First off, I would like to thank Mrs. Uber Driver for her kind words relative to me. What she neglected to mention is that I get the same enjoyment listening to the conversations that occur in the Ubaru. Her genuinely fun discourse with her passengers is her own, and that makes it entertaining and insightful not just to me, but to her passengers, as well. Sometimes, voyeurism is a cool thing …
The pax we drive often say the damndest things, and when I hear a doozy, I might cringe, laugh, evade, or join in. Any response is possible in the moment, but in all the moments, one thing is certain – I listen and learn. What I learn surely edifies my perceptions and biases about people in general, which is fine, but what is more important to me is what l learn about myself as the passengers’ words filter through my brain into the rather deep bowl filled with my self-perceptions.
One self-perception I hold closely is tied to the general perception many hold of Californians as tofu-eating, sprout chewing, yoga fanatics – I care about what I put in my body. That opinion of Californians came into full light recently when I picked up three brash-talking bartenders who had something to say about folks who carry the idea of eating with care just a bit too far …
I pulled up to McCarthy’s Irish Pub around 11 a.m., a fine time to see the folks who spend their Saturday leisurely drinking away the hours. There against the patio rail stood three swarthy men laughing, two of which were smoking cigarettes. When they saw me pull in, each took a long, last drag and then dropped the burnt carcasses on the ground at their feet with no care for who would later come along to pick them up.
The tipsy trio packed into the Uberius, and, as I quickly found out, each was facing life in their thirties as a bartender. Hardened a bit from years of watching sloppy people acting sloppily and listening to sorry tales slurred above half-filled glasses, the three buzzed fellows laughed, told stories, and made fun of customers who did not fit into their view of the world.
They were all talking and laughing, having a grand time, but one voice rose above the others, a strident and hefty voice broadcasting his mindset, his take on life. Behind my shoulder, his words boomed. In my mirror, I could see his unshaven face and bloodshot eye. He had been yacking since he got in the car. Of the three, he was the most cutting.
“Yeh, I was pouring at a fundraiser last week and a lady asked me if the cider was organic. I looked at her like, ‘Seriously?’ I was like, ‘Who the fuck cares?’ So I told her, ‘Yeh, its free-range, organic cider.’ She liked that, told her husband, and I poured them both some free-range, organic cider. Crazy-ass people!” He laughed hard. I could see age lines creeping onto his face.
The other two joined in, hee-hawing heavily, throwing about comments, such as “Yeh, the apple trees could go wherever they wanted” or “Only the apples that roll away are good.”
At first I laughed with them, but then I thought about my belief regarding organic food. I thought about me laughing with them at that couple who swallowed the “free-range” nonsense. Was I laughing just to go along, or did I really find the story funny? Yes, the story was humorous, and, yes, I was chuckling to go along, and that is where the bite came in. The latter reality bothered me. Why did I feel the need to “go along,” to laugh with them despite my own belief? In fact, I felt for the couple expressing their desire to follow their path, no matter the reason for following it.
And then I thought about the smug nature of those who mock the beliefs of others. I thought about the bartender boys drinking liquor on a Saturday morning, gloating about eating meat and fried foods, and making fun of people who choose another way, even if those folks are gullible. I thought, “What makes people think their lifestyle choices are better than the choices of others?”
More so than my self-annoyance, the threesome bugged me, irritated me, actually. It was their arrogance. Eating well and with care was, well, stupid in their eyes, and most certainly worthy of ridicule.
I stopped laughing and just listened for the rest of the ride.
The jaded bartenders continued entertaining themselves about this and that for the rest of that ride. Maybe their morning libations made them happy, or maybe they were living life to the fullest, simply doing the things they enjoyed, no matter the consequences to themselves. Who is to say and, frankly, who cares?
People should be free to do as they wish, to do whatever they want to themselves, as long as no one else is hurt in the process. This is true for folks drinking liquor at McCarthy’s bar on a Saturday morning, Sunday evening or any other day of the week. However, it is equally true for those who want to drink organic, “free-range” cider. Truly, what is the harm in people looking for a better life through healthy eating?
When that ride with those boys filtered down through my brain, I found in my deep bowl a perception of me that I liked – a belief in respecting others – no harm, no foul. That day, I also added a self-perception that is surely questionable – joining in the fun, even if the laughter is at the expense of another just to make life in a moment a bit easier – go along to get along.
I don’t know. Is every offense a battle worth fighting, or do we choose the bigger ones, the ones where people actually suffer grave consequence at the hands of another? Truly, I don’t know …
Tune in and don’t drop out …
Mr. Uber Driver