Photographer Patrick Fitzgibbon and I had just made a right hand turn onto Broadway, out of the 2News parking facility located in the Wells Fargo building in downtown Salt Lake City. Moments earlier we had just
Commented on how sharp the news truck looked, after a sign company had recently wrapped the vehicle in sharp, crisp graphics. "I think it looks pretty cool," I commented as I slapped my satchel in back of the truck, and perched myself proudly in the passenger seat.
Patrick was building his argument for how he thinks the show, Breaking Bad, of which we are both fans, will end in a few episodes, when I saw the salute, and the hateful face that eventually morphed into a gleeful grin the moment the saluter was certain that I had seen his insult.
His satisfaction was an oozing, slippery smile that crept onto his face like that of a movie villain, when he blows up a building, or triggers a trap door that sends the hero into a cavernous dungeon filled with cobwebs and Gila Monsters.
I lost connection with Patrick's theories for several minutes as I pondered the anonymous insult, hurled at me for likely no other reason than, I worked in media. "I'm just shocked," I crooked my head and shut my eyes, searching for the logic, "that a perfect stranger thinks it's ok to insult us for no other reason than he sees us in this truck."
The man appeared to be a functioning member of our society and by that I mean, he wasn't a wild haired maniac kicking around the streets of Salt Lake City, wearing a pair of ski pants for the third month in a row and screaming randomly at passersby about flying saucers.
He seemed to be someone who understands social cues and norms. He was dressed smartly in a green, pressed button up shirt and a pair of creased khakis. He likely says "yes sir," and "No sir," has a firm handshake, and opens the door for his wife. He could have been on his way to a business meeting, or to pay his mortgage at the bank branch located in the building in which I work. Oddly, the sight this gaudy news van, made him go "caveman." His docile, casual thoughts about his next vacation, how he would pay his kids tuition, or what he might eat for dinner, were interrupted kinetically, by a visceral, prehistoric tool box, from which he pulled out "the bird" to insult some anonymous stranger, who was passing the time of a 20 minutes ride to Centerville, Utah, by chatting about a program on basic cable.
Sadly this kind of thing happens pretty regularly. Several months ago, as I stood outside a downtown tattoo parlor, as police swarmed a neighborhood, looking for a man who had recently fired a gun at two people, a pleasant fellow sat calmly on the crumbling stairs outside an aging, brick apartment building sipping a Pabst Blue Ribbon and taking short drags off of quickly shrinking cigarette butt. He nodded his head, and smiled enthusiastically at me as I waited for a public information officer from the Salt Lake City Police to round up reporters and give us an update on the search. I looked at the man, smiled broadly and chimed, "hey, how's it going?" To which he cocked his head, grinned and said with sugary venom, "why don't you go f*#k yourself." I just stood there, stunned, as he geared up for a frothing diatribe, "go get a real job!" he groused, "stop perpetrating hatred, do something productive with your life you jackel." To which I said, "you mean productive like you, guzzling cheap booze on the steps at three in the afternoon." Admittedly, the prudent choice would have been to say nothing, and I realized that as he thrust his filter less cigarette towards the pavement and barreled, headlong at me before being intercepted by a nearby officer, who seemed unaffected by the man's rolling rant. The guy circled back to his PBR and his concrete step with the parting salutation, "f*#k you!"
I suppose you get used to it. Check that, you don't get used to it, you accept that you are a simply an empty vessel in which people deposit all their frustration about what politicians call, the "lamestream media."
Before my dad passed away he used to call me up and complain about something he'd read in the Wall Street Journal, or something he'd seen on the CBS Evening News, "why do you guys do that," he would demand. "I don't know dad, " I would joke, "I'll chat with the president of CBS News when I get to work."
I suppose when people, "flip me off," tell me to 'go to hell,' or call me names, it's less about me, and more about the vast, billowing media world that angers them, from Mylie Cyrus, to the New York Times, to Fox News, to Twitter, to Facebook, to layoffs, to Syria you name it.
I guess, that polite man in the clean shirt, on his way to a lunch meeting is just sick of it all, and I suppose I'm the guy in the news van, who gets to hear about. I don't accept it, but I suppose, I get it.