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My preconceived notions about people are almost always correct.
I recently turned 51 and spent some time on my birthday thinking about the habits I’ve cultivated over the years that have enhanced my life. Probably the most useful habit has been developing a heroic list of prejudices. I’ve made up my mind about a lot of things and am not likely to change it in the 24.1 years the government tells me I have left. These prejudices have been formed after much experience, save me time and trouble, and have been proven right time and again.
Just the other day, I was ordering a meal, and the teenaged server was chewing gum and chatting with another teenager while taking my order. Though my order was a simple one, I knew he would get it wrong. I told my wife, “I bet my hamburger has pickles on it even though I told him to leave them off.” Sure enough, there were two dill pickles on my hamburger, leaking pickle juice into the bun. He also called us “guys,” even though my wife is clearly not one. I like teenagers, but those who chew gum and yap and can’t tell a man from a woman should find a line of work that doesn’t involve serving the public.
Whenever I’m driving and another driver does something that irritates me, I assume it is a woman. I even say to my wife, “What is that woman doing?”
“How do you know it’s a woman?” my wife replies, a little irritated herself. “Because a man wouldn’t do that,” I say.
Most of the time it turns out to be a woman carefully deciding what to do. Men are impatient and bull ahead, while women slow down to consider the situation. This is no doubt wiser, but it aggravates me just the same, hence my experience that the drivers most likely to annoy me are women.
If someone skinny invites us to their home for dinner, prejudice tells me the food will be lousy. They will serve obscure vegetables, most of them raw, with ice water to drink. I will gag on the vegetables and drink copious amounts of water to force them down. When it’s time for dessert, they’ll bring out dried figs or prunes. If you want a good meal, get yourself invited to a plump person’s house. I have many plump friends, all of them excellent cooks. Interestingly, they live much longer than my skinny friends, who are struck dead by cars while jogging or bicycling. If my skinny friends had been plump, they might have bounced and lived.
I’m definitely prejudiced about kids with certain hairstyles. If by the first grade a boy has a Mohawk, mullet, or rattail, you’re looking at a future drain on society. This is no fault of the child’s, who likely didn’t choose his hairstyle. It is, however, an indication of his parents’ idiocy. By the second grade, his ears will be pierced; by third grade, he’ll sport a tattoo; by fourth grade, he’ll be smoking; by fifth grade, he’ll be back in fourth grade, where he will remain until the age of 18 before being granted a diploma and turned loose on the world. If you’re in first grade, have a Mohawk, mullet, or rattail, and can read this, you should run away from home and live on the streets. It’ll be tough the first few years, but you’ll be better off in the long run. Trust me, kid, you don’t stand a chance at home.
My prejudice against people with certain kinds of hairstyles also includes people who don’t have hair. By that, I don’t mean people like me, whose hair has fallen out. I mean young men who have shaved off perfectly good hair, listen to Toby Keith, and drive a truck taller than a house. Whenever I hear someone say “Young people are our future,” I think of these doorknobs and shudder.
Air travel has allowed me to develop even more prejudices, most of them having to do with old ladies (by which I mean anyone older than 51, of course). Invariably, they carry on five overstuffed shopping bags and a purse the size of Montana containing a whiny toy poodle. They will block the aisle for 10 minutes, cramming their superfluous things in the luggage bins. Really? You really needed to buy that three-foot loaf of bread? They don’t sell bread in your town? A dog? In your purse? Isn’t there a kennel where you live? If I see more than three old ladies with toy poodles waiting to board my flight, I rent a car and drive home.
Speaking of old people, they’re at their worst in grocery stores. I know their knees hurt and their hips are shot. I don’t mind that they move slowly. But why do they have to stand in the middle of the aisle studying the fiber cereals, oblivious to anyone who might want to squeeze by? Listen, Granny, grocery aisles are like roads. Stick to the right, leave room to pass. Pull over to the side if you’re stopping to look at something. And don’t give me that “greatest generation” nonsense. Just because you caused a depression and started a world war doesn’t make your generation better than anybody else’s.
No list of my prejudices would be complete without mentioning how deeply intolerant I am of extremists, be they liberal or conservative. While I support the Occupy Wall Street movement, why do the protestors have to be so sloppy? Can’t you slip home to take a bath occasionally and change clothes? You think we want to turn over our country to someone dressed like Ernest T. Bass? As for you banking executives, are you truly that stupid? The taxpayers bailed you out, and you repaid us by giving yourselves a raise for screwing up our country. Stop being obnoxious, rapacious morons. If every last one of you lost your job and had to work patching potholes, it would be the best thing to happen in our country in a long time.
I saved my favorite prejudice for last—television preachers and their tendency to be frauds whose “churches” are actually family businesses. Whenever a TV preacher retires, his “church” launches a search for a replacement before announcing God has “led” them to the TV preacher’s son. Praise the Lord! There is, of course, one notable exception to this—Robert Schuller had his daughter replace him, but only after his son turned out to be a snoozer. Other than that, Joel Osteen succeeded John Osteen, Jonathan Falwell replaced Jerry Falwell, Gordon Robertson followed Pat Robertson, and Franklin Graham took over for Billy Graham. One can only hope the old saying is wrong, and that the nuts will fall far from the tree.
I feel much better having shared my prejudices. Feel free to send a letter and tell me yours, so long as you don’t say anything bad about writers.
Illustration by Ryan Snook.
This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue.