I am a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of guy, but I do hold a few grudges. “Grudge” might not be quite the right word, but it’s the word I’m using so you’re just going to have to live with it. I’m talking about things that happened to me long enough ago that I should have forgotten about them, yet which still float up into my consciousness and bug me at fairly regular intervals.
Let me give you an example. Like many of my stupid grudges, this one is related to referees. I have a slight scar on the back of my hand from being slapped so hard during a men’s league basketball game that a blood vessel burst (or something—I’m not a doctor). To my ears, the sound of the guy viciously slapping the back of my hand rang out like a gunshot. But no foul was called. Instead, the other team gathered up the loose ball and took it the other way for a layup. Sometimes I see this strange little scar on the back of my hand and I get really angry. Not at the guy who slapped me, but at the referee. How could he not call that? Grrrwaraaah!
That was to give you an example of how trivial these grudges of mine are. Objectively, this is a stupid thing to have any emotion about fifteen years later. But it’s there.
Now here’s one I wanted to write about today, in the hopes that writing about it would expel the lingering bad mojo. This one starts on September 11, 2001. As you may recall, that was the day when the henchmen of Osama Bin Laden, one of history’s biggest assholes, hijacked a bunch of planes and used them to murder thousands of Americans. Those events led more or less directly to two wars and serious restrictions on our civil liberties, particularly at airports.
On January 1, 2005, I was at the airport in Minneapolis dropping off a friend who had come to visit. I was driving my wife’s car because my car became trapped in the garage when one of the garage door’s gigantic, industrial-looking springs snapped for no reason. (This is the kind of stuff that happens during the winter in Minneapolis.) Turns out those ancient garage doors weigh about 7,000 pounds. Luckily, my wife had been out running errands at the time, so we didn't need to call the garage-door fixer on the holiday.
After I dropped my friend off at the airport, I headed home. Just as I was pulling onto the highway, I saw an airport police car’s flashing lights in my rearview mirror. I had been in the process of merging left-to-right onto the highway when I saw this, so I continued that process. As it dawned on me that I was actually being pulled over, I merged over the other two lanes and came to a stop on the right shoulder.
The airport cop eventually approached. She was clearly angry at me. “Why didn't you pull over to the left?” was her important initial query.
“I was taught to pull over to the right,” I responded, truthfully. I was really confused. For a moment I thought that I had been pulled over for not pulling over correctly. The word “kafka” flashed through my thoughts.
“No,” said the airport cop, “you pull over to the nearest shoulder. What you did was unsafe and I could ticket you for it. You could have caused an accident!”
Now I was pissed. So many possible responses occurred to me. This will surprise you, but I am kind of a smart ass. Unfortunately the presence of police officers seems to bring this trait out rather than suppress it. Here’s what I went with:
“Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t have much practice getting pulled over.”
Needless to say, this didn't go over so well. But I was being pulled over for the dastardly deed of driving a car with expired plates. (You’ll recall at this point that this was my wife’s car. We were able to save the marriage.) So I was not in great legal jeopardy.
Here’s what still bugs me about that day. Our nation was fighting wars that day in two different countries. And those wars traced their casus belli to hijacked airplanes. And this was an airport cop, presumably tasked mainly with helping ensure that the events of 9/11 could never recur. But here she was, training her attention on ... the color of the tabs on my (wife’s) car! How could this be justified?
How can this be justified? The question rings out whenever I think of airports, or airplanes, or cars, etc.
I mentioned above that my grudges are over trivial matters. In writing this one out, though, I see now that it truly is a tale of abhorrent injustice. The amazing thing is that I manage to live my life at all, having been so wronged.