Paul Scofield has a great poker line in _Quiz Show_: “If you look around the table and you can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you.” That piece of wisdom often haunts me when observing all the strange people that pass through “Common Grounds”:http://www.commongroundsarlington.com/. The minute I look around and can’t tell who the oddball in the coffee shop is, it’ll be me.
So I had better keep pointing them out while I still can. Yesterday’s exhibit was a husky teenybopper with his beard tied up into one of those long, thin braids down the middle. He was hanging around the tables outside, and as I was leaving, he was taunting traffic. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t drunk, but he was standing in the middle of the right lane, completely blocking it and forcing the cars to go around him. Not too many of them honked, either — probably because he was big and they figured he might be loco enough to try to smash their windshield or something. As I was pulling out he had begun standing right in between the lanes and pretending to step into one or the other as cars were going by, making them stop or slow or swerve. All the while he had a grin on his face, as if to say: “I may not be the funniest guy in the world right now, but I’m pretty close!”
The fact that Beard Braid Boy is still alive (I assume) fills me with hope for our civilization. Think about it: in a lawless society, your basic Mad Max milieu, natural selection would weed the guy right out. One of those drivers would be annoyed enough to swerve toward him instead of away from him, maybe even speed up a tad, and he’d be roadkill. But in our world, even the most road-raged driver wouldn’t dream of such a thing — moral compunctions aside, the driver would know that in all likelihood he’d go to jail for running a guy down. Such is our society that even catastrophically stupid “Darwin Award”:http://www.darwinawards.com/ magnets are protected under the law. Why does that fill me with hope? Because we are all catastrophically stupid, at least some of the time. So taunt away, Beard Braid Boy! Strange as it may seem, we’re lucky to have you around.