The Rogue Voice

A LITERARY JOURNAL WITH AN EDGE

September 01, 2006

The angriest man on earth

I’m miserable. I’m an asshole, getting treated like an asshole by an even bigger asshole.

He’s got a massive head like a pumpkin, and a wild beard, and he’s a scary-looking dude, like some steroid-bursting, NFL reject defensive tackle on the warpath.


The angriest man on earth
I have a lot to look forward to every day to piss me off

By Dell Franklin

I was an angry young man. Not because of any gripe against society or my parents, or my situation. I was just angry, a red-ass, a high--strung sonofabitch who usually took his anger out on opponents on ball fields and gymnasiums. An asshole. Too competitive. I had a few friends who understood (mostly fellow jocks), and later on, in college, malcon-tent social rejects who understood. But, by and large, everybody else pretty much felt I was an asshole and tried to avoid me.
I never mellowed. I’m no better these days. So what. I enjoy being angry. Thrive on it. Feel it's possibly a natural state of mind. Or possibly I inherited this anger from my father, who was of Russian stock and nearly beat to death a member of a notoriously violent motor-cycle gang in the 1960s as a 50-year-old man over a traffic altercation.
I guess I’m pretty happy BEING angry. A good thing. People tell me anger is bad for your gut. your heart, your psyche. It’s negative energy leading to pessimism and depression, and all this stuff drives you crazy, gives you ulcers and cancer and heart attacks. Well, maybe that’s true. Maybe anger will end up killing me, one way or the other, but I’m unfortunately going to die some day anyway, so I might as well go down an angry sonofabitch.
I throw tantrums, rages. Any little thing will ignite me. If I’m driving along, and the lens of the sunglasses fitting over my pres-cription glasses falls out, like they always do, every day, I have to find them on my lap, and the goddam things won’t clip in, and I don’t want to pull over. It’s hard anyway fitt-ing the lens back in the frame when I’m NOT driving, because I’ve got six thumbs, but I try anyway, knowing all I have to do is bring the lens and frame to the nearby optometry office and they’ll easily fix them, but that’s a pain in the ass. So I fumble around and knock the other lens out and go into a rage, smash-ing the dash, hurling the fragile glasses across the seat, and my dog jumps up and scrambles from the front seat to the back, tail between his legs — there’s constant inner turmoil and outer chaos. I have a lot to look forward to every day to piss me off.

***
Anyway, I used drive down to L.A. every two weeks to see my ailing 87-year-old mother before she died.
Driving to L.A., a hellhole, is not too horrible an experience until, on Highway 101, you get over the hill from Camarillo. But I avoid that five-lane mayhem by cutting off onto Las Posas Road to the coast in Oxnard and taking Highway 1 through Trancas, Point Dume, Malibu and Santa Monica to the 10 freeway.
But before I even get there, I’m skirting along Santa Maria on Highway 101 for another visit with my mother. My sunshade lens and frames are under a seat or scattered somewhere, and I’m not going to stop and find them. I use my terrible old sunglasses, the ones I found in a bar I worked 10 years ago — the kind you buy at the Dollar Store. My radio is inferior, comes and goes — NPR — along the Central Coast, on my way to L.A.
It’s early in the morning. Drivers buzz all around me along the Santa Maria stretch of road. I’m in the passing lane and the bas-tards are on my ass. Well, I’m passing a long line of trucks. I take my time. I see the asshole behind me is on his cell phone. I go slower. I hate cell phones. I visited a friend at a San Luis Obispo motel the other day, and, by the pool, out of eight people sitting around in deck chairs, seven were on cell phones. These people are losing out on some-thing valuable, by not talking to each other. Everybody’s so isolated. It’s a form of snobbism. “I got MY cell phone, you got yours. I don’t need you, you don’t need me.” Our world.
Now the guy behind me, in a sparkling new $60,000 SUV, is nudging up closer to my tail. Blinking his lights. I’m driving an 18-year-old mini-compact four-cylinder Japanese job with duct tape and an insulting bumper sticker meant to piss off Republicans and rich capitalists. He’s getting good and pissed at 7:30 in the morning as I slow down to 58 mph from around 65. Momentarily, he’s placed his cell phone down and is glaring at me, sees me glaring back through my rear view. He flips me the finger. Ha, ha, ha. My anger is ebbing away. Transference of anger to the enemy always cools me down. I thrive on it.
I slow to 55. Cars stack up behind me. I speed up to around 60 to keep neck-and-neck with the line of monster semis in the slow lane, then notch it up to 65 and take my time passing them. When there is finally a car-and-a-half length gap between me and the lead semi, the SUV swerves crazily into that lane and gets beside me; I don’t look over, but sort of peer at him out of the side of my eye without giving him the satisfaction of my full attention, though I can see he’s relatively enraged. Still not looking at him, I flip him a very languid, very dismissive finger as he swerves in front of me to show who’s boss. I take my time pulling in front of the long line of semis at 67 and cruise along while the other long line of drivers who had been behind me take time off from their cell phones to issue me exasperated, angry looks as they whip past. I’ve made their days. Anger is good.

***
It’s an uneventful ride through Santa Barbara and all the little communities south. No use being pissed off. When I reach Camarillo, I turn inland on Las Posas Road and head for Highway 1, and there is clear sailing all the way to Point Magu, where I turn onto 1. But then, up the road a few miles, where it’s single lane, and little traffic, a bus-sized RV pulls out about 75 yards in front of me while I’m tooling along at 55, the speed limit. He saw me coming, but pulled out anyway, when it was obvious I was the only car coming. Now I’m angry. My dog senses it and crawls up to the front and sits shotgun, alarmed, keeping an eye on me, anticipating trouble ahead.
I have to slow down to 25, right on the tail of the RV. He gets it up to 35. He and his female companion admiring the coastline. I see his face in the sideview mirror as I jockey along the median. He’s a smug-looking entitled asshole in his $110,000 monstrosity; he thinks owns the road. A gas hogger. Sports car towed in the back. Going in style. Keeping it at 35. Motherfucker! I know I can pass him a few miles up, where the highway splits for half a mile into a passing lane, but it’s his arrogance that has me riled. Cars pile up behind me. I honk at the prick. He eyes me in his sideview mirror. I shake my fist.
“PULL OVER, YOU COCKSUCKER!” I bellow, head out the window, my gorge rising, heart beating fast like a lion in pursuit. “YOU MOTHERFUCKER! YOU PIECE OF SHIT!”
He ignores me, goes even slower. I’m playing into his hands. He’s getting a big kick out of tormenting a poor slob in a dilapidated tin can. Goddammit, I hate this. I’m miserable. I’m an asshole, getting treated like an asshole by an even bigger asshole. Finally, the road splits and I gun my tiny little four-banger up beside the gas-hogging, road-hogging prick. He’s way up in the cock-pit. Glances down at me unemotionally. Instead of issuing him a salvo of vicious profanity and vile insults, I shake my head sadly and drive on, passing him. I pull in front of him to let everybody else — -all pissed off — pass me. When they are all past me, the passing lane closes. I slow down, and down, and down, to a 20 mph crawl, trying to provoke the asshole in the RV, who shakes his head slowly, sadly, and now I am embarrassed at falling to his despicable level, and start up. What a petty sonofabitch I am, letting my anger turn me into a wretch in my wretched little car. As a human being, this guy, who represents just about everything I hate, is manipulating me, like a puppet. So what if he has to slow down. He wants it that way. Wants to look at the goddam ocean.
I hit the gas and get far in front. So I don’t have to see him again and face his gaze, both of us knowing I’m an asshole, an angry asshole, out of his mind, and carrying on like a fool at 61. An idiot.

***
As I near Malibu, and traffic thickens, the dog senses my rising tension and crawls into my lap, hindering my comfort, squashing my balls, a 65-pound black lab mix. He’s concerned, almost frantic, knowing my volatile nature and explosive temper. In this environment, he knows I’m liable to go berserk and get in a fisticuff on the side of the road. I hate Southern California, the place that spawned me. Still, with my poor dog in a state of heightened agitation, I force myself to relax, calm down, wanting to soothe the helpless animal, who is my best friend, revering me as the center of his universe.
I take deep breaths, like a transcendental meditator. One after another. Find a jazz station. Look at the ocean. The traffic, though pokey and aggravating, moves along at about 35 mph. Then, in Malibu, it’s stop-and-go. A few five-minute waits for things to get going again. I continue to take deep breaths. As we crawl along at 5 mph, there’s a guy in a huge dust-crusted Suburban with tools and equipment stacked ceiling high, and he’s trying to edge into my lane, the passing lane, trying to get in front of me in what can only be described as a bullying manner. He’s got a massive head like a pumpkin, and a wild beard, and he’s a scary-looking dude, like some steroid-bursting, NFL reject defensive tackle on the warpath. He’s grimacing and eyeing me with mounting anger as he continues to creep in front of me, no more than four inches from ramming me. I fully intend to allow this L.A. crazy to get his way. His mammoth vehicle about to squash me, I nod at him. Then he goes berserk. His face grows beet red and he cusses me savagely, eyes popping out in his face, eyes red like those of a bull stalking a matador, and then he wrenches his wheel and I hit the brakes as he lurches in front of me just as traffic starts to flow at about 15 mph. He’s one angry sonofabitch and he’s venting it all at me, his bloodshot eyes pinning me in the crosshairs of his oversized side mirror, waiting for my response.
I jut my head out the window to get a better look at him, and he gives me the finger.
He doesn’t JUST give me the finger, he gives me a huge finger in a manner so animated, so authoritative so urgent, so vengeful, so menacing, that I have no alternative but to return the finger, and I do, shaking it with emphasis, jabbing it up toward my aerial, and now he’s got his giant pumpkin head out the window and twisted around, and he looks positively Cyclopian as he rages at me, cursing, shaking the finger as he drives along, and now my dog is scrunching around in a panic, mauling me with his adrenalin-juiced paws, jutting his head out the window and licking my face to calm me down as I continue jabbing my finger at the motherfucker in front of me, calling him stupid, dumb, a miserable desperate asshole, and finally, when we come to another stop, I am seized with the sudden fear this giant Cyclops is going to get out of his car and possibly kill or maim me. I have never seen a human this angry, in, well, years — maybe ever!
I pull my head back in as the traffic crawls and stare at the deranged fucker, and he con-tinues braying and barking, crawling along, sticking his finger out the window the whole way. Now, as traffic mercifully picks up, he turns back around, looking at the road, his left hand still out, finger pointing at the sky. We get up to around 40 mph, a good flow. He’s still giving me the finger, his mal-evolent eyes on mine in his sideview mirror. I honk. He shakes his finger and raises it for emphasis, and jabs it up in a manner indicating I can “shove it” up my ass. I honk again and he increases the vigor with which he is f1ipping me the bone.
Finally, I start laughing. I am truly happy. My dog licks my face and crawls back to his shotgun position to peer calmly out the window at the ocean. I have been following the lunatic in front of me for a nearly 20 minutes, and he’s still giving me the finger. We stop at another light. He’s still got that finger out there, just holding it, not moving it around, showing me he’s not about to let me off the hook.
He’s still got his Cyclopian eye on me, too. So I jut my head out the window. He’s waiting, waiting…. I give him the peace sign. He shakes the finger violently in response, wagging it back and forth maniacally, and I see he’s gritting his teeth. We slow down for another light, and, head out the window, I cry out, “PEACE, MY BROTHER! W’RE ALL IN THIS BULLSHIT TOGETHER! MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR!”
He goes apoplectic, unleashing a blood-curdling slew of profanity, calls me a faggot, a cocksucker, you name it, he calls me it. He’s started again. Face redder than before. Traffic flows. We’re nearly into Santa Monica by now. Where is this fucker going? We’ve been doing this, from what I can read on my speedometer, for seven miles — a long drive in L.A.
I continue to give him the peace sign. Keep my hand out the window full time, and when he re-emphasizes the rage of his finger-giving, I answer him with an even more intense peace sign. He sees me studying him in his sideview mirror, and mouths the words: “Hippie cocksucker motherfucking faggot.” I mouth the words: “Find love, my brother.”
“FUCK YOU!” he rages on, bouncing around in his seat, his finger still out there. Eight miles, and his finger's still out there. A record. I pull into the second lane and try to edge up beside him, for a nice talk, possibly an understanding, perhaps a truce, but he swerves to cut me off, not about to let me go anywhere, and when the driver who was behind me tries to move up and pass him, he swerves back into the passing lane, cutting him off, too, and we jockey around this way for another mile, disrupting traffic, drawing honks and shouts, to no avail, and he’s still giving me the finger and I’m still giving him the peace sign.
Finally, a mile or two from the 10 freeway, he gets into the left hand turn lane. I slow down to pass him. He’s got his massive face turned toward me, but now he looks absolutely exhausted, haggard, the electric sparking insanity in his eyes gone blank, like fuses burnt out, and I’m grinning as I give him the peace sign, and, with a look of disappointment and, perhaps relief, he flips me a rather half-assed finger as I go on my way, still giving him the peace sign out the window.

***
I’m so relaxed that a momentary stall on the interchange of the 10 transiting onto the 405 doesn’t bother me a bit. I'm almost giddy.
Endorphins ripple through my body. I’m no longer angry. I’m spent. I’m a noodle. My dog rests his muzzle on my lap and I stroke him gently. I’m in the passing lane. L.A. crazies on cellphones are going ape shit behind me, and those veering off to pass me issue me filthy looks. I tool along near the airport, totally at peace. Anger is good.§

Publisher Dell Franklin practices his anger every day in Cayucos, and along the roads of San Luis Obispo County, cursing uppity snobs and people who don’t know how to drive. He can be reached at publisher@roguevoice.com.

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