Friday, March 29, 2013

Rant Farm

I was standing on Broadway near Rector Street on Thursday night waiting for an overdue bus when I heard someone shouting.

Hostile voices are such a part of life in New York that you need a pretty severe set of pipes to get anyone’s attention and whoever was behind this particular commotion had wind power to spare.

It took a few seconds for the gibberish to gel into language, but all at once the words came into sudden and brutal clarity.

“Fuck you!”

This might be a traffic dispute. The streets downtown are chronically congested and rush hour in this town could easily provide the backdrop for a French Connection reboot.

Or maybe two losers had bumped into each other on the sidewalk and were now pathetically standing their ground in a nose-to-nose effort to prove who was the bigger idiot. I’ve seen this kind of thing before and I would gladly award them both the top prize.

Whatever it was, I thought, it’ll blow over in a few seconds and we’ll return to our regularly scheduled cacophony.

“Fuck you!”

Then again, I might be wrong.

The yelling was getting louder; the offending party was getting closer. Given my foul mood, the voice could have been coming from my mind.

I was physically tired and emotionally drained and I just wanted to get the hell home. My bus, however, had apparently decided to go to Brooklyn via Toronto and so I stood with an ever-growing chorus line of irate people watching every conceivable type of motorized transport pass by except the one we wanted to see.

“Fuck you!”

Yes, exactly.

The shouting was extremely loud and incredibly close now and I thought the perpetrator might be a deranged homeless man in rags defiantly shaking his bag of cans at a heartless world.

However, when I looked across the street at the source of the swearing I saw a clean-shaven middle-aged man wearing a suit and tie and a tan overcoat. He smiled broadly as he waved at the people on the street.

“Fuck you!” He cheerily shouted. “Fuck you!”

Hold on a minute. Ranting rejects are supposed to dress the part—torn clothing, wild hair, a body in serious need of a diligent delousing. This man did not begin to fit the profile.

He looked like he could have held a respectable position at any one of the thousands of companies in the vicinity. But he sure didn’t sound that way.

“Fuck you!”

And he appeared to be so happy. He wasn’t doing the enraged loner shtick, none of the Travis Bickle “you-talking-to-me” madness. He grinned and waved like a politician greeting his constituents on Election Day.

“Fuck you!”

Is This Straitjacket Taken?

He didn’t seem drunk or high, or particularly dangerous. But that’s easy for me to say since I was safely positioned on the other side of Broadway. I noticed that anyone who came in contact with the cursing man gave him a wide berth.

History has taught us that some of the vilest villains in creation were once considered harmless—until the shooting started.

This man’s mind might have just freshly snapped. Maybe he had gotten laid off from his job after decades of loyal service and decided to share his displeasure with the world.

Perhaps he had misplaced his medication. Or it could be that the psychos are dressing better lately because, as we all know, every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharped dress loon.

The guy disappeared down the street, happily hurling F-bombs like they were Mardi Gras beads, and I went back to hyperextending my neck in hopes of spotting my bus.

Just another day in New York, I thought. Whatever his story was, that nutbag was out of my life. But I had called that one wrong.

My bus showed up, but it was so full of people that I decided to wait for the next one. The weather wasn’t too harsh and I absolutely refuse to pay six bucks for a stand-up commute. After all this misery, I deserve to sit down for the ride home.

And then I heard a familiar voice.

“Fuck you!”

I looked across the street and there he was again, coming up Broadway, the Obscene Machine himself, making a return engagement. He was like a duck in a shooting gallery or a soldier on patrol, merrily swearing at one and all.

I’m sure this man is a tortured soul with a whole closet full of problems, but he looked strangely liberated as he casually crushed society’s rules of behavior.

The last I saw of the foul-mouthed fellow he was briskly heading uptown. I was hoping he would run into my bus driver and give him a piece of my mind.

When the second bus finally arrived, I managed to get a seat and I even half-heartedly offered it to a woman who was standing right over me.

I have to confess here and now that I was fervently praying to all the commuting deities that she wouldn’t take me up on my pathetic proposal and she must have seen the fear in my eyes.

“No, that’s okay,” she said. “I sit down all day.”

So do I, lady, but that didn’t stop me from nailing my rear end to the first available chair.

It turned out this woman knew the bus driver and he told her that everything was fouled up because an earlier bus had gotten into an accident.

“Was anyone hurt?” the woman earnestly inquired.

“No,” the driver replied. “But you’re the first person who asked me that. Everybody else just complains that there’s no seats.”

I sunk deeper into the cushion I had so desperately craved. Was I such a terrible person for wanting to get home at a decent hour and ride in relative comfort?

I like to think that I have nothing in common with that ranting man on Broadway, but sometimes I look at myself and I see how angry and impatient I get and I have to wonder. There’s nothing liberating about rage. It is a heavy, fearsome chain that comes straight out of your mind.

And that’s how you’ll end up if you don’t get your anger in check—out of your mind. Then you’ll be the one waltzing down the street, terrorizing tired office workers with crazed cries of “fuck you!

That’s one bus I don’t want to ride.


Bijoux said...

Rob, your writing was stupendous on this post. I know you concluded on a serious note, but your descriptions were so hilarious to me (from the bus to Brooklyn via Toronto) to (every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed loon) that I was literally in tears, laughing!

Lord knows I love to complain as much as the next guy, although I like to think of it as therapy and a way to lower my blood pressure. I just hope I never resort to making a public spectacle of myself!

Ron said...

Rob, I love the way you presented this post/story and the message you shared.

"There’s nothing liberating about rage. It is a heavy, fearsome chain that comes straight out of your mind.

And that’s how you’ll end up if you don’t get your anger in check—out of your mind."

You are sooooooo right! Rage/anger (for me, anyway) always seems to come from unexpressed feelings that I keep bottled up because I don't say what I need to say WHEN I need to say it. So that when I do eventually express myself, it comes out in rage, and usually from something that has nothing to do with what is happening currently, but rather bottled up emotions.

Isn't it something the stuff we witness living in a city? Like you, I saw/heard a man walking down the street a few weeks ago, CURSING up a storm. Everyone on the sidewalk suddenly cleared a path, as the man shouted, "I'm gonna get you, motherfucker!"

Have a great Saturday, buddy!

Rob K said...

Bijoux, I want you to know that I read your additional comments but for some reason two of them didn't show up on the blog.

I am sorry about this and I would ask you to be patient until I figure out what's going on. (I've had trouble posting comments myself!)

I want to thank you for the nice things you said about my writing. It really is very encouraging and satisfying to read such glowing comments.

I just read your blog post about your trip to New York--and what a trip it was! I loved the photos, especially of Ellis Island, since my grandmother and one of my aunts passed through there.

I also saw your photo of Joe, the street entertainer. He looked like a real piece of work. The world is full of characters just waiting to put on a show.

Thanks for stopping by and do take care!

Rob K said...

@Ron--I know exactly what you're talking about!

You hold things in and you hold things in and then you finally blow up--usually over something minor and it's often directed at the wrong person.

You can't enjoy life this way!

That "MF" guy sounds like a man with serious problem. Stay clear of him!

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your Saturday, buddy!

Bijoux said...

My comments are showing up now. The big apple is always a thrill for those of us who can go back home again!

I have enjoyed your comments on Vent for quite a while now and finally asked Ron if you had a blog. So glad to have found you and your blog!

Rob K said...

Oh, that's the joy of blogging. You meet people through other blogs and pretty soon you've got a little cyber-community.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Rob, you write such thought-provoking and interesting essays - and you do it so beautifully!

I've heard some of these guys, just walking along cursing, over and over and over. I think they appear from time to time in every large metropolis - certainly, London has its share. And isn't it sad how society draws its skirts away and tries to ignore them? Reminds me of ... hmmm ... was it Red Dwarf or The Hitchhiker's Guide that invented the SEP?

An SEP is something that ordinary people simply don't notice. They either choose not to see it, or can't see it because they're so wrapped up in their own lives. SEPs can be small or large, transient or permanent, but they form (while they are there) part of the landscape. It stands for 'Someone Else's Problem'.

Rob K said...

Why, thank you, Jay. I really appreciate that.

I think a large part of the so-called civilized world ignores the mentally ill...until it's too late.

SEP is brilliant! I'll have to look that one up because it accurately describes the way many people--myself included--tend to look at the problems that all around us.

Take care!