I’ve been known to unintentionally voice some obnoxious thoughts at extremely unfortunate times. Until this morning, I thought I’d kicked that particular habit. But apparently not.
I had a court appearance scheduled in an unfamiliar rural county, a long ways from metro Atlanta. By the time I arrived at the far flung county seat, my car was low on gas. On the drive home, by the time I spotted a gas station, the fuel gauge read empty.
I pulled in at a pump, next to a much-abused pickup truck, from which a Confederate Flag proudly flew. Though I didn’t see the vehicle’s owner, as I stepped from the car, my mind nonetheless jumped to an uncharitable, and admittedly stereotyped, conclusion about him: Who’s the inbred hillbilly flying the Confederate Flag? And doesn’t he know the Civil War’s over, and the South lost?
One moment later, before my hand could reach the gas pump, two large, heavily-muscled men stood up from behind the pickup (where I hadn’t previously noticed them). Neither gentleman particularly resembled a hillbilly (as I imagined one); nor could I spot any obvious sign of a too-close relationship amongst their parents.
I was about to silently offer thanks for not insulting them aloud, when one of the men spoke. “Mr., do you always go around offending strangers, or is this just our lucky day?” The guy’s voice may’ve carried a southern accent, but he certainly didn’t sound like an illiterate yokel. What he did sound like, however, was one supremely pissed individual.
Meanwhile, the other man didn’t say a word. He simply stared at me. Frankly, I found his silent menace more unnerving than his friend’s expressed anger.
I felt bad, since I’d never meant to voice my anthropological observations. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve offered to buy the men a conciliatory fruit basket. But a single glance at the brooding pair convinced me that circumstances were anything but normal. So, not wishing to overstay my welcome, I tossed off a quick “sorry,” hopped into my car, and peeled out of the parking lot. As I drove off, the second guy finally spoke, yelling at my retreating vehicle “Down here, we call it the ‘War of Northern Aggression.’”
Needless to say, I had no chance to get gas before my hasty exodus. Instead, I filled the tank at a station one town over … a couple of hours later, after the tow truck finally arrived.
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