I Don't Mean To Be Rude, But...

I've been called an asshole many times before. Usually it doesn't bother me. It used to until high school when I took a physiology class and learned that if we (humans) didn't actually have assholes, we would bloat up and explode like shaken up soda cans

I’ve been called an asshole many times before. Usually it doesn’t bother me. It used to until high school when I took a physiology class and learned that if we (humans) didn’t actually have assholes, we would bloat up and explode like shaken up soda cans, spewing feces and entrails all over the place. In essence, without assholes we would have the lifespan of a housefly.

In my estimation, the asshole (sphincter) is the third most important part of human anatomy. In keeping with this theory, I think the asshole (person) is the third most important type of person in the world (behind musicians and little people). I actually wear my asshole-ness as a badge of honor.

Which is why I was surprised at how embarrassed and guilty I felt when I was called an asshole by a mother and child repeatedly while shopping for underwear at my local K-Mart.

It all goes back to the electrical work in my car. It had been on the fritz for a while. The needle would jump from seventy to zero and then sporadically jump around for a bit before finally resting at zero. After about ten minutes on the road, not only would my speedometer needle be going schizoid, but all the electrical work on my dashboard would start freaking out.

It looked like every light, needle, and meter in my car was clamoring for my attention at once. Don’t get me wrong, I was flattered, but it was also extremely distracting. At any given moment, my dashboard looked like the cockpit of a 747 coming in for a landing.

My usual response to car problems (since I know nothing about fixing cars and have no desire to learn) is to turn the radio up. This usually helps me forget about any grinding or crunching sound emitting from my engine for the time being.

However, as stated before, the problem here was visual. No matter high the volume dial went, the lights and needles were still bouncing—the light show that my “check engine”, and “cruise control” lights were putting on alone was enough to trigger any hidden epilepsy I may have had.

Finally, after about a week of this sort of action, I broke down. Not the car, mind you—me. I had to go to my last resort: calling my father for help.

I do not like to do this, and avoid it at all costs. My dad is very adept at all things mechanical. He is the editor of a magazine that specializes in the upkeep of and developments in automatic transmissions. He knows what he’s talking about.

Which would be great if my dad wasn’t of the Rush Limbaugh school of accusation. It never fails—if I have car trouble, I am personally responsible: “Christ Almighty, son! What’d you do this time?” is what I usually get whenever I call (keep in mind, I’ve called my dad exactly twice for car help in four years with this particular car).

From there on out it’s an onslaught of verbal abuse as we try to diagnose the problem via cell phone. I have a pretty strong resolve (as evidence by my proclivity towards the title of ‘asshole’), usually verbal bashings don’t effect me much because I’m usually deserving, but it still boggles my mind how I can be responsible for just regular car wear and tear. I mean, my car is twenty years old—things will go wrong.

“Why’d you do that?” my father asked once, when it was discovered that a belt on my car’s engine had been worn out. As if I had taken the belt and worn it around my waist for a while before putting it back in my car.

Regardless, I was stuck. I didn’t know if all of these Christmas tree lights would actually have an (expensive) effect on the performance of my car, or if they were some bonus prize for keeping the thing running past 150,000 miles.

I called my father.


“Dad—it’s Travis. I’m having a little car trouble…”

“Gee-SUSS! Here we go. What’d you do?”

Blah, blah, blah.

Basically, what it came down to (according to Dad) was that for some reason I saw it fit to fuck up all the electronics in my car. He didn’t think it would hurt the engine—as long as I didn’t knock it around too much (I was especially happy that he told me this, it was my plan to beat the shit out of my engine block with a bat later that night).

Since that time, I had been doing my own little experiments while driving to see if I could get the speedometer back into some kind of working order. What I found worked best was punching the gas really hard, then putting the car in neutral for a second before putting it back in drive. Don’t ask me how I figured this out, but whenever I did it, I would get the speedometer back for about seven minutes before I had to do it again.

It even worked after I stopped the engine (to, say, go get some underwear) and then started it up again, which was exactly what got me into trouble at K-Mart…

When I got into the parking lot, my speedometer needle was slack again, so I did my little trick (smash the gas, neutral, drive…) before I swung into a parking space (meaning I’d have a working needle for most of the drive home!)

I got out and headed toward the store. As I did, a husky voice behind me asked me to stop. I did and turned to face what a few years ago I would have called indescribable but what I now call a ‘local’.

This woman was easily 600 pounds, wearing what could have only been a child size medium Bratz t-shirt (that she had stylishly decided to slit down the front, exposing an unfortunate amount of cleavage and what I can only guess was a spider tattoo on her right breast), and cutoff jean shorts. I say cutoff meaning both that they were jeans that had been cut into shorts and they were cutting off the circulation to both of her whale shaped legs.

She was missing her front teeth and had her hair in pigtails—literally, pigtails. She looked like some sort of angry second-grader that had imploded and ballooned up after watching too many consecutive hours of TMZ.

There was a litter of kids around her of all different races—black, white, Mexican, I think I saw one little guy wearing a turban, but I couldn’t be sure—and they were all calling her ‘Mom’.

Still, I am a gentleman, so I smiled at her. “Yes?” I said, hoping desperately that she wasn’t going to try to sell me one of her children.

Instead, she put her hand on her thigh and bent her leading leg a little at the knee.

“Uhhh?”—she had that weird sort of inflection that makes every statement sound like a question—“Yeah…I don’t mean to be rude?” she said (which obviously meant that she did mean to be rude), “But you were driving like an idiot just now? You almost hit my kid?”

She gestured to one of her seventeen children, who didn’t exactly look like he was the most careful kid in the world. At that moment he was lighting up a Marlboro 27 and talking on his cell phone to someone who sounded a lot like his bookie. (Not really, but you get the idea…)

Still, who was I to judge? For all I knew, this was a very responsible woman and she only looked like a neglectful tramp.

I honestly didn’t know what she wanted me to do. I truly hadn’t seen the kid and although I was going pretty fast, I was paying attention. But what the fuck? The kid wasn’t hurt—he might have even learned a lesson. No harm no foul, right?

I smiled again and mumbled something about being sorry. I figured that was it. I terminated our interaction by spinning on my heel and walking towards the K-Mart entrance.

It was then that I became not so comfortable with my usual moniker of asshole. As I was walking away, I heard over my shoulder that picture of maternal goodness addressing her cross-eyed little shit of a kid:

“You see that man, Tommy? That’s an asshole.”


“That’s right, baby. ASSSSS-HoooOOOoooLE!”

I wasn’t completely oblivious. I knew that this last one was intended for me to hear. For some reason this scary, obese woman wanted to fight with me in a box store parking lot.

While this would be nothing out of the ordinary in my town, I don’t consider myself a real local yet, so I abstained and trudged into K-Mart, trying to put the bloated she-devil out of my mind and concentrate on more important things—boxer-briefs of just plain boxers?

After fifteen minutes of waffling, I had finally made my decision (boxer-briefs) and was on my way. As I made my way to the cash register, I crossed paths with (who else but) Big Momma and the Mini-U.N.

“Is that the asshole, Mom?” asked Tommy.

“Yes it is, baby,” she said with what I can only describe as true malice in her eyes (in retrospect, this could have been hunger—I was standing right in front of the Reese’s Pieces in the snack aisle).

Fine, I thought. I’ll bite. Even if I had squashed little Tommy like a melon, I didn’t deserve this sort of treatment. It wasn’t being called an asshole by a six year-old that did it (in fact that part was eerily adorable), it was the fact that I was being called an asshole by a six year-old after having apologized for not running him over with my car.

I smiled.

“I don’t mean to be rude,” I said as indignantly as I possibly could, “But should you really be teaching your children that sort of ugly language?”

It was here that two things happened: 1.) I remembered that I am a pussy and I don’t know how to fight verbally or physically, and 2.) Mother Superior started screaming at the top of her lungs about how I could have killed her kid, and how I had no respect for my elders (even though I think she was sixteen), and how I should be behind bars.

Heads turned in our direction. I was fucked—I couldn’t try to match her hysterical cries. I couldn’t yell back at her. I was fucked.

Immediately I started nodding and agreeing and apologizing. I didn’t dare look this wild refrigerator of a woman in the eye, so I jut had to look at Tommy, whose downward gaze immediately told me that this wasn’t the first time his mother had gone bat-shit on a complete stranger in public before.

There is something utterly shattering about witnessing a child lose all youthful admiration for their parents (something that is usually reserved for teenagers) at the age of six.

“It’s okay, Mom,” he kept whispering. “I’m okay.”

At this point, his mother didn’t care. I doubt she even realized there was a Tommy standing behind her. She was on her own tangent now.

I waited until she was done yelling at me and, apologizing again, I bought my underwear and got the hell out of there. Before I left the snack aisle though, I looked back at Tommy and recognized the tearful look in his eyes.

Not that I’m ashamed of my parents at all (as I’m sure Tom is), but rather I recognized that look as one of quiet frustration. It basically said, “I can’t change my parents, but I wish I could.” I could relate to that—anybody could.

Whether they be chewing you out for abusing your beater of a car, or just chewing out strangers, you can’t change your parents—your only hope is to change yourself.

He didn’t have to turn out a combative white trash dingbat. Maybe if he kept getting glimpses of assholes like me, who drove his mother into these public squawking tirades, maybe he wouldn’t fall under the same spell that I did when I was growing up—the always-seeking-parental-approval-spell. Maybe with my fellow asshole brothers, we could help little Tommy reach his full potential.

And just before my speedometer fell back to zero, I proudly took back my title as an asshole.


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