This morning, I missed out on a fight over the quality of my hat.
The offending head wear is a brown-and-plaid-toned, thin-brimmed cap like the one dads used to wear with a straight face during the 1950s, as they rested in their lawn chairs, smoking pipes, drinking Hamms beer, watering the lawn, and smackin' the kids upside the head for misbehavin', all simultaneously. Throw in a set of severe looking eyeglasses and you get the complete picture. But for the fact that these hats are sold in surf shops, they would be decidedly uncool. But my 2 1/2 year-old daughter really liked me wearing it, so I picked one up on my way home from the Piggly Wiggly.
This morning--just one day after the purchase--someone dared to challenge my choice of lids. This happened much faster than I expected. And even more disturbing was the fact that I was confronted about my hat by none other than THE Orange County Douche Bag ("OCDB").
The OCDB species is indigenous to the area: Pasty white dude piloting a moderately expensive car (new model Infinity, in this case), sporting designer wrap-around Gucci sunglasses, tight "Affliction" t-shirt, "True Religion" jeans, blinding silver watch with a dial bigger than his pinhead, and a David Schwimmer haircut that looked like he had applied gel to his bangs then slammed a screen door into his face. (Quick reminder: I am talking about a male here.) Some of them might even be seen in the very hat that this particular DB saw fit to chastise. In its natural habitat, the OCDB poses no significant threat--one will generally divert its attention to ogling OC Chicks (definition pending) and lying about how often he has gotten laid lately. It is rare for an OCDB to confront a member of the same sex for any reason. In fact, on any given business day, this particular OCDB would probably be some sort of executive or semi-executive, headed to work--sort of like me, but in this case, pastier and much, much fatter.
On this particular Sunday, OCDB was bored. Really bored.
I was driving to work, minding my business, wearing my hat. I had not been driving erratically, had not flipped anyone off for at least three blocks, and had not even cut anyone off yet. (In other words, I was having an "off" day already.) I was simply cruising along, at the speed limit, thinking about how delighted I was to be headed to work on Sunday. I stopped at the signal just outside John Wayne Airport. There was no one else around, either on the street or at the stop light.
It was at this point that OCDB pulled up next to me in his new Infinity. He was alone in the car--there was no one in the car to impress. No co-DBs. No blond college girls. As an OCDB-cum-solo, he was the last guy on earth I would have thought would want to start a fight this morning.
But I was wrong. As he started laughing, I realized that he was insulting my hat. In fact, he said something really creative like "Hey, that's a stupid hat!" I looked at him with no expression at all--no anger, no humor, no anything. The truth is, the hat is kind of funny.
OCDB motioned for me to roll down the window. Anticipating a good-natured laugh between two OCDBs over my now-controversial hat, I complied. But to my surprise, as the window came down, I heard him "popping off" at me. As of this point, I had not said anything to provoke this. But all by himself, he escalated his situation. After he was done insulting my hat, he started in on my car. And how slow it is. And how I must think I'm fast, but in reality, I'm really slow. And how I am a pussy. (This in the span of about 10 seconds.) There was no single unified theme to his rant; it began with a chuckle about my hat, then a rhetorical question about whether it was Sunday [in fact, it was], followed by speculation about my car's handling, and finally, a declaration that I was a pussy. Again, I offered no expression and no words. Not even a one-fingered salute, which would have been entirely appropriate under the circumstances. I just watched and listened as he worked himself into a frenzy, until it was no longer clear to me where he was going with this. I expected that, when the light turned green, OCDB would blast off, so as to demonstrate how fast his car was, try to cut me off, or otherwise do something else to engage.
Instead, OCDB did nothing. When the light turned green, I rolled up the window and drove through the intersection at a normal pace. As the window ascended, it choked out the last, frustrated words of OCDB, who continued to yell at me, from behind, about how much faster he was and how I should pull over so that he could show me. (The irony in that was probably lost on him as he continued to rant, but I thought it was pretty good.) I expected he would try to follow me, but he did not. Rather than race up behind me to continue his tirade, demonstrate how fast his car was, or both, he slowed down and pulled over somewhere behind me. Maybe he thought I would come back to hear him out. I kept rolling, dangerously close to the speed limit, as OCDB just sat there by the side of the road, disappearing into the depths of my rear view mirror.
The entire episode had run its course--from ridicule, to anger, to challenge, to backing-down--all without any input from me. I didn't even have time for a one-liner. I may as well have been Amish. It was very unsatisfying.
The whole thing was actually very confusing--I wasn't sure what to make of it. I did not feel any of the desired effects--intimidation, provocation, anger. Instead, I was just disappointed by OCDB's lack of creativity or follow-through. Truthfully, it made me want to take my hat back to the store where I bought it, so that I could select an even more obnoxious one, then try again in the hopes that I could attract more coherent and creative ridicule next time. What kind of knob has nothing better to do in the Irvine/Newport area on a weekend than drive around, by himself, in a luxury car, trying to pick a fights with random yuppies wearing funny hats, only to totally back down when the opportunity presents itself?
Deep down, I suspect OCDB probably wanted to ask me where he could get a hat like mine, but was too shy to just ask. If he had asked, I would have urged him to get one, so that he could complete his look.
And to OCDB, itself, be it known: I drive the same route to work every day, in the same car. Hope to see you there again. Next time, consider using complete sentences when you smack-talk. While I cannot promise that you will succeed (at smack-talking or anything else), your chances are better if your target audience can decipher your words.