So earlier, I was walking my dog down Barrington, and the sky was oh-so blue; the flowers were blooming; and the traffic was slowly meandering towards the 405. I HAD been at work all day, and the spring air was thrilling — almost like something you would read out of some grocery-store novel to enliven the jaded from winter-solstice blues. I was training Hendrix, my dog, and I was thinking about something I saw earlier on Facebook: Anger is a choice.

That’s when I noticed a truck barreling down behind a car on the way towards Santa Monica. The truck blew past the car trying to turn left, and as the truck was passing, the guy stuck his finger out the window and flipped the car the bird. And it wasn’t just a regular old middle finger; it was the Washington Monument of Fuck Yous — if you know what I mean.

Joe On Bike

Los Angeles, I have never seen a city so free with their middle fingers. The other day on my way to work, I was driving towards Westwood, when a white Bronco came out of nowhere, swerving in and out of lanes, and for whatever reason, the Bronco starting flipping me the bird — as if I had just cut her off. I couldn’t figure out what this person’s problem was because we were stuck at a red light and nobody was moving. It just struck me very strangely — don’t Angelenos know that the middle finger should only be used in the most extreme offensive? Only in times of extreme offense like somebody kicked your dog or called your wife a bitch.

So why is it that Angelenos use the middle finger so freely? 

Because Los Angeles is so large and people are moving so fast, I have a feeling most casual users of the middle finger have never experienced this gesture gone wrong. A driver will flip the bird, and there will be no time for retaliation. Well, I, unfortunately, have experienced the wrong side of the middle finger.

Back in high school, my buddies — Czar and C-Mac — were driving up to Riverside Park — an amusement park in Springfield, Massachusetts, now called Six Flags — in my Subaru Wagon. I was driving, and we were rushing to get there. We wanted to have the whole day at the park to make the crazy admission fee worth it. So I was pissed to find this guy in a SUV, driving 65 m.p.h. in the left lane.

I passed the SUV on the right and then pulled back over to the left lane, slowing down just enough so he could see me. I stared back at him through my mirror, and I saw the man’s face; I saw his wife; I saw the New Hampshire license plate; and I saw his kid in the back seat. Without any hesitation, I showed him my middle finger so proudly you would have that I had been waiting my entire life to tell someone they drive like an asshole.

Big mistake. I drove a little bit faster, and then all of a sudden, a red truck pulled up out of no where, and they flew right behind me. They were right on my bumper, and I thought they were going to hit me. I looked in my rearview mirror, and there were two guys, maybe about 23, with their shirts off, a small confederate flag draped over their mirror, and they were demanding I pull over.

My buddies didn’t say a word; they just looked at me to see what I was going to do. I didn’t know what I was going to do though. So I just pretended like I didn’t see them. I stared straight ahead, thinking they would go away.

But they didn’t stop. They drove up to the side of our car, and they were yelling at us, calling me a pussy and telling me to pull to the side of the road. Well, I wasn’t stupid; I wasn’t about to pull to the side of the road in the middle of Wester Massachusetts. Remember, I was 17–years old; I basically just got my license. Best I can figure it, these were the older sons of the guy in the truck — or maybe even brothers — and they were exacting revenge.

I thought it was going to get real bad when they pulled up in front of my Subaru and started slamming on the brakes. Luckily I stayed calm and just avoided their truck. It must have went on like this for over 15 minutes, until they gave up and moved on.

They sure scared the shit out of me, and I learned that I would make sure if I was going to use the middle finger, then I should use it for something worth fighting about.

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