A Little Perspective From Tom Church

We all know people who just don’t seem to connect to reality the way we do, don’t we? And we all know people who compensate for this by being overtly intimidating or aggressive, or by accepting their intellectual restrictions to the point of simply not trying.

While this is all fascinating, I guess I’ve come to realize that there are two kinds of stupid, put simply: dumb and mean.

Now, of course, we often see unpleasant mixtures of these traits. And while it sounds very old-school, it’s usually got a few dead giveaways that I’ll refrain from sharing. These involve appearance, physical behavior, et cetera. You can just kind of tell: Hey, that guy’s a complete moron.

Not always in the conventional sense! No, more often, we run into those people who we think darkly to ourselves (not without committing to some mental penance, simultaneously, for thinking such a thought!) will achieve very little in life.

Now, if I started making my penance for these kinds of thoughts a strict exercise regimen (I’d say that thought earns me a good thirty pushups) then I’d be ripped by July. But that’s not the point.

The point is, about a month ago, I was sitting on a metro, flying through the underground tunnels of D.C. And Erin and her family sat several rows up; I was in the back, and she was in the front.

And suddenly, at one stop, this guy gets on who strangely knew the guy behind me. The guy just behind me wore a Tap Out shirt and shorts that fell to his ankles. He sat, minding his own business, until this newcomer got on the train.

But the newcomer didn’t want to sit beside his friend. Instead, he wanted to sit in an empty seat, adjacent to his friend. “Y’all gonna have to get the [expletive] outta the way,” was his exact quote. I sighed, and remembered how my strong suit has always been avoiding pointless fights or confrontations. I moved up a row and sat next to an old woman who appeared to be sleeping soundly.

Now, here are two redeeming qualities I noticed in the newcomer:

1) He was holding a ticket in his hand, meaning he had legally boarded the metro and was not, in fact, breaking the law as I was inclined to believe through harsh and defensive stereotpyes.

2) Instead of hijacking the seat on the opposite side of the aisle, which was occupied by an older man with a cane, he chose me. This implies that he may have had traces of an instilled sense of respect for elders, which is an incredibly valuable and important societal trait in young people. On this, I commend him.

I don’t condone what he did, and at the time, I was somewhat furious. But if I’ve been taught anything, it’s that there are ways to get back at people you dislike that aren’t nearly as direct or consequential as immediate violence. Also, I wouldn’t have been able to take him anyways.

I chose a strange way to ‘get back’ at the newcomer. I turned in my seat several minutes later and smiled what I later described to a friend as “the nicest, most innocent smile I’ve ever given to anybody.” He caught it like a baseball to the face.

Now, here’s my theory: due to his apparently failing intellect, he probably paid minimal attention to the smile, barely retained it in his short-term memory, and, later that day, shoplifted some small, insignificant items from the Sundries section of a CVS.

Had his IQ been a few points higher, this is how it would’ve gone:

He would have registered the fact that I had smiled immediately, and also would have been able to barely articulate strange aspects of the situation, like the irony in my smile. This would have led him to the error of his ways, which he still wouldn’t have corrected anyway. Then, later that day, he would have shoplifted some small, insignificant items from the Sundries section of a CVS.

Generation X? More like generation X-citing! Way to spice up my life, friend!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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