Sunday, September 11, 2005


While driving through town to find some fast food, as I'm often apt to doing, I came upon the vehicle containing some of my friends. As is the custom of rude, young ruffians such as myself, I flipped my friends the bird. In return they flipped me off. Flipping the middle finger is the friendly wave of my generation.

The driver pulled over into a nearby parking lot and I followed suit. He threw a book at me that I had left with him, and we exchanged pleasantries.

From nowhere a minivan pulled up next to me; it was piloted by an upset middle-aged woman. "Did we do something to upset you?" she asked me. I was confused not only by her non sequitur question, but also by her use of "we" as there appeared to be no one else in the van with her. She could see the confusion on my face and added, "Why did you flip me off back there?"

embarrassed I confessed, "Oh, sorry. I was actually flipping them off," pointing to the carful of my companions parked next to mine.

"Why would you do that? I have children with me." I saw shadows moving through the tinted windows in the back of the minivan.

I apologized again. My comrades in the other car began to giggle.

"Are you in college?" she inquired.

"Yes," I replied. I could sense a talking-to was coming.

"Don't you think that's a little immature?" she said more as a statement. "Don't you think you're too old for that?" I had not heard about an age-limit on flipping people off or a general rule regarding ribbing of friends.

I did, however, think that I was a little too old to be talked down to thusly. But in order to avoid a confrontation, I figured that I would take my lumps and apologize. "Yeah, probably. I'm sorry." There. I had apologized three times. I had been satisfactorily sincere, and the woman and I could part ways. I turned to talk to my friends in the other car, but apparently the conversation was not over.

"I mean, c'mon!" she said passionately. I turned back to look at her. "When I saw that, it made me want to cry."

I am not a rude person. Sometimes I am gruff and I don't always smile at strangers. I don't particularly care for every random person that I come across, but I try to treat everyone with the respect that I would expect from them.

I was rude to this woman. "Well, you can go ahead and cry, ma'am," I said as I shooed her away with my hand. I didn't particularly feel like being scolded and belittle or given a morality lesson by some woman who obviously thought that my mother had done an insufficient job in raising me. I had politely apologized, and if that wasn't enough, well, that's too bad. I wanted to be done with this conversation.

flabbergasted. That's what her face was. She didn't look flabbergasted; her face was the actual word "flabbergasted." It was Plato's perfect Form of Flabbergastation. Her face was the epitome of confusion, disgust, disbelief, anger, and bewilderment: flabbergasted. Undaunted by my audacity, she continued, wild-eyed, to shake her proverbial finger at me. "Why would you do that? Why would you flip someone off?! It's ... it's ..."

I didn't let her finish, "Because I think it's funny."

She repeated her questions. I repeated my answer. She could see that she was not making her point. She changed tactics: "That is not part of home-town Kirksville values. I live in Kirksville. I have a family here."

"I live here, too, ma'am. I've lived here for five years." A little exaggeration. I've only had a permanent residence in this town for two years. But I have slept and eaten and breathed and shopped and et cetera in Kirksville for going on five years now.

"I live here," she repeated as if to say that her state of "living here" was somehow superior to mine. "Those are not part of Kirksville's home-town values." She liked to repeat herself.

I wanted to tell her that I came from a town smaller and more "home-town values" that Kirksville, and that I had flipped off plenty of people in that town, some not so playfully. I couldn't think of a way to say it very succinctly.

"People live here," she continued on with her point that somehow the fact that this is my town, too, it did not belong to me. As if I dropped from the sky every evening, driving around in my car, flipping off random families, only to return to the sky without apologies or explanation. "You can go back to where ever you come from and do that all you want, but don't do it in Kirksville." I repeated the fact that I live in Kirksville. I don't like repeating myself.

The novelty of this confrontation had worn off, and my friends in the other car took off.

Seeing a fraternity sticker on the back of my friend's car she asked, "Are you in a fraternity?"

I could see where this was going. In Kirksville, as in other small college towns I'm sure, despite the fact that college students support the economy of the town (making up nearly a third of it's population when school is in session) by bringing in their parents' money from out of town and spending it here, there is an anti-college-student sentiment among the aborigines of the town. This goes doubly for the Greek system (generally the students with enough extra cash to spend that they can pay dues). They view us as a nuisance, a pest, a weed that has infested their fair town (when in fact, we're more like a cash crop, a ripe fruit dripping with nectar, just waiting to be plucked). The university is probably the only thing that keeps Adair county from being the poorest county in the state (right now it's ranked 3rd poorest). The residents of this area should get down on their knees and praise their various gods that we exist. Instead, they look down their noses and scoff in disgust.

And this royally pisses me off.

"No," I replied to her question. The answer wasn't relevant to our discussion. "Look, ma'am, I'm don't want to discuss this with you anymore."

"Do you even know what that means, giving the middle finger?"

"Yes, it means 'fuck you,'" I almost smiled devilishly because I had just said "fuck you" to a middle-aged woman with kids.

"It means a special union between a man and a woman. And you're cheapening it."

I wasn't really following her line of logic so I said again, "I don't want to discuss this with you."

"I want you to say that you'll never do that in home-town Kirksville again." She really liked the phrase "home-town Kirksville." I refused. She asked this time, "Can you tell me that you'll never do that again in Kirksville?"

"I could but it would be a lie." We danced around this for a few more exchanges. I was getting tired and hungry, so I gave in, and I gave her an obviously, and horribly insincere "I'll never do that again in Kirksville."

She suddenly seemed satisfied with that. I've never understood people who accept insincere concessions and apologies and such. For some reason just saying the words without meaning is worth something to them. Anyway, the conflict had apparently been solved. And that's when the wierdest thing happened. She apologized to me. She said, "I'm sorry for being so pushy."

What. The. Fuck. ?.

I still don't understand it.

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