On the Necessity of Being an Ass

When I first left the small town for the big city, for the outside world, one of the first things that struck me was the lack of petty civility between strangers. You’d try to offer a smile or politely wave at a passing face and that person would at least turn his or her eyes away. Sometimes the friendly gesture earns one even more defensive body language.

Naturally, my first instinct was to presume that everybody else is an ass and I hail from a land of better people, country gentlemen and small town heroes who appreciate and understand the imperative of going through life with a positive and friendly attitude. Within a few years, I was stripped of that arrogant fancy by the realization that I had taken on the same manner.

Why?

Alienation is contagious, and if you spend enough time among the alienated masses, you’re liable to catch it. There’s a whole breed of opportunistic scum who feed off of the anonymity and alienation of the urban bazaar. I call the archetype, “Overly Friendly Black Guy,” though the guy’s not always Black and not always a guy. He can spot you a mile off and he dives in for the kill, smiling, waving, making small talk, and superficially emulating the comfortable and casual manner of a Mayberry cracker barrel.

It’s all bullshit, and at some point within five minutes, you’ll get hit up for money, for an egregious favor, or for joining him in some errand. I lost a wallet when I was twenty to a man who needed a ride to visit his estranged kids. I don’t miss the money in that wallet or the stray dollars here and there that I’ve forked over to shut these petty con artists up, but I do miss what these people did take away from me, which is my unguarded and friendly demeanor among strangers.

America’s a vast, faceless, deracinated, and cultureless consumerist dystopia of hustlers hustling under the aegis of a regime beholden to various factions of hustlers jockeying and jostling like scavengers and insects on a rotting corpse. It will all burn. It must all burn. And if I must burn along with it to ensure that it burns, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

There’s not going to be some bullshit in here about becoming the exception who maintains civility despite it all. That’s pathological altruism. I make a point to ensure that I don’t take this behavior back home with me, though our small towns and country life aren’t far behind the rotting cities and seedy truck stops in their degeneration.

If you smile and wave at me while I’m on the road, I’ll dart my eyes the other way. If you try to speak to me and I have no business with you, I’ll feign deafness. And if you walk up on me too rapidly, I’ll be prepared to strike first and ask questions later. Even the scoundrels out out here aren’t honest scoundrels, and American vice is a cesspit of snitches, setups, and dizzyingly elaborate inception levels of cons embedded within lesser cons.

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