Scientists have a term for rats that are a cut above the rest. These are the vermin that transcend their names. These are the little backsliders too preoccupied perpetuating their miserable existence to waste time with distractions like mirrors and tail and electric currents. These are the "maze-bright", and they can soldier through a maze toward their food faster than all the others.
When the door cracked on my Boeing cage yesterday and the lot of us went running, spilling through the cracks in all directions into the labrynthine terminals of O'Hare International Airport, I'm proud to say it was I- it was this Snotty McShot who found the only bar in the domestic terminal mere minutes after pushing through customs. I was into my second Sam Adams before the "Breckenridge - 2005" ski team in matching shirts, the three hippies with guitars and that guy from Wisconsin in the Cosby sweater got their bearings straight and scurried in.
Tip to note: avoid the moving walkways. There's always an asshole with a Cheops of luggage who thinks it's a ride.
I was chuffed, if that's not too snotty to say. I was calm. Relaxed. Enjoying the cold Sam Adams and the nuts and the chance to let my legs dangle off that tall stool and feel like a kid again. My alma mater was embarrassing some redneck school in a basketball game on a TV in the corner, and the snatches I stole from the adjacent conversation reminded me how fucking funny it is to listen to a drunk try to pick up a woman. I hate being that guy.
Here I am. This is what I wanted. Those awful eight hours of cramped misery are over, and I have my beer and a holiday sitting here before me.
I motion two fingers over the bar, and my new waistcoated friend Rafael hits me with another Sam. Everything's coming together now. I smile at the skiers. I nod to the hippies. Shine on you crazy diamonds! Then from behind me I recognize nasal inflections that could only come from Wisconsin, and there he is, the guy from 41H, the guy who brought frozen food for the flight attendants to keep cold, the guy with that fuckin' Cosby sweater is sitting down between the drunk guy and the tail he was working hard for. Who is this fuckin' guy? My eavesdropping just got grievous. This moment just got stressful. He's fuckin' killing my entertainment over here.
Now, they say, and I'd agree, that Snotty McShot is prone to tall tales. But what happens next is a level of discourse this old curmudgeon has not the talent to contrive on his own.
He talks about cheese. He knows a lot about cheese. Some say cheddar's a boring cheese, but not our guy from Wisconsin. There's always something you can learn from cheddar, he says. It can be as strong or as mild as you like it. Edam's edam. Gouda's good, but it's just gouda at the end of the day. Cheddar, man, it can be anything.
The coach of the redneck school's team calls for timeout, and I'm wishing this guy would do the same. The basketball game breaks for commercial, and here's Nike giving us two minutes of black men jumping around in snappy footwear. I sense a comment about to come from Wisconsin when a news flash warns the bar gathering that an earthquake of 6.8 has just hit Indonesia. There's a brief, collective gasp and the question of how much do these poor people have to suffer begs itself in at least a few minds. By the time the game resumes everyone is safely settled back into conscience-less drinking, and as a conscience-less drinker myself, I say, Hey. Fair enough.
Then a comment comes from the left of me.
"Again in Indonesia," says the drunk guy.
I hate myself for training my ears to do this.
"My God," says the tail. "Is that close?"
"Nah," booms Wisconsin, "That's thousands a miles away."
"Y'know I donated. For that tsunami," says Drunk Guy, hoping his compassion gets his cock in Tail a little faster at a little less cost.
"I heard about that," says Tail. "We did an awful lot for them."
"Sure we did. But I don't get why they needed all that much money. It's just water. You don't gotta clean up after water
. It shoulda just washed out the build'ns, that's all."
"'Specially since they coulda just picked up ther huts and ran."
"What happened," chimes Wisconsin, "is that the current pulled all that water out- 'bout a mile out to sea just b'fore the big wave and those people saw all that new land. Indonesia ain't big. If they didn't all run out there toward it you wouldn't a had these thousands of people dyin'."
"Why'd they run out there? Just 'cuz there was land?"asks Drunk Guy.
"Prolly they saw loads o' fish out there flopping and thought they could catch 'em," Tail explains.
"Well," says Wisconsin. He stands erect and puffs out his chest, a silverback ready to impart wisdom to the lower echelons of the tribe. There's a sense of something momentous.
"I donated and I feel sorry for those people..." he lowers his big voice and says.
"But?" says Tail.
"But God chose to punish these people for whatever reason, and I ain't one to disagree with God. He has a plan."
I sit stewing in my hate, choking Sam Adams down all the wrong holes and wishing that God has a plan for his connecting flight. I glare at him. I think of 1,000 organisms just off the bat that I would rather see thrive in existence before this infected side effect of sexual spillage. I squint like Clint, and I'm begging him for a reason. My head is screaming at him. He catches these eyes I make and he looks back with that child-like look of recognition washing over his face and he smiles and he says, "Hey! 43C!" And he has no idea.
"Yeah," I say. I get up and pay Rafael and walk to my gate early. I take my time wandering through the maze. I stand on the moving walkway and I watch all the people streaming past and imagine belonging to another species. I imagine I would hate that, too.