Saturday, May 18, 2013


In today's troubled world, we all seek standards by which to define ourselves, norms on which to rest our identity when it is called into question, and justifications for our behavior when it doesn't fit any norm; but we are only successful to the extent that our search for meaning actually addresses the adversity in our lives . . . this is a subject on which I actually have quite a lot to say, if you put me in a headlock and ask me about it.  And while the statement in the title of this post may or may not be true in all cases, I present to you here two rather convincing examples.

The first was a man, probably in his forties, on the 200 one day when I was catching it into Central Station.  He was having a cell phone conversation in which he was mad at a lot of people for a lot of things (external locus of control, much?).  It went on for quite a while, but I'll give you a taste of how it went, more or less:

ANGRY MAN: He's such a dumba**.  I swear, if he ever does that again, I'mma f***ing go to his f***ing house and f***ing punch him.


ANGRY MAN: No, mom, I'm just saying people shouldn't do things like that to me!

When I realized the nature of the conversation I was being forced to listen to, I was initially inclined to laugh at its sheer absurdity.  But I refrained--in ten years of riding transit, I have developed an astonishing amount of self-restraint.  When we got to Central, FrontRunner was pulling out of the station, headed north, and (now off the phone) the man muttered to himself.

ANGRY MAN: Stupid f***ing train, leaving me.  I'mma f***ing . . . I'mma f***ing . . .

His voice trailed off.  I never did find out how he was going to punish FrontRunner. But I got the impression that he was mostly going to punish it by saying the eff word.

The second fellow was on TRAX the other morning.  I wasn't privy to the original conversation, as it happened before I boarded, but apparently someone had told this man to get off at Murray North, and he had attempted to exit the train at Meadowbrook instead.  He was corrected; no harm done, except for certain irreparable, unexplainable damage to his ego.  He repeated over, and over, and over to his partner in a voice that was not quite loud enough to elicit a response:

ANGRY MAN: I thought that was Murray North!  I thought it was Murray North!  You can't trust anybody.  You can't f***ing trust anybody in this f***ing town.

She (his partner), as well as the man who had apparently given him directions originally, looked on in obvious wonder as he continued to insult, but not confront, the man who had given him directions, as well as say the eff word an awful lot.

Gentlemen.  Let's speak as men here.  Swearing does not make you manly.  The eff word does not fix anything.  Saying it over and over does not fix anything.  I'm sorry you haven't learned that yet.  Next time, try admitting you made a mistake, or standing up to someone who is harming you (if they are, in fact, harming something besides your ego).  That might work.  Or it might not.  But it will definitely make you feel better about yourself.  Which can only help you stop saying the eff word so much.

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