Monday, October 27, 2008


Recently some genius in a lumbering sport-futility vehicle backed over the hood of my car. While I was in it, minding my own business, waiting for the behemoth in front of me to move forward – not, um, backward. I assumed I was just waiting for the light to change -- I say 'assumed' because I couldn't SEE the light; all I could see was this massive waste of sheet metal in front of me.

Obviously the guy didn't see me back there either. From his absurdly elevated perch high above the clouds, he no doubt had a lovely panoramic view of much of the city, but alas, he was unable to see the small economy car waiting patiently behind him. Despite sideview mirrors rivaling the Hubble Telescope, his monstrous machine simply didn't allow him to observe his environment in a way that was not dangerous to the rest of us on the street. Or maybe he just didn't look.

I just sat there, incredulously, honking my horn but unable to get his attention, and wondering if he was going to just back right over the top of me like it was some Oklahoma City Monster Truck Rally. In the back of my mind I could hear SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! BE THERE! WATCH THE PUNY LITTLE MAZDA DRIVER GET SMASHED BY THE FURY OF BIIIIGFOOT! Did I mention that I live in San Francisco, work from home and mostly take public transit — in other words, I drive my car once in a blue moon, and this guy randomly decides this is his moment to back over the top of someone. Wunderbar. I couldn't figure out just WHY the oblivious fool was suddenly BACKING UP in the middle of traffic. It made no sense to me at all, but then again, at that moment I was mostly just wondering if I was about to die.

Luckily, at some point he figured out that something didn't seem right, and he stopped. Halfway over my hood. I looked up and saw, inches from my windshield, something beautifully and perfectly ironic, almost like it was a sign from some supernatural prankster. Right there on the back of the SUV was one of those plastic silver Christian fish symbol thingies, and right next to it was the shiny chrome emblem of the vehicle – and I could swear it said, in big bold macho letters, D E N I A L.

As the panic receded and my eyes began to refocus, it was clear that what it really said was 'DENALI', a General Motors monstrosity named after a National Park in Alaska. They like to name those things after places in nature that they will never actually see, since mostly they're used as urban assault vehicles – which could be considered rather ironic all by itself. Perhaps I was in shock, but the juxtaposition of the fish and the too-easily transposed name of the massive metal beast put me in a state of transcendent jocularity. I momentarily pictured myself on YouTube, the camera view mirroring mine as the two Symbols Of Utter Denial presented themselves defiantly before my awestruck eyeballs.

By now I was really just grateful that the guy had actually stopped short of crushing my head, so I got out calmly and asked him if he would mind giving me his insurance information. Actually, he was more shaken up than I was, and when I then asked why on Earth he was going in reverse instead of forward like everyone else, all he could stammer out was "I-I-I'm sorry; I-I-I d-d-didn't see you."

I took down his info, convinced I was dreaming the whole bizarre event, and he was fully cooperative (and rather distraught at the wreckage he'd made of my little car), so I really couldn't get all that mad. The poor guy had likely just watched too many commercials and saw himself scaling windswept mountains in his indestructible all-terrain Galactic Cruiser, only to end up with way more vehicle than he was capable of handling for his daily commute to some shitty cubicle. Denial, I chuckled to myself, wondering if my car would be considered fixable or totaled.

And then he said it.

He really shouldn't oughtta have said it, especially not to ME of all people (but of course he couldn't have known that), but he said it nevertheless. The one thing I just can't bear to hear, ever.

He said, "Praise the Lord that nobody was hurt." Yeah, that's what he said. No doubt he thought it was a nice thing to say. Anybody else might have agreed with him, or at least just let it go. But, you see, my mind went right back to that stupid chrome fish, right next to the word DENIAL, and I just couldn't let him get away with it.

"Praise the Lord?" I said, "PRAISE THE FUCKING LORD?"

I had so much to say, so many things to yell in his face, but none of them were coming into my mind. The absurdity of it all was clouding my frontal lobes and all I could do was shout, over and over, right in his face, "PRAISE THE LORD, OLD MAN? PRAISE THE GODDAMNED LORD?"

Nervously he climbed back into his truck and clumsily drove it down off my smashed hood, and all the while I was standing there, throwing random stuff at him (pieces of my headlights, some kid's discarded sippy cup, a pocketful of small change), screaming louder and louder, "PRAISE THE LORD? PRAISE THE LORD, YOU STUPID IGNORANT FUCK?" I'm pretty sure I scared the shit outta the guy. I think he thought I was nuts. Maybe he was right.

All I can say is, at that moment I came face-to-face with everything that is wrong with this wacked culture we live in. The guy was probably sixty years old, driving a ridiculous environmental disaster of a vehicle (and driving it inexplicably backwards). He came this close to turning me into the meat in a steel sandwich, and instead of having an epiphany that maybe he's doing it all wrong; maybe while driving his DENALI he's actually living in DENIAL — instead of anything sensible like that, he chalks it all up to Divine Intervention and goes on his clueless merry way.

OK; sure — I had his license number, his contact info, his insurance policy number. I probably should have called the cops but they likely wouldn't have shown up anyway, and in all likelihood I could count on Mister Christian to just accept the blame that was undeniably his, and the insurance companies would hash it out and fix my car.

But I just couldn't get past the surreal absurdity of it all.

Deep denial is a powerful force. It operates in the realm of Religion, obviously, and it also has its hand in the multilayered nachos of greed, waste, and entitlement. All of which seem to have become American values, replacing the more sustainable ones I remember being taught as a kid (thrift, trustworthiness, pragmatism, etc).

Denial plays its role in Nationalism/Patriotism just as fiercely. Hence the whole Bush=America nonsense, in which criticizing an administration means you hate America. Any moron can see that criticizing a particular administration is in essence saying “hey man, you are not acting like American government was set up to act” and is therefore a powerful display of patriotism (these days often risking oneself to do so), while blind subservience to whatever agenda the powermongers set is the opposite of patriotism.

Of course, in the secular realm at least we have a Constitution to fall back on, one that was written by men we are familiar with, whose other writings are available, all in relatively plain English that is only occasionally ambiguous due to the unforeseen changes taken place since it was penned. No one claims it was handed down by some mysterious supernatural force, and it is a living document, open to being changed as necessary. Surely there are, as there is with anything else, differences over differing interpretations of those gray areas, but at heart it is a document we can stand behind with reason rather than blind faith. (lately this doesn’t seem to matter much, as the status quo renders the Constitution ‘just a piece of paper’, but my hope is that it will still serve as a grounding to return to when the usurpers are defeated — or else we will have simply proven to have been a failed — and rather short-lived, by historical standards — experiment).

The religious crowd, however, relies on a cobbled-together and endlessly edited (in secret by Church scribes with agendas) collection of medieval and prehistoric tales that have mysterious origins and often contradict each other, with no way to verify any of it other than to refer back to the circular reasoning that somehow it’s from ‘God’ because it says it is. On top of that, each of a zillion sects has its own set of interpretations, many in complete opposition to the others.

So...praise the Lord that the ol' Clueless Christian elderly tank driver didn't kill me while he was busy being self-absorbed and self-centered. Thank God that He was watching over me when one of His many moronic followers went about his usual business of acting like he's the only person on the planet. Hallelujah that I got to be a metaphor for the senseless destruction wrought by those who needn't take any responsibility for the stupid things they do, because God is on their side and whatever they do must surely be His will. The Lord works in mysterious ways, doggone it. You betcha.

* * *