Yesterday, at the top of his lungs and seemingly with all of his being, a man called me an asshole.
I’m sure many people probably agree with him. People that know me probably expected some degree of conflict between me and the hippy faction of Madison at some point. We still coexist happily in our own truce, but at time it seems we must clash. Driving down Williamson on Madison’s east side during rush hour yesterday I came across a man and woman attempting to cross the street. The were close to the middle of the road, oncoming traffic (in relation to me) was at a standstill, and he was waving a red flag in a strange, irritated, fencinglike manner. I had a 4 car gap ahead of me and no cars behind me. As I approached, going 30 mph, the intensity in which he shook his foil/flag increased to a strange, maddening pace. My Chicago radar went off and said, ‘maybe a crazy person, maybe not – just get past him and leave him behind.’ I just kept moving in a straight line at my normal speed. This apparently was a mortal sin, to say the least. As I just about passed the flag man he yelled loudly enough for the whole street to hear into my car that I was an asshole. At this moment my sin revealed itself when it all clicked in my head. I forgot about the cute little red flags and what they really mean to the good natured folk of Madison. It had been explained to me once and I chuckled and obviously filed it deeply away, next to Mr. Moriarty’s freshman Biology class. If you want cross the street, grab a flag from the receptacle on the sidewalk, hold it up, and start walking across the street like Moses. A decent idea, but I would argue unreasonable at times. If the stoplight (excuse me, ‘stop-and-go light’ in Wisconsinspeak) is only a block away and its rush hour, isn’t it a wiser idea to walk that block before crossing? I know the pedestrian always has the right of way, but don’t these flags foster a deadly sense of false security? Wouldn’t orange be better? Lets say I was visiting Madison for the first time yesterday and didn’t know any better – would I deserve to be called an asshole? I ultimately laughed at his righteous hatred in that moment – he was very mad and I could see him making faces at me in my rearview. Another Chicago truism popped into my head – words have a price. If you swear at strangers you should expect a fight sooner or later, probably sooner. That is why I don’t call strangers names. This hippie (he was obviously one, trust me – I’m not making a great assumption in the slightest) did not look like he was the fighting type, yet he seems to want to court that possibility. Maybe it flies in his neighborhood in Madison, but not in the rest of the world. So I guess I need to play ball and respect the cute red flag. I’ll do my part, but that man should also make a few changes and avoid his impending fistfight.
Other people also feel the red flag is misguided.
Part of being in a subculture (hardcore for example) that identifies itself through a style out of the mainstream that implies individuality, is that when you are gathered among many other individuals from this subculture you all look like you are wearing a uniform of sorts. It’s a reality, for better or worse. Here is a hilariously captioned flickr set exploring shoes at a gathering in Chicago.