We're All Damaged

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Popcorn. Soda. Handgun.

I went to a movie last night with my parents, who’ve recently retired to Charleston, SC. As we stepped into the theater, located in a lovely suburban shopping plaza with fountains and tapas restaurants, I noticed a shocking sign over the box office window. Concealed Weapons Strictly Prohibited.

In most parts of the country—the civilized world even—a sign like this would be unnecessary in a movie theater. There might as well be signs prohibiting polar bears or enriched uranium. In the south though, things aren’t always so cut and dry.

For about ten years, I’ve lived in either the northeastern United States or London, England, and so naturally I’ve become a Godless, Obama-voting, gay-marriage-loving leftist wacko, which has put me directly at odds with much of the south. A sign like this—reminding people to leave their semi-automatics at home before taking the family to Shrek 2—just feeds into my people’s popular theory that the south is made up mostly of hillbilly, tank-driving gun nuts trapped in 1955.

There’s one problem with this theory though, and as hard as I try, I can’t ignore it: southerners are infuriatingly nice. All . . . the freaking . . . time.

I went to the beach by myself yesterday, which makes sense because, even though I’m unemployed, I am on vacation. As my mother-of-pearl skin burned slowly under the sun, I let out a harmless sneeze, and immediately three people—complete strangers—blessed me. One woman actually asked if I might like a Claritin. “The pollen count’s awful high now,” she told me. I sneezed on a subway once in New York City and a woman maced me.

Later, I stopped at a quick shop for a soda. “Well hey there,” said the teller. He was a smiling older guy in a Life is Good t-shirt. “I like Diet Dr. Pepper, too. It’s my favorite soda.” I’m not used to talking to people I don’t know, and so I told him to stop looking at me and ran out of the store.

Listen, southern United States, we need to talk. For the sake of others like me around the country, would you please stop being so Goddamn friendly? All of the politeness and goodwill is making it very difficult for us to pigeonhole you as backwards-thinking imbeciles and ridicule you while attending our NPR fundraisers. I mean, I swear to God, if one more stranger smiles and waves at me while I’m jogging, I’m going to march down to Wal-Mart and buy a bazooka. We’ll see who’s smiling then, you super pleasant, laid-back bastards.

Now go away! Being enlightened and intellectual has made me very tired today, and this issue of The New Yorker isn’t going to read its damn self.


  1. I'm guessing you didn't know that it is now legal in Omaha (maybe Nebraska?) to carry a concealed weapon with a permit? We have those signs all over the place now too. I guess it is the businesses way of getting around the law by saying just because you are allowed to carry it, we can say you can't conceal it in here!

    By the way...if you are wondering who this strange Nebraska person is commenting on your blog, it's Chriss Lilleskov (I used to work with you at E&S.) Sharon gave me the link, I've always enjoyed your writing!

  2. Seems to me the movie theatre sign was simply truth in advertising. From an editorial POV, the only weapons prohibited are **concealed** ones. Strap your AK-47 across your chest, wave your nunchucks in the air or wear your holsters low-slung a la John Wayne as you mosey through the lobby.

    I dare you.