Friday, February 15, 2008

And the Cocksucker Shrieked "Me First!"

I read this by John Steinbeck years ago in an old anthology, and I'll be damned if I could ever find it again. Finally did today, on the Web. It's the best thing of Steinbeck's I've ever read:
The Danger of Small Things by John Steinback

I guess it is true that big and strong things are much less dangerous than small soft weak things. Nature (whatever that is) makes the small and weak reproduce faster. And that is not true of course. The ones that did not reproduce faster than they died, disappeared. But how about little faults, little pains, little worries. The cosmic ulcer comes not from great concerns, but from little irritations. And great things can kill a man, but if they do not he is stronger and better for them. A man is destroyed by the nagging, small bills, telephones (wrong number), athlete's foot, ragweed, the common cold, boredom. All of these are the negatives, the tiny frustrations, and no one is stronger for them.
There are few times in life when we get to see what other people are genuinely made of. In my experience, these moments come in traffic or when I have occasion to wait in line for something. And nothing brings out the stark differences between personalities than waiting in line while in a vehicle.

I recently had occasion to leave my compound in the Turks & Caicos Islands to do some work in Detroit, Michigan. As my consortium owns property in Windsor, Ontario, I stayed in Windsor and crossed the Ambassador Bridge into Detroit for my week of meetings. Most days on the bridge were fine. Traffic was slow, it was congested, but it moved. Today, however, it was completely log-jammed.

Now, I am a man of the world. I'm a humanist. I'm willing to wait my turn and suffer right along with everyone around me. For a few moments there was a sense of unity among us, the Community of the Wronged, or at least The Slowed; The Stopped. Until the first miscreant shot past in the commercials vehicle lane and attempted to cut into the car lane up ahead. Lines, queues, moments when a chunk of humanity is stopped somewhere, bring out the worst in people. There's this "Me First!" nodule in the genome of our less evolved brethren that starts throbbing and suddenly the elbows come out, and the nasally voice of the bastard's soul all but shrieks to all around, "Me first! Not you! Me!" Which lights up the jungle "Fuck You!" aggressor in me. Every time I'm stuck in line somewhere, I immediately think of disaster films in which the Honor System and the Social Compact break down and frazzled yuppies and disreputable businessmen blunder around with the sole purpose of saving themselves.

People who are willing to wait their turn in line -- and we all know who we are -- should be armed with game warden tranquilizer guns and tags. The next time we're in line and some line-crashing asshole makes his presence known, we should fire a dart into his neck and then affix a tag to his ear. Better yet, we should combine the tranquilizing and tagging, shooting a miniature bar-coded dart in their person that can be later read by a monitoring device so we can then round up these people, corral them somewhere they can cut each other in line until their wretched, rotted hearts are content.

The motto on the American greenback should be changed from "In God We Trust" to "Me first!"


Ascendantlive said...

It always struck me as odd, that when waiting in line(not in a car, at a restaurant for instance) people will bend over backwards to make sure they don't cut in line. They will ask in a loud voice, "Are you in line here? Were you here before me?" They'll say "please" and "excuse me". Yet the second they get in a vehicle all bets are off, the fingers start flying, the driving equivalent of "please" and "excuse me"(turn signals and polite waves) go out the window and the "me first now now now!" rears it's ugly head.
I think it has to do with not having to face people directly, much like internet message board flaming.

Whetam Gnauckweirst said...

This is true -- I've been in lines where people ostentatiously inquire where the line begins and who is ahead of them. Put-on or real, I like that. But then there are those pee-pee dance assholes who just can't help themselves . . . I'll never forget some British gobshite yuppie asshole walking to the front of a long line at a hotel front desk at check-out time, cutting the entire line, and saying to the clerk, "I have to check-out right away." The cunt should have been thrown into a pool filled with electric eels right then and there.

And there is that surreal disconnected distance that happens to people when they get into vehicles, where there is no sense that another human being is driving that other vehicle, it's just a malevolent steel entity that stands between the constipated yuppie and the drive-thru window.