4. Fatally Flawed. (2001)

In everyone’s day-to-day travels, they surely run across someone that is thinking something bizarre or derogatory about them. One easy way to determine how much of a freak or an asshole someone may be is whether they have the gall to say those things to strangers… I’ve met more than a few people that haven’t yet made the complicated distinction between casual conversation and belligerent antagonism.

The most recent disappointment was a fanatical gentleman at the Home Depot in Lakewood, Ca. My friends were building wooden skateboard ramps, and I was assigned the daunting task of matching the screws they were using to some new ones at Home Depot. I was also responsible for paying for them, carrying the bag to the car, AND delivering them to the builders. All in one day…

I was walking around the worst home improvement store in the free world carrying a screw and looking for the cryptic sign in the aisle that would lead me to its mates when a well-dressed, normal-looking thirty-something man stopped me short. I figured he may have mistaken me for an employee- I get that a lot at establishments frequented by oddballs and older white people- but no such luck.

No question was proposed, merely a statement offered: “You know, those tattoos are horrible, they look awful.” OK, I thought for a second, a tattoo purist that found some type of technical imperfections in mine. Constructive criticism- I’m not above it- but again, no such luck.

“Yeah, you look ridiculous; you should be ashamed of yourself…” He informed me in a strangely deadpan tone, as if this was a normal walk-in-the-park conversation for him. I took a minute to rebound, and then calmly asked why the fuck he would think I was interested in his opinion of me. “Well, I don’t know why I thought you would be interested, but I felt it was important to bring up. You look ridiculous, and I felt an obligation to tell you.”

And then he GRINNED at me. HE FUCKING SMILED! After insulting a perfect stranger in an equally strange hardware store, he grinned. So, after squashing my initial desire to break his jaw and then steal his shoes, I formulated my response: “…so, how about this: if you say one more word to me, I’m going to shove this screw in your neck. So get the fuck away from me, right now.” All spoken very calmly, and definitely not what he and his inappropriate sense-of-self were expecting to hear.

He put down the brush and bucket of Spackle he was holding very slowly as if I were an officer of the law asking him to relinquish a weapon, and then walked at a fevered pace to the exit of the store. Fuck you. I’m sure he went home to his unfortunate wife and told her that some lunatic at Home Depot threatened his life with no provocation or justification.

Initially I kind of laughed it off, but as it set, it made me mad, frustrated, and discouraged. I always think of behaving in the same ways I want to be treated; If I act like an asshole, then by all means, treat me like one. But on the contrary- I treat others with respect, and that certainly includes strangers and people I’ve yet to make a tangible impression on.

I guess things of that nature have to happen once in a while to reassure me of the validity of my societal skepticism; I just wouldn’t necessarily mind if they happened a little less frequently.