Communication Skills 1 – How to run people off the road who suck

H umans seem to have this ridiculous notion that we are a chosen species that fell out of the sky in a perfectly designed, conceptually ideal construction, and ever since that time we have lived in villages and cities with Starbucks, blacksmiths, and community centers which have remained essentially unchanged since the dawn of our creation.

That’s really, really, profoundly stupid. 

As amazing as we are, we are so ill-suited to our current environment that it’s laughable.  For instance, we are designed to live in a world where meat and fat are relatively scarce, and as such, when we get our hands on these precious commodities we are designed to gorge ourselves in order to carry us through the next three weeks of nuts and berries until we can kill another mammoth.  (They’re almost ready to try cloning a mammoth by the way.  It’s sweet.)  Now if you stop and think about it, that genetic fact actually makes us horribly unsuited to the environment of easy food we live in today, and have for hundreds of years.  Like right now, I have a creature living in my neighborhood which doesn’t run, doesn’t defend itself in any way, and indeed doesn’t really do anything except generate and release grease, fat, and salt from its body for my consumption.  It’s like a giant, lazy dog that wants nothing more than for me to roll up and consume a part of its ever regenerating body.  This animal is called Taco Bell, and it’s way better than catching a zebra.      

We also have an appendix, which is probably the residue of a past useful organ that millenia of living in civilization has rendered so useless that, without modern medicine, would probably result in a large number of deaths.  A man’s nipples can be stimulated to lactate, and mine often do naturally when I’m sick because I turn into a whiny bitch. Frankly, I am linguistically ill-equipped to comment on a god who would design us in that way, and our entire physiology looks like a giant gerrymandered Frankenstein of half-finished adaptations to deal with an ever-changing environment.   As a matter of fact, we share so much DNA with chimpanzees and other highly-developed primates that the ideosyncracies of our physiology are largely the product of one or two small mutations that have paid huge Darwinian dividends.

If you want to argue the above point on creationism with me, bring it on and keep it civil.  I ABSOULTELY have time to read and respond to any and all comers when it comes to evolution.  My only request is that you base your argument on something more solid that pure divine intervention, because that’s not even an argument.  At that point we might as well be decide who can make up the best story and vote. 

So what exactly separates us from the apes in a meaningful way?  Well, brain power of course, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee results if you think about how much more trouble stupid people who can comprehend the mechanics of opening a jar of peanut butter can get themselves into.  No, the one big difference that makes everything about us special is, oddly enough, the one organ that got us into trouble with food in the first place.

That would be our tongue.  Our need to communicate with one another resulted in changes to our tongue, mouth, and Adam’s apple (ironically named) which allowed the wonderfully complex collection of sounds we articulate for the purpose of yelling at each other over who used the last of the toilet paper.  (It’s always me, by the way.  Now I’m not saying I’m not a total trainwreck of a domestic companion, but I have a theory that if men actually started writing every event down as they happened, you’d find that in any given disagreement there is a HUGE disparity between how reality is authoritatively presented to you by your spouse and what actually took place.  Not that this would change the fact you are being berated or alter you spouse’s opinion, but at least you’d know for you)  Indeed, without our ability to speak, civilization would be utterly impossible, and the reason is pretty clear:  We can talk things out rather than simply resorting to beating the hell out of each other. 

So if someone is pissing me off, which happens constantly, I have several tools at my disposal before I am forced to either slink off or beat the hell out of them.  I can say, “excuse me”, or honk my horn, or many other little hints that allow us to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner before it gets out of control.  Tigers on the other hand, have no system in place at all.  Their defcon levels look like this:

1.  Slightly annoyed

2.  Dead

Note the lack of pleasantries.  Chimpanzees have the same problem.  If two chimps want something, whoever is bigger gets it.  There’s no philosophy, no morality, no anything when it comes down to a matter of force, because for all intents and purposes your experience of reality is dictated by whoever hits the hardest.  If he says the sky is green, then it’s green until you kick him in the testicles and throw him off a cliff, and then you have the right to assert that it’s chartreuse.  Also, there’s no reason to invent a better stick for getting maggots out of a log.  If you do, the big chimp will kick your ass and take your maggots, and since you don’t have a sophisticated verbal palate you can’t exactly appeal to your buddies and have him arrested.  

Ultimately, the tiny, quantum mechanical-like space we create for ourselves by way of pleasantries and negotiation have given rise to the vast majority of what’s possible for human society and achievement.  Do you like the roads you drive on?  Thank the ability of people to negotiate about whose territory they should go on rather than killing each other like angry gerbils.  

But don’t let that lure you into a false sense of security about who and what we are.  We still have our large adrenal glands, and that extra bit of talking only extends so far.  Think about when you are driving on the road and someone cuts you off.  You honk at that person and splurt out a torrent of unimaginable obscenities that would make your mother cringe.  You seriously consider killing that person.  You might even do it if you had the chance.  It’s only the ability to vent that frustration through swearing and honking that stops you from sweeping that person off the road with your bumper, and to be perfectly frank, it’s only a matter of a few words and seconds that separates us from civilization and total primordial revision. 

Unfortunately, that little window of courtesy is what give rise to all manner of dickdom and assholery from people who take advantage of the pleasantries of others.  How many people have you met who take an extra seventy napkins for no good reason, roll through a stop sign simply because they know you’d rather suck on their rudeness than have a car accident, and hold you up at a hotel check-in for an additional 20 minutes because they can’t shut the hell up and cope with the fact that they can only see part of the beach and not the whole Pacific seaboard from their 90th story window.  I swear to god, the next time I hear someone bitching about how they asked for something idiotically and pointlessly specific and by god it’s more important that they get it than letting the rest of the tired, exhausted, up-for-37-hours-and-operating-on-no-sleep-travelers-from-another-country check in before they die, I’m going to punch them in their goddamned self-righteous temple and commandeer their room.  I daresay if people like that would take a second and realize how many times in their lives the only thing stopping them from being bludgeoned to death with a sock full of gym locks was the tissue paper veil of larger societal altruism, these assholes would be changing their self-absorbed outlook on life toot-sweet.  Mark my words, the day beatings become optional, nobody’s spending ten minutes looking at the McDonald’s menu trying to find apple dippers and granola.  NUMBER ONE.  NEXT.

So the reason I gave you that little social analysis is so I can adequately explain why it was perfectly acceptable for me to run a family of three and a dog off the road a few months back.  I was in the middle of typing an email to my brother, went to get coffee, and, well, you’ll see.

The following story has been edited from it’s original version.  It has been modified to prevent the intense hatred from causing birth defects and low birth weight in expectant mothers.  And from getting me {f-ing} fired.

I just took a break to go buy coffee at the grocery store a few blocks away because we’re {f-ing} out.  I hate that {s-}t.  There is no feeling on earth worse than getting up in the morning and realizing that instead of a real beverage I’m going to have to {f-ing} Mormon my way through the day with a {f-ing} cup of milk, and I don’t even get the consolation of sucking it out of a titty.  It {f-ing} sucks, and I hate it.  See, you know that within an hour of getting up, you are inevitably going to have to slime your dirty, smelly, uncaffeined, I-hiked-six-miles-yesterday-and-didn’t-shower greaseball {a-word} down to the grocery store and be the object of disdain of the old people who are already preparing to eat their third meal of the ‘day’, and stay at home mothers in their late thirties who are buying three cartloads of groceries to support  their seventeen {f-ing} {a-hole} children through the lunch hour so they can justify lugging their saggy tits and hopelessly failing abdominal walls onto the couch to further dissolve themselves by measuring the minutes of the View in terms of spent 100 Grand wrappers.  So I finally break down after that first paragraph, throw on yesterday’s clothes (which {f-ing} stink) and pile into my car (which smelled like stale farts) and start the interminable three-block squinting-from-the-sun drive to the grocery store. 
Right away, it {f-ing} starts.  I have to negotiate my way around these {f-ing} mommy-daddy-baby fat globules that get up at the {a-word}-crack of dawn and clog up the streets of Denver with their self-righeous health regime.  These {f-ers} are everywhere, but they are the WORST in Colorado, a state in which you apparently can’t even take a {f-ing} bicycle on the road unless you have spent a minimum of 3000 dollars on a titanium-frame racing bike, Vitamin Cottage racing jersy, aerodynamically sound helmet, gloves, bike shorts, shoes, energy gels, and have gathered six of your {idiot} friends to form an impassable peleton on a state road during rush hour.  Anyway, these are the same {f-ers} who eventually have a large chunk of {female anatomy} lining tumble out of their {female anatomy, extra crude}, miss the tampon, plop onto the floor at their feet, throw a diaper on it, and then buy a stroller the size of a house with snow chains on the tires and a {f-ing} avalanche beacon on top to alert people in Tasmania that the Messiah has apparently returned in the form of their {f}-off ugly, hairy, crotch turd.  I was holding it together until I had to throw on the brakes and swerve to the left to avoid hitting what at first glance I thought was a {f-ing} gay pride march.  It turns out it was this power-walking {a-hole} yuppie couple pushing a stroller the size of a PARADE FLOAT, with a mobile hanging over it and streamers flying in the wind and {s-word}, NO I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, walking a Weimeriner that looked like a polar bear DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE {F-ING} STREET!!!!  DON’T YOU HAVE TO GET A PERMIT FROM THE CITY TO DO {S-WORD}  LIKE THAT!!!!  I swear to {f-ing} god, if I had been even slightly more awake I would have side-swiped that {s-word} right into the gutter and kept driving.  Here’s the rule, and it’s pretty simple:  If you can’t fit your stroller and the majority of your party on the sidewalk, you have to die. 
So I FINALLY make it to the {f-ing} grocery store, and I think I’m safe.  I’ll just buy my bulk coffee, get tea for Robyn, and what the hell, grab a few donuts for breakfast while I’m here.  Then I’ll go back home, sit down, and enjoy the rest of the morning.  No.  No, no, no, no no.  No.  I get the tea.  That’s fine.  I get the donuts.  Perfect.  I go the the coffee.  I stand in front of it.  I make my selection.  I get the bag.  I place it over the nozzle.  Then {s-word} falls completely apart.  This old lady, who has been standing near by this whole time, does something completely unforgivable.  Breaking every conceivable rule regarding etiquette and common decency, she does the worst possible thing imaginable.  She starts talking to me.  And in that grandmotherly, yet pointlessly non-topical way that nobody on earth would want to  deal with from the archangel Gabriel, much less a complete stranger.  It’s the kind of interaction you have with people where a stranger passes you and says something that’s supposed to be funny, but if you looked at it completely objectively is, in fact, lame as {f).  Then you have to respond with something equally lame and yet slightly chucklable as you pass, you both laugh WAY the {f} more than was warranted, and then as soon as you pass you shut it off like someone punched Data from Star Trek in the neck.  Here’s an example I recently had in Denver airport when I was waiting for my parents’ luggage to arive:
Dad:  Any more these days, your’re lucky to get a bag of peanuts on flights.
Me:  Yeah, now they’re even charging you three bucks for a snack on shorter flights.
{A-hole} from Texas who needs to {f} himself out of my conversations and take his kid off the baggage conveyor: Yeah, I mean, if the government would cut the taxes on oil speculation maybe we’d be able to actually have a full-size can of Coke on the plane for once.  hahahahaha
Me:  Yeah.  Pretty soon they’ll make us roll down the windows to save on air conditioning.  hahahahaha so anyway dad….
We’ve all had these conversations, and they are {f-ing} annoying.  That accomplished nothing other than breaking my train of thought and force me to engage you in pointless and unfunny banter solely to keep myself from looking like an {a-hole} for ignoring you.  Besides, I didn’t even agree with him, and I HATE conservatives from Texas.  For that matter I hate everyone from Texas, but instead of saying what I would typically say, which is ‘What? {f) off.  Oil companies can kiss my {a}’, I ended up politely listening and then responding in kind.  That’s {f-ed} up, and EVERYBODY does it.  In that kind of conversation, someone could say ‘I hate {n-word}’ and you’d say, ‘yeah, don’t I know it hahahahah.’  Anyway…
So this old, old {f-ing} lady starts idly chattering at me, saying things like ‘nice morning today’ and ‘I was going to do the gardening but for whatever {f} reason I couldn’t’ and {s-word} like that.  I’m trying to operate this coffee thing without dumping thirty pounds of beans into my one pound bag in a third of a second while simultaneously engaging the walking dead in a conversation about her flowerbed, and I’m getting really frustrated because no matter what I say she just says whatever the next thing on her agenda was anyway.  It’s like she saved up forty one-liners about her lame day-to-day existence on a tape player in her head, and every time I finished a sentence she’d just hit play and next one would spill out in an endless stream of non-sequitor minutia.  Finally I’d had enough, and rightfully so.  I wanted the {f} out, and I did the only thing I could to end the conversation without abusing this old lady.  The only thing absolutely gaurenteed to produce results every time.  I said the following:
‘Yeah, I don’t usually buy coffee because  I’m a member of the Mormon church.  Did you know Jesus is your lord and saviour?  I know that the book of Mormon is true, and I’d love to come over to your house sometime and share it with you.’
She {f-ed} off like a whore in church.  Did I feel like a {jerk}?  A little.  But here’s my point.  We may be humans, but we are also animals, and if you want to survive in this world you have to be able to spot the signs that say ‘leave me the {f} alone.’  In the animal kindgom, if a lizard stands on it’s hind legs and bleeds out of its eyes, you know without thinking or ever seeing it before that it’s telling you to {f} off.  When a dog snarles and bares its teeth, you shouldn’t be able to win a lawsuit if it bites off your thumb when you try to pet it.  It’s common sense.  It’s natural selection.  It’s why some creatures pass on their genetic material, and others win Darwin Awards.  You are only here today because every single one of your ancestors knew better than to try to pet the sleeping tiger.  We are the descendents of the ones who ran away, not the ones who stayed to fight.  That being said, decode this clear, unequivocal signal:  It’s not even nine AM, I’m under the age of 65, I haven’t showered, I’m visibly grumpy, and I’m clearly buying coffee.  I’ll say that again. IT’S NOT EVEN NINE AM, I’M UNDER THE AGE OF 65, I HAVEN’T SHOWERED, I’M VISIBLY GRUMPY, AND I’M CLEARLY BUYING COFFEE.  Don’t talk to me.  Run away.  I haven’t had breakfast or coffee, and I’m {f-ing} pissy right now. 
Then I moved to the checkout, and I went to one of those automated things.  Right away, I start failing to cope with it.   The one at this particular grocery store was clearly designed with computer hardware that is insufficient to handle even the most basic functions for which it is designed.  It starts off with that maddeningly calm female voice that says ‘Please scan your King Soopers card now.  If you…’  {F-ing}, I already scanned it.  I scanned it, shut up.  Shut the {f} up.  SHUT THE….finally it stops talking to me.  I swipe my card to prepare it to pay, and then scan my items.  Tea.  Donuts.  I punch in the coffee number, put in on the scanner to be weighed, and then…nothing.  It is clearly weighing, and nothing is happening.  The voice tells me to take it off the scanner.  It tells me to put it on.  It tells me to remove the last item from the bag.  I hadn’t put anything in the bag.  I keep {f-ing} with it, and the doucheball attendent is talking to some {f-ing} old lady and not playing attention as I slowly lose control of myself.  I start smacking the buttons on the screen in a vain attempt to get this goddamn thing to perform even the most basic functions for which it was designed.  Finally, the attendent peels himself away from the dirty {c-word} who has placed herself directly between me an resolution, and types in the number. 
{A-hole}:  There you go.  What number did you type in?
Me:  71515
{A-hole}:  Hmm..where did you get that number?
Me inside:  Who the {f} cares.  {F}off.
Me outside:  The bin.  (where the {f} else do you think I got it, the tuna cans?)
{A-hole}:  Golly (yes, he said golly) I guess you just can’t trust computers these days hahahahaha.
Me inside:  Goddamnit, not again…
Me outside:  Yeah, they screw up all the time hahahahaha
By this time, I’d had enough.  At least as much as any one man can take without breakfast and coffee.  I mean, you can only be expected to handle so much in the morning.  So I’m pulling out of the parking lot, and then, right in front of me, walking at a half a mile and hour and taking up the entire {f-ing} lane leaving the store… that {f-ing} yuppie couple with the Hum-V edition baby carriage blocking all the traffic leaving the parking lot (me).  The were walking out, backs turned to me, completely oblivious to the fact that my bumper was practically whisping the leg hair on the dad’s power-walking {f-ing} legs.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited, and they simply failed to realize that there was a car behind them because of the self-important bubble surrounding their {f}-off annoying babyful life.  As we agonizingly edged our way towards the exit, I could feel the ice cap of my patience and general sanity slowly begin to fracture under the terrible weight of pure hatred.  Finally, they made it to the end of the parking lot, and just as I thought this insane affair was over, they made a right turn, into the middle of the road, and continued down the street in the same direction I was going.       
I snapped.  In one of those rare moments in the life of a good little midwestern boy, I can honestly say that I snapped.  All logic and reason ceased to function as my worldview tunneled down to a single point of pure unadulterated hatred.  I did the only thing I could think of.  I honked.  I won’t say I intended to do it consciously because at this point I was functioning more on instinct than thought, but what I probably intended to be a cute little friendly reminder of a ‘honk’ must have filtered itself through my rage and manifested itself in reality as
The net impact of this action was as swift as it was dramatic.  The following things occurred simultaneously:
1.  The dad jumped ten feet in the air and did a move from Flashdance.
2.  The mom spasmed, twisted around, and fell directly on her {a}, facing the opposite direction she was walking
3.  The dog flinched, bent into the shape of a shrimp on four legs, and {s-word} itself
4. Predictably,  the baby started crying. 
I swear to god, that is exactly what happened.  About three seconds later, they finally came to their senses and realized what was going on.  The dad, to my complete joy, was enraged beyond belief and began hurling alternating versions of ‘share the road’ and obscenities at my car.  Apparently ‘share the road’ means, allow our country to be taken over by the Chinese rather than ask their family to please get the {f} out of the way of our troops and tanks so they can get to the front lines.  The Constitution is not a suicide pact, {a-hole}.  The mom did what I would assume is a reflex in her house any time she got in trouble with her husband.  She stared open-mouthed at me as I roared past.  She does the same thing when she forgets to do the dishes and instinctively prepares to appease her angry husband by going down on him before he beats the {s-word} out of her.  The dog, well, I feel for the dog.  I can’t blame the dog for its situation any more than I can blame the kid in the stroller for being born to complete egocentric yuppie whores.  They are the innocent casualties of this great game of life, and I personally believe they should have some legal recourse towards the parents for being put in that position in the first place.  Do I feel bad for the family?  No I don’t.  I don’t care if this is Colorado and we have a kneejerk reaction against automobile drivers.  You can’t be that oblivious and self-serving.  Simply being a cyclist doesn’t make you a better person than me because I have chosen to get somewhere in a timely fashion in my car.  Walking you babies in the morning sun with you {f-ing} husband doesn’t mean that you should be entitled to annex the front range so you aren’t inconvenienced by the reality of other people using the road.  As far as I’m concerned, they learned a very valuable lesson today that not even the richest man on earth can afford to forget.  Don’t ever let your head get so far up your {a} that you can’t look over your shoulder from time to time, because if you do you will eventually get run over…by me.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colorado. He hates stupidity and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of an issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

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