My Flipoff-Free Zone Is Way Too Big
There comes a time in almost everyone’s life when they really don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks about them or their actions, and that time is usually when people are in their early 20’s. There’s enough of a newfound sense of independence that these young adults scorn their parents (at least until they need bail money). Their lack of experience means that coworkers and supervisors are a favored target, of course, with the next shitty job just days away should one happened to be fired. And any friends worth having accept their friends for who they are, even if they did happen to drunkenly piss on the dishes in the sink last weekend.
Then, gradually at first, people start mattering again. This is the first sign that your youth is starting to slip away. I personally gauge this process by the number and size of my Flipoff-Free Zones. The Flipoff-Free Zone is a concept I came up with when trying to prevent my brash road demeanor from impacting my life in negative ways. For instance, I had a job for a long period of time that required me to drive on one highway for roughly 25 miles, then turn South on another highway for 2 miles. The drive South was a Flipoff-Free Zone so that the odds of me giving the finger to an executive I worked with were lower. That’s an encounter I don’t need to have.
Because, assume that the encounter begins like this:
Executive: Greg, I couldn’t help but notice that you gave me the finger after I swerved across three packed lanes of traffic and almost caused you to drive off of an overpass. Explain yourself.
No matter how you respond, you are either fired or you cannot live with yourself becoming such a giant tool.
Option 1: Meek Apology – I’m sorry, sir. I realize now that I was fully at fault and will accept a pay cut and a demeaning job assignment as my penance.
Option 2: Outright, Transparent Lie – Oh, was that you? Yeah, you cut me off before I had a chance to flip off the child molester next to me who was tonguing a 14 year old while looking up local elementary school addresses on his new Windows smartphone. (Yes, all pedophiles use Windows smartphones.)
Option 3: Go On The Offensive – What the fuck, asshole? You almost fucking killed me out there! You’re lucky all I did was flip you off. If I had the capability to castrate you while slamming on the brakes, I absolutely would have done it.
No matter what, you’re fucked. Likewise if you flip someone off too close to home. When you live in an apartment building, chances are that the neighbors you know are friends. Otherwise, they’re strangers and fuck ’em. But if you live in a house, you share some large common boundaries with total strangers who matter. They may turn out to be great friends, or they may be charter members of the All-World Asshole Team. Flip off a good neighbor and you’ve transformed him into a bad neighbor. Flip off a bad neighbor, and you are stuck in a hell so terrifying that people have walked away from their home to escape it.
As I grew older, I found my Flipoff-Free Zones getting larger and more numerous. Can’t flip off my kid’s teacher. Yeah, flipping off a parent near my toddler’s day care is going to cause some problems. Oh, shit, what if I flip off my in-laws? Better create a new zone centered around their house. Well, this is gang turf. I’m just gonna lower my head and get the fuck out of here.
It’s gotten to the point where I want to go on road trips just to be able to flip people off when they act like assholes. I used to love doing that. One time I had one of those obnoxious peckers behind me who switches lanes if they think it will gain them an extra 2 inches. Then they’ll switch back a second or two later if they decide they were wrong, all of this done while dangerously tailgating everyone in front of them. I found him right next to me and flipped him off in a very visible way. He didn’t like that, but aside from a momentary rude return gesture on his part, it didn’t change his driving.
Then I saw a flash of gold way, way ahead on the highway and quickly put together the perfect plan. I slowed down to box the guy in to my right while making sure some space opened up in front of me. Then I sped up slightly, which caused the guy to fall in behind me. Then I matched the speed of the car next to me, causing him to cool his heels while all of this delicious open road yawned ahead of us. I could tell by his expression and the total lack of space between our vehicles that he was dying to blow past me at full speed.
So at the last second, I let him. I sped up and quickly changed lanes, flashing him another bird as he floored it and raced past me and the gold-helmeted motorcycle cop I’d seen hide behind the overpass pillar. And as he pulled over to the left shoulder, you’d better believe he got a quick toot of the horn and a double-bird salute from me as I passed. God, I miss that.