”
“No. Have a wife and kids.”
“Um. Since you clearly don’t think much of it, what kind of explanation do you want?”
“Hey, it’s your life. Whatever. Just don't know why anyone would do that shit.”
As I have aged, my restrictor plate has weakened. A decade ago I would have chuckled and moved on. But enough stressors surround my existence, and my willingness to call out assholes has increased enough that I was yea close to breaking down his life in a John Bender kind of way. It would have been petty and proof of my own issues, but I almost did it.
Right at that moment, he gets up to go pee and falls off his stool. While he’s in the pisser, probably puking, Ginger comes over. “He’s fired drunk.”
“Fired drunk. As in just lost his job. Either that or break-up drunk.”
“No,” I say. “It can’t be break-up drunk, because he would’ve insisted on telling me every last nauseating detail. Or at least said her name.”
“Yeah,” she nods. “Fired drunk then.”
“Or he’s just an asshole,” another waiter shrugs while grabbing a 40-ounce from the fridge next to me.
I smile and enjoy that tasty second and final beer. Sharing an asshole with others around you is sometimes the best you can do.