Ten Hours

“If you have any guns they have to go in the trunk.”

“I… I don’t have any guns.”

“That’s fine if you do, they just will have to go in the trunk. I’m a firm believer in gun control! Keep both hands on the gun when you’re firin’ it! Ha!”

And thus began my ten-plus hours in a car with what can only be described as an ultra right-wing hippie. I’d gone to Craigslist to get a rideshare to San Francisco. I had several possible leads, but the only one that left when I wanted to (and wasn’t going in a completely decrepit car) was one that I felt sort of sketchy about. The guy’s reply had contained spelling errors, on the phone he’d seemed sort of out of it, and he said that he could take me to a BART station, but not into SF proper.

I had a bad feeling about this rideshare. A bad feeling that turned out to be entirely justified.

The guy’s bead obscured most of his face and chest, and his hair was in a white tangle on top of his head. I tried to keep the conversation focused on niceties like travel and music, but every so often things like this came up:

“I’m more Republican than most Republicans.”

“I say, you get six months on welfare. Six months! If you don’t have your shit together after that, you should put a bullet in your head!|

“This fuckin’ health care bill is government-run extortion! Just a big present for the insurance companies! Before we had insurance, everyone could affor health care!”

“That government bailout was bullshit. Fuck ’em.”

“There are people living off welfare. Did you know that? They’re reachin’ into my pocket to live. Fuck ’em.”

“I’m in favor of local currencies.” Me: “What do you think about the gold standard?” “I’m all for that shit!”

“I used to be in a gang. I hurt a lot of people.”

“If you can’t take care of your own shit, then fuck you!”

“This world would be great if there weren’t so many fuckin’ idiots in it!”

“We haven’t been a real democracy for over fifty years.”

(I would like to emphasize that I try to use exclamation points sparingly. However, given this man’s volume, passion, etc. necessitates liberal use of them.)

Ten hours of this. Ten hours. I managed to sleep for a while, and we did have some pleasant conversations, but for the most part this guy seemed to be driven entirely by anger. When he was talking about things he enjoyed, like music, hiking, or drug experiences, he lit up, and went on about how wonderful it was. However, it only took a slow car, the presence of the highway patrol, or any other aggravation to get him going on about “fuckin’ idiots” once again.

It was not his conservatism that bothered me. (Conservatism weirdly blended with hippie philosophy, I might add.) I can deal with people less liberal than myself. What bothered me was that his most animating feeling was rage, the thing that fueled his conversation about politics, society, life, etc., was disdain for others, frustration at something that he saw as wholly malevolent, a lack of joy when it came to percieving others.

I sympathize with political anger. I really do. All too often, though, we forget that the vast majority of the things that we do, we do right. We are not living in an unfixable, unchangable world, nor are we in the First World under the heel of something implacable. Rage has it’s place, but if it defines us, we lose. We get sour and feel impotent, and rather than a wonderfully complex world pointing in all directions, we see slings and arrows coming directly for us.

I got out, after ten hours, and made my way quickly into the BART station. I cracked open the Neal Stephenson book I’m reading, and sunk into the intellectual joy of the fiction. I rode the train for the better part of an hour, and relaxed.

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