Waiting in line at Itty Bitty Burger Barn is a given. And with the cramped space, you can’t help but overhear what other patrons are gabbing about. Seeing that this is Texas, there’s also that auto-invite to chime in, make friendly with other locals, and leave a locale with new best friends for life.
Next to the front door hung a posterboard signed with well wishes, requesting donations. The kid’s face and the dates of his life were displayed prominently. Quick math tells me this death is considered more tragic than others.
No matter the reason, this is a loss of life. We’re all humans — young, old, black, white, American, Japanese, Australian, whatever. Any loss of life is a loss of that one’s potential. His or her output. His or her contributions. His or her being.
So when the people around me started talking about his accident — a single-car incident where he smashed into a tree so hard that it split his vehicle in two — I had to listen in.
“Yes, so terrible.”
“Saw that on the news last night.”
“I think it was right where the road curves over there.”
“I saw balloons at the site.”
And then I knew it was coming. I already pre-judged the man to my left as the curmudgeonly sort. And although I revel in being oh-so-right pretty much all of the time, I held my breath and waited for his crabby comment to be surprise sympathy — if not for the driver who lost his life, then at least for the family he left behind.
Alas, no. Ol’ Grandpa McCrankypants went full in with the criticisms on children today, and I knew it wasn’t going to be my place to sit quietly and let him bask in his false sense of superiority.
“Well, maybe if he wasn’t driving so fast,” he started.
“Sir, do you remember being 20?” I started with. “I know I drove like an absolute jackass.”
I expected a condescending, “You wouldn’t know what I’m talking about, little lady,” but he instead decided to talk about his own driving skills as a teen. After all, talking about one’s specific experiences can’t be refuted with generalizations, no matter how much of a liar you are.
“I chose to drive fast on roads that were flat and open,” he began.
I continued, “Nah, man. You know you drove like a jackass.”
Then the old lady behind me, “Yeah, I drove like a jackass too!”
And then ALL the old bitties in the Itty Bitty chimed in and made sure to proudly use the word JACKASS in their retelling of youthful vehicular mishaps.
He stammered. He hemmed. He hawed. Then in a spectacular bob-and-weave, pick-and-roll maneuver, he changed courses and tried to get the bitties back on his side.
“Well, the drugs these kids do today…”
And — OH NO! — the bitty behind me wasn’t gonna let that stand.
“I’ve been around since the early 40s, and there was a lot of alcohol back then! There might be a lot more choices in drugs today, but we were plenty hopped up too!”
Then the bitties all started nodding and retelling their youthful drunken mishaps. Some even admitted to — GASP! — taking a nip or two these days.
And that, my friends, is how I riled up a burger barn full of bitties.