Britney Spears Made Me Feel Like a Jerk

Offending Britney, America’s blond pop princess, was like taking a star-spangled dump right on the flag.

In the summer of 2002, I was working at a record store in Santa Monica. After a long day of having customers complain about our strict return policy, I stomped down to the local convenience store for some post-shift cigarettes.

It was busy, and Aziz (the clerk) was working his immigrant ass off for a couple of bucks to send back to the old country. The door alarm kept dinging over and over as tourists filed in for snacks or just a break from the sun. Holding up the front of the line was a craggy retiree, old enough to be a WWI veteran, razzing Aziz about not being able to cash in his war bonds (or something equally grumpy and old time-y).

The vet kept screaming, and within minutes most of the customers had abandoned their respective purchases and escaped. Despite the evacuation of impatient yet paying customers, Aziz was polite to the vet—showing him the kind of respect you extend to an annoying yet elderly relative.

Eventually, the vet sputtered down and wheeled his oxygen tank outside. I knew all too well the pain of being behind the counter, and I snapped into snarky action.

“His victory garden die or something?” I asked. I knew Aziz and his four brothers well from my frequent visits, and I just wanted to reassure him that not every American is a jerk. “Where there whippersnappers on his lawn this morning?”

Aziz smiled, but that wasn’t good enough. “Maybe the automat ran out of Brontosaurus burgers,” I said. Aziz chuckled. “He probably hasn’t got laid since the Great Depression.”

Having not heard the door alarm ding for a while, I thought Aziz and I were alone, but his frightened gaze over my shoulder told me someone was behind me. I turned around to find Britney Spears glaring at me with judgmental eyes. This was before K-Fed or the buzz cut or rehab. At that time, Britney was still a milk-drinking pillar of morality.

“That’s not funny,” said Brit in her unmistakable Southern drawl. She had heard it all. Even worse, she was offended by it. Offending Britney, America’s blond pop princess, was like taking a star-spangled dump right on the flag. The guilt was immediate and nearly debilitating. I had somehow turned my back on everything I love. Head low, I retreated without the cigarettes that had called me there in the first place.

Britney Spears made me feel like an asshole that day. But she was right. There was a remote, if not distant, possibility that the vet had put his life on the line so that he, Aziz, Britney Spears, and I could enjoy this thing called the United States of America. Well, he was at least alive while those history-changing battles were fought, and that deserves respect.

But in retrospect, it's sad that I had to be reminded to respect my elders by the woman who sang "Get Naked (I Got a Plan)."


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