500 Words Per Day

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Daft Bastard

An older gentleman with an Scottish accent called me a "daft bastard" yesterday. I was in my car, he on the grassy curb next to the forgotten train tracks that run through out my section of town. I had apparently ran a red light at the crossing designed to stop traffic just before the lane met the tracks. These same tracks were built for trains that have not operated in years, perhaps a decade now.

This man was livid that I had run these red lights, as is customary for me, and instead come to a stop at the second set of lights at the road intersection, which in my mind were the only lights that mattered in this situation. This lost soul had chosen the train lights as a reasonable place to cross the street. Other more mindful drivers had stopped at those lights, either out of habit of stopping at the sign of red no matter the circumstances, or perhaps the combination of seeing a red traffic light and a grumpy old pedestrian impatiently waiting to rewrite the rules of the road was a powerful enough visual cue for them to hit those brakes and HALT. To these attentive, conscientious drivers, I salute you.

This does not, of course, let my mild-mannered interrogator off the hook. I reflexively rolled down the passenger side windows when I caught a glimpse of an animated figure off in my peripheral vision. I thought for a moment it was a concerned citizen trying to tell me about a punctured tire on my car or perhaps he was interested in shouting over some encouraging words about my driving prowess. Alas it was no such helpful advice that floated across the lane of traffic, through my open window and into my waiting ear drums. It was a good old fashioned chastisement. The old goat remarked on my failure to stop at the red light and how he was trying to cross the road at that particular spot.

I didn't have the heart or time to counter-berate this man. Time seems to simultaneously stand still and accelerate during these moments of impromptu public confrontations. I never did get a chance to question this man's judgment to cross a busy commuter street where no pedestrian crosswalk exists. An abandoned train track exists there, sure, supported by a set of traffic lights that have obviously outlived their relevance, but a railroad hardly substitutes as an improvised crosswalk for old men.

Like I said, too much logical ammunition to expend on a helpless old man, too little time. The real traffic lights ahead of me switched to green and all I was able to muster was a quick shake of my head, a hiked thumb stabbing backwards and a rather dismissive comment about the train that no longer ran on those tracks. Then I was off, but not before my friend on the curb delivered his parting shot.

"I was trying to cross the road there, ya daft bastard!"

Daft bastard. It had a certain ring to it that confused me more than it actually offended. I immediately thought of Mike Myers in his Austen Powers movies. Then just as quickly I made the associative link and realized it reminded me of the Fat Bastard character.

Daft Bastard vs. Fat Bastard. Yes, I may have been a dick for not going along with the crowd and stopping at a fake set of red lights to allow an old man to jaywalk across four lanes of traffic. In my mind, being called a daft bastard yesterday was less a reflection on my performance as a driver and more of a commentary on a recurring theme in my life of late.

Allow me to explain a little further. I quit my job last Thursday, yet my own team supervisor was still expecting me to come into the office yesterday and work my regular shift. I had even committed to going in to work, the daft bastard that I am, even though I had tendered my letter of resignation and contacted the appropriate representatives about my intention to quit. Well, I never did show up for my shift. Why should I? Aside from the obvious, I had quit and I couldn't stomach going back to that environment for even a few more hours.

It was all a miniature mess of misunderstandings, bad timing and administrative mix ups but I got it all resolved this morning. I suppose if I really wanted to disengage from my contract good and proper, I would have forced myself to return to the office, work a rather meaningless two hours into my shift, then pay a visit to my recruitment representative to officially sign off on my resignation. This rep was still on vacation last week, otherwise I would have walked off the job last Thursday instead of dragging things out into ambiguous employment territory this week.

I think the take home message here is I'm a daft bastard. I'm a daft bastard for failing to obey obsolete traffic lights. I'm a daft bastard for not kowtowing to the whims of belligerent, elderly pedestrians. I'm also an insanely daft bastard for leaving a job without first lining up a new gig to hop over to.

Finally, I'm a daft bastard for having the guts to quit the first job I truly despised. In that sense, sometimes being a one dense, daft son of a bitch is the smartest move you'll ever make and a necessary evil if you plan on saving your life.