By V.J. Pacilio
My day started out to be not unlike most other recent days. At 3 A.M., being my turn, I had been summoned to the room of my 4-month old son for a bottle, a burping, a diaper change, and a quick puppet show. Then, at breakfast, I was confronted for the 37th time by my 6 year old son who, again, wanted to know why he was “the only kid in the entire first grade who didn’t get 50 cents for ice cream every school day.” At 7:25 A.M. I kissed my wife and the under-priviledged kid good-bye, and playfully lifted the baby up over my head in hopes of eliciting a parting smile. He, of course, spit up all over my clean shirt. At 8:00, after a second shower and another clean shirt, I was again ready to leave for work.
There is only one stoplight between my house and the entrance to the expressway that I take to work. It is equipped, however, with some type of secret device which causes it to turn red whenever it sees my car coming. In three weeks that I have lived here, I have yet to make it past this light without having to stop. Today would prove no exception. Like I said, the day began much like every other recent day. Then the light turned from red to green and everything changed.
In fr0nt of me at the light was a late 80’s model Buick Century sporting twin bumper stickers, “I Brake For Bingo” and “Happiness Is Yelling ‘BINGO'”. The driver must have been daydreaming about the big game coming up because he apparently hadn’t noticed that the light had changed. This, of course, happens to us all every once in a while, so what you do is politely tap your horn to get the person’s attention and then he or she – often with a wave of apology – proceeds on through the intersection.
Now the car I drive is a little Japanese sub-compact which has, by far, one of the wimpiest-sounding horns of any car on the road. Even when you ‘lay on it’, people don’t pay much attention to you, and a little ‘excuse me’ beep sounds a lot like a baby road runner uttering it’s first word. Firmly, now, I pressed down on the horn button, but instead of the anticipated beep, I was jarred half out of my seat by a thunderous 5-second blast from the macho horn of the full sized what-ever-it-was that was behind me. The Bingo Guy had the same startled reaction and did not seem at all pleased. Instinctively I turned around, curious to see what kind of mad man was behind me. What I saw, however, was a little gray-haired lady who’s head barely showed above the steering wheel. After giving her my best ‘what a dumb thing to do’ look, I turned back around just in time to see the driver’s-side door of the Buick swing violently open. Out burst one of the largest, most crazed looking men I have ever seen. I mean, if this guy hadn’t picked up the nickname “Crusher” or “Bruiser” – or the likes – a serious semantic injustice had been committed! My first thought was, ‘What is he going to do to that poor little old lady?’ Simultaneously, I wondered if I should get out and act as a buffer between the two, but immediately rationalized that to do so would only serve to inflame the situation. (I was glad that I had thought of a socially acceptable reason to stay in my car, because in reality, the mere sight of this guy had already made my mind up!) All of this thinking and decision making took place in a matter of an instant. In the next instant I came to realize that all my fears for this lady’s well being were completely unfounded. The Bingo Guy’s eyes were glaring straight at me.
I immediately gave 2 quick ‘beeps’ to show him that my horn sounded nothing like the one that sent us both through our respective roofs, but the logic of my actions seemed to totally elude him. I watched in horror as this creature approached. The hair on his chest seemed to grow right through his shirt, and arrived at my window about a second before the rest of him.
In a flash, now, I had to decide on a plan of action. I narrowed my choices down to three. I could (A) throw my door open, burst out like a complete wild man, and start jumping around and screaming at him before he had a chance to say or do anything. Surprisingly, this unexpected bravado approach sometimes will confuse and scare off a much larger opponent. The key word here is ‘sometimes.’ The other side of ‘sometimes’ isn’t very pretty. (B) I could make a serious attempt to explain the real truth of the situation, assuming that he wouldn’t actually physically harm a little gray-haired lady. The problem here was getting enough words out before he punched my face in. Or (C) I could immediately apologize and promise never to be so rude again. This, of course, would amount to admitting to something that I was really not guilty of. As distasteful as that thought seemed, I had to admit that this plan probably had the best chance for a happy – or, at least, bloodless – ending. My decision was made. I would begin with plan B, keeping open the option to switch over to plan C at the very first hint of violence.
It was now show time. With a crank of his hand and wrist, he motioned for me to put down my window. As I began trying to pry my frozen left hand off of the steering wheel, I was treated to the sight of the little gray-haired lady’s car slowly passing behind the Bingo Guy on her way through the light. To add insult to injury, she wasn’t even looking. She was completely unaware of, or indifferent to, the fact that I was about to receive a beating that she, in fact, had earned!
Somehow, I managed to get my hand working well enough to open my window. As I prepared to take the verbal offensive, I now found myself facing yet another problem – lockjaw. My brain had apparently sent a message to my mouth advising it not to get involved. My attempts at speech resulted only in the emission of short, gutteral grunts. It was at this point in time that I realized I was done for. I was completely at his mercy. Motionless and expressionless, I stared into the face of my executioner!
“Excuse me” he said, in a surprisingly respectful voice. “I realize you’re probably in a hurry, so I’ll be as quick as possible, but I’ve been driving around for the longest time trying to find the Northbound expressway entrance – could you possibly help me out?” He stared at me in anticipation, waiting for an answer – or at least some small indication that I wasn’t in a coma. Neither would come. Confused by this, he tried another approach. “Do you speak English?”, he asked. “me..want..find..expressway….go North” His eyebrows were now raised almost to his hairline in anticipation of some kind of response. Mercifully, by this time my jaw had finally begun to ‘defrost’ and the rest of my body parts were now becoming semi-functional. With eyes still glazed, I managed to direct him to the expressway entrance.
“Thank You” he said. Then, with head cocked to one side, and eyes squinting, he asked, “Are you alright?” I nodded affirmatively, managing a labored smile. Shaking his head slowly, he returned to his car. The light turned green again, and off he went.
HOOOONNNNNKKKK said the car behind me!! Taking a deep breath, I gave a wave (of sorts) and then proceeded on through the intersection.