Jerks In America

I am a writer, and always will be. There is some kind of unknown quantity that flows through my being that fills me with the desire to get the countless words that are coursing through my veins and filling the discount warehouse store-sized chasm that exists between my ear drums. It’s a fact and reality that I struggled with up until about five years ago until I made the leap to acceptance. Since then, it’s been a pure liberation of my soul. However you choose to define one’s soul. Suffice it to say, there are more than a few definitions.

That’s just one of the incredible things about this behemoth country of ours. We can choose how we each define ourselves. What our soul is. Who we are. Where we want to go. Sometimes all of those things even without thinking about it too much. Or even completely without a single thought altogether. Enter the jerks.

A few months ago, I was in a QuikTrip about an hour before I was due at work. Summertime is delightful at this convenience store, because anyone with 86 cents and a rabid thirst for their particular fountain-based beverage of choice can have it. Diet Coke is mine, and with the weather being what it was, water just doesn’t cut the mustard. That’s a figure of speech, by the way. Nobody sane includes mustard in their 32-ounce Styrofoam cup.

So there’s a guy in front of me. One of those Ed Hardy-wearing fools of about 23 years old. His hat was on at a tilted angle. Shocking, but it’s true. This young buck has it all figured out. And he is also taking three minutes to fill his non-biodegradable cup. With Diet Coke. The very Diet Coke I was seeking.

I’m hardly afraid of the Diet Coke running out. It is QuikTrip, and they’d never let that happen. At the same time, I’m using much of my free will not to shove this douche out of the way. See, what he’s doing is not realizing that there’s anyone in the store besides himself. And he’s sipping his fizzy Diet Coke, and then re-filling the cup. This happened a few times. Not quickly either. Those three minutes seemed to drag. Lacking the desire to incite conflict, I gave him a stink eye when he finally conceded his comfortable position in front of the Diet Coke fountain.

This person serves as only one of many examples. These are the kind of people who also think that their unusable debit card and desire to pay for a hotel room in cash make them automatically a VIP in life. The modus operandi is to take, and not to give. Take other people’s time, their patience, their whole house. And no giving, including the very care, which they do not. There is remedy, a bright spot amongst the darkness that these folk bring.

In the first season of comedian Louis C.K.’s marvelous destroy-the-box television show Louie, there was an episode entitled “Heckler”, where encountered such unpleasantness. As professionally as he could, Louis C.K. asked a woman who was blathering to her friend in the middle of his act to stop talking altogether. She persisted, and he pulled the ace from inside his proverbial stand-up sleeve. This was the fiery card of embarrassment. Public embarrassment, too. See, it’s just a wonderful show altogether. But this is hardly a critique of fine art and I’m hardly Tom Shales.

The thing that metaphysically clicked in that episode is the fact that Louis C.K. wasn’t afraid to berate and belittle an annoying entity in his life. Sure, we’re not all seasoned veterans of public speaking and show business. We are all citizens of this union of states we like to refer to as America every now and then. Besides, those that decided this should be an independent nation didn’t appreciate the heckling Redcoats when they were more than a little bothersome back in the late 18th century. So they said something, and then they said it louder, and no one has to tell you how exactly it turned out.

When someone is justified in doling out a quality tongue-lashing, it’s their absolute duty to make it happen right then and there. We can’t worry about hurt feelings, somebody else is going to start crying, wah-wah and boo-hoo-hoo. If you are a person who has been wronged, the true answer is not one of violence, but rather of a public dressing-down. Embarrassment serves as a massively effective motivator to a jerk in this country not to act as one again.

Should you one day find yourself in a QuikTrip, go ahead and fill up your Styrofoam cup. Go ahead and take a free sip if you want. But do realize that if you take your sweet time and don’t notice the six-foot-three Irishman with a jonesing for a certain refreshing soft drink behind you, the other patrons in the convenience store are going to get more of a show than just the naked derelict in the parking lot screaming about the time they waited too long for their Diet Coke fix.


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