Passive Aggressive Nonsense
I thought I knew passive aggressive till I moved here.
For instance, one time, I was driving towards work in LA, when some dude in a black BMW X5 was considering making a right-hand turn into the lane I was already in. I saw him looking straight at me for about a half a block, not moving, then at the last moment, started to go. I hit the brakes and honked, and he slammed on his brakes. I moved around his SUV that was 1/4 the way in the street, shook my head, and sat at the next light. He pulled up next to me, and I didn't even look at him - I am not going to escalate the situation, I am not going to validate it. People in LA will do shit like this to you so that they have a reason to yell at you and blow off steam, and I'll have none of it.
Then, over the sound of our engines, I hear, "...fuckyou." Short, fast, unassuming. I don't respond. "Fuck you," he repeats, with a bit of chutzpah. "Fuck you," he says again, with a long pause, and then: "Asshole!"
I look over at him. While I was born in Seattle, I was raised in Boston, and I have a really tough time keeping the Bostonian in me down. I look at him passively, fixate on a few features - his long hook-nose; his sunken, pale eyes; his concave chin, his desparate attempt at a supercool faux-hawk - and say, "Oh, grow a pair, you inbred sack of shit." He looks at me like he is going to cry, and then looks away, and nothing more is said. The light turns green, I go to work.
If there's one thing I can't stand, it's passive aggression. It's a shit-or-get-off-the-pot type deal; it's the license plate frame that says, "if you're gonna ride my ass, at least pull my hair." If you're gonna road rage on me, then don't test the waters with your little pinky toe and say "go to hell:" tell me I look like a queer or ask my grilfriend if she-so-horny because she's Asian or call me a nerd or whatever. Just lob it at me, so we can point and laugh at you, and hit the "top up" switch in my car and make a show of tuning you out, or I can suck down half the bottle of Diet Coke in the cupholder in two gulps, look at you, and then release a jurassic belch in your direction.
Up till my move here, that dude in the X5 was the most passive-aggressive (and inbred-looking) fucker I'd encountered in my adult life, spent entirely in Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Then, I moved here, the city of my birth.
In the first few weeks, I was at the QFC at University Village with a girl I'd met online a few years ago, which it seems is the only way to meet people here. We were going to have a picnic at the arboretum and were buying some fruits and sushi; a small-enough number of things that we could sensibly use the self-checkout. We've been waiting a few moments, making happy idle chit-chat when a chubby, early-20's Asian-American kid cuts in front of us and the other ten people in line and goes straight up to the just-vacated kiosk.
"Excuse me," I said, making my displeasure evident but not getting all hyper-aggressive on him. He didn't respond and started pushing buttons. See, in Boston or LA, no one would dare do this, because everyone in line would call you out, and you would have to walk to the back of the line with your nutsack sucked deep into your intestines, lest you risk getting shoved over. Here, though, people just stand there, huffy, and hope that the guy stops being a jerk.
"Hey, dude," I said as I got up next to him. He looks over his shoulder at me and says "zakkenayo." This is Japanese for "fuck you:" I'm six-feet two-inches of ethnic Swede and Boston swagger, but I took Japanese for two years. In Japanese, I said something to the effect of "bullshit, get to the back of the line, you loser." He stood there with a look of shock on his face: THE GALL I HAD, not only calling him out, but telling him in his own language to GET THE HELL BACK IN LINE WITH THE REST OF US MORTALS. How dare me! Cutting in line is one thing, but getting pissed off over it? All he did was say "fuck you!"
He then says, in zero-accented English, "uh, there are like, two lines, and, uh, you were in -"
"No. There was one line. Come on, get back behind everyone else and wait your turn, dude." He sized me up, and went back to the end of the line. Now, the thing that got me was that, again, in any other city I've been in in my life, the entire line would have stared him down for having attempted to slight them, but instead, they stared *me* down, for having been "aggressive." I should have recognized that obviously, this poor young man had antisocial personality disorder - maybe even asperger's! - only exacerbated by his obesity and acne. I, as a physical specimen of dominant caucasoid masculinity, should have simply taken one for the team and let him have his moment.
What makes this further perplexing to me is that in Los Angeles, I was once chided by a girl I was seeing for being "too passive." At my high school, I was a wallflower. Here in Seattle, I am anything but passive, or a wallflower: I am a severe douchebag! An overbearing, loudmouthed, testosterone-sweating chunk of masculine ruin.
I was walking into a store a few days ago, and there were a pair of ladies walking two-abreast with a good four feet of sashaying-distance beetween them, taking up most of the door. I slipped past the one with a smile and a friendly nod, because I came within two or so feet of her. When I got back out to the car, my waiting friend asked, "did you bump into that woman when you were walking in?"
"No," I told her: I hadn't. Again, I even smiled, made eye contact, and nodded politely as if to say, "excuse me."
"Oh, because when you walked past, she stopped, and looked after you all pissy, like you bumped into her or something, and then walked away talking shit to her friend."
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: Seattle.
Today, on the way to work, some wilting-lilly in a green Subaru Forester missed probably ten opportunities to make a left onto the 5 South on the edge of downtown. When this finally happened, the polite-but-impatient person behind them in their gold Subaru Forester gunned it through the green light, and I followed in hot pursuit in my little, convertible sports car. A bald, middle-aged fellow in a button-up shirt holding a latte had started to walk out into the road - against the light - but then quickly jumped back when the Subaru started moving.
As I neared, he glared not at the Subaru, but at me, and yelled in a snotty tone, "The light was already red, you jerk!" just as my car sailed by. The last word had just left his lips when I yelled back, "No it wasn't, baldy."
When I looked in the mirror, he was standing there on the curb, shocked. Crushed. Hurt. How could I??? How could I just... like that? I said something, just like *that*, which cut him deeply. I talked back to him, and I called him bald. That was PERSONAL. See? He prophesized that I was a jerk, because by not bending to his pedestrian-latte-sipping observation of me, I had proved that yes: I was, indeed, a jerk.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: Seattle.
Don't get me wrong: generally speaking, I am one of the most friendly people you will ever meet. I am reverent; I hold the door for women, old folks, and couples; I let the guy with the one soda go in line ahead of me; I notice the guy behind me with his right blinker on and move over one lane to the left so he can get by; I stop in the middle of a snowstorm to help a lady who's car is high-centered on snow get unstuck; I drop to 20 in school zones and I pay my taxes and volunteer at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. I'm friendly to and never swear around children, and I fostered abandoned parrots for a rescue back in SF, feeding the little featherless babies with a bottle and singing them lullabies. I volunteered at the Children's Hospital back in Boston to draw pictures of cars and motorcycles and dolphins and kitties for terminally ill children and doing so hit me so deeply that I am going back to school for medicine so that I can devote my life to helping them.
All that is great. But I stand up for myself. And that, in Seattle, is an unforgivable sin.