chutzpah in a traffic jam

So here I am, cranky and anxious at a clogged intersection, praying feverishly that A) the rattling old electric-blue jalopy I just sank more than three thousand bucks into doesn’t decide to lose a wheel or randomly explode or otherwise drop dead in the middle of Albany-Shaker Road; and B) that gridlock will let up just enough for me to inch through that lovely green light 500 feet ahead.

My windows are down. I’m blasting NPR. And suddenly, materializing like a vision from the ether of heavenly exhaust, this slammin’ hot German sedan rams its nose into stalled traffic from a nearby gas station, crosses two lanes choked with cars, zips blithely across mine and then whips a quick left into the throng. Just like that. No apology, no hesitation. Like Moses parting the Red Sea or Genghis Khan invading the Khwarazmian Empire, and no, that’s not hyperbole.

As this conquering force darts before me, I catch sight of the driver through his own open windows: Young guy, dark hair, little beard. An easy vehicular sass about him as he turns the wheel. Chutzpah embodied in a sleek black Benz.

The guy looks my way, throws me a smile and snaps me a quick wave. I respond by unhinging my jaw and cracking open my mouth into the largest, most cavernous and expressive oval of flabbergasted awe that I think I’ve ever unleashed on a fellow mortal.

It says: HOLY SHIT DID YOU JUST DO THAT?

It also says: ARE YOU, LIKE, THE WORLD’S BIGGEST ASSHOLE?

It then adds: IF SO, WHY DON’T I HATE YOU FOR IT?

Finally it says: IT MUST BE BECAUSE I KINDA SORTA ADMIRE YOU, BENZ-BOY.

I start laughing. I can’t help it. I like the guy. I keep laughing as the light turns a lovely green and we all start inching toward it, the little bearded scoundrel just ahead and beside me in a parallel lane.

And then, because I’m still laughing, because my windows are open, because his are, too, and because I’m a white-haired 53-year-old dame who doesn’t give a shit any longer what young men in Benzes think of me, I hit the gas, pull up beside him and shout while I’m passing:

YOU! HAVE! BALLS!

He laughs and gives me a thumb’s up, and we both go our merry ways. I make it through the intersection and down one road, and then another, and then another. My car doesn’t explode. My wheels don’t fall off. I’m safe at home, still chuckling and no longer cranky and anxious as I muse: Hmmm. Balls. Maybe I have some, too.

weird and proud

On one of the online dating sites, i.e., those cyberspatial wastelands of Men Posing With Fish, Men Posing On Motorcycles and Men Posing with Fish On Motorcycles, the following question is asked of all willing participants:

Which would you rather be?

  • Normal
  • Weird

If you know anything about me, including anything I’ve said, written, conveyed with bizarre dance moves or otherwise expressed  in the past 53 years, you’ll know that I checked “Weird.” Not only did I check “Weird,” I wrote WHAT A WEIRD QUESTION as a footnote, because the way I see it, this is a well-duh issue. Everyone in their right mind should want to be weird.  I don’t trust people who don’t want to be weird. In fact, on the website in question, I automatically eliminate every man who checks “Normal.” I’m like, seriously, dude? What makes you think “Normal” is actually a thing? In my experience, there IS no normal. There ARE no normal people. There are only weird people who check “Weird” and weird people who check “Normal,” and I would MUCH MUCH MUCH rather spend time with self-aware weirdos than unwitting weirdos in denial.

I was reminded of this in Pittsburgh over the weekend, not because the city itself is divided into Weird and Normal camps (although most cities are) but because the airbnb my daughter had secured was decorated with such faux-Victorian flare, and outfitted so ornately with lace, dolls and “Gone With the Wind” cut-outs, that I instantly started to psychoanalyze its owner. I also instantly started to wonder whether we were trapped in some cheap horror movie of 1980s vintage, and I began running odds on which among our large group of travelers would be the first to die at the hands of a little Swiss manikin dressed in lederhosen.

DOOMED PERSON A: Did you hear that?

DOOMED PERSON B: Hear what?

DOOMED PERSON A: That high-pitched laugh coming from the bathroom! You must have heard it!

(High-pitched laugh comes from the bathroom.)

DOOMED PERSON C:  What do you mean, a high-pitched laugh coming from the bathroom?

(DOOMED PERSON C goes into the bathroom.)

DOOMED PERSON A: DON’T GO IN THERE, CHAD! STOP!

DOOMED PERSON C: AHHHHHHHHHH!!!

DOOMED PERSON A: OH, MY GOD! CHAD! CHAD!

But nothing like that actually happened (and no one named Chad was actually with us). The apartment was clean and commodious. It was well-stocked with snacks. Packets of ear plugs were laid out to combat the noise of a nearby rail line. Its aura was far less evil than good-natured in its obsessive kitsch, and as we settled in, I felt at ease. Its owner’s forthright eccentricity began to reassure me; there was an openness to it, an innocent joy about it, that made me suspect we belonged to the same extended tribe of colossal oddballs. I knew nothing about her beyond her fondness for Clark Gable and satin bedspreads, but she was familiar to me. She was kin. And I knew, just knew, that she wouldn’t check “Normal,” either.