By Jim Karger
“Ain’t you ‘fraid livin’ down there?”
This was the inquiry of the good old boy wearing a Homeland Security uniform as we passed through the 26-mile border security checkpoint outside Laredo, Texas, an outpost inhabited by more like him, dogs, and cameras — lots of cameras.
He was clearly suspicious of two gringos driving a Mexican-plated car and that question was the best he could do – a mildly-retarded version of cross-examination.
“No, not afraid,” I replied stiffly, but wanting to add, “but you, on the other hand, scare the shit out of me.” To do so, I knew from past experience, would land me in Line 2 where Bubba’s boss waits to deal with traitors (pronounced like “taters”), meaning anyone who, like me, dares live outside “dis great (pronounced ‘grit’) country (pronounced ‘cunt-tree’).
“Then you all go on,” Bubba ordered, whatever that meant. I drove away slowly so as not to get him upset and give him a reason to kill someone today which I know is all he really wanted to do.
Since then I have been driving north on Interstate 35 through San Antonio and Austin, Texas on my way to Dallas and I am pondering a single question as I write, drive, and sip a Rock Star:
What do Americans do these days, other than eat out, shop, drive and fuck? More specifically, how do they earn enough money to eat out, drive, shop, and support the collateral damage of all that relentless fucking evidenced by the plethora of strollers found at every restaurant, shopping center, and gas station?
With a keen eye, an open mind, and enough caffeine running through my veins to awaken a Celebration of hibernating polar bears, I have triangulated the answer and it is this:
The vast majority of America’s general public are reasonably pleasant, if inauthentic, zombies, who work in various service industries, standing behind counters and tables and bars with plastic smiles and no interest in serving anyone and who make little effort to hide their unmitigated despise of what they do for $8- or $9- or $10-an-hour. To that conclusion, I just left my second Exxon gas station where the attendant, in this case, Missy, could not figure out how to turn on the gas pump.
Most in the “do you want fries with that” sector of the economy are uneducated like Missy, poor and stupid, but not in that order. Some went to public schools where they emerged functionally more ignorant than the day they entered. Others, went further into the Ponzi-scheme called “higher education” only to find themselves in the same pathetic place.
I met a waitress (“server” in the modern lexicon) in a fine Seattle bar the last time I took the risk of crossing into the Leviathan. She was in her mid-30s, well-spoken, blonde, hard looking but pretty, and a year away from a law degree. When I asked why she was “slinging whiskey,” she broke down and sobbed.
“I couldn’t get a decent job with a Bachelor’s degree,” she cried, “so I borrowed even more money and got an MBA which led to even more rejections. The only way I could delay having to pay back my student loans was go to law school. If I don’t get a job when I graduate, I am fucked!”
I nodded and told her that I was a lawyer.
“I make so much money,” I said matter-of-factly, “that even my own accountant is embarrassed to discuss the numbers with me.”
She smiled looking cautiously hopeful.
“Do you think I can do the same if I work real hard?” she asked.
“Not a chance,” I replied, no hesitation. “I get resumes from Harvard law grads wanting to clerk for $12-an-hour. Yours was a good idea, but horrible timing.”
“No hope?” she asked, begging to be thrown something to hold on to.
I was silent.
“Nothing I can do to make some real money?” she implored.
“Do you have a vibrator and a webcam?” I asked.
“What? What did you say?” she snapped.
“Nothing, just thinking out loud. No matter. Your entire generation and those generations coming after are, how can I say this, ‘doomed.'”
Her face was a mask of terror.
I paused and stared deep into her sad, blue eyes and whispered: “I mean you are totally fucked.”
Her sobbing became louder. Raw anger and misplaced rage replaced feigned kindness.
“You are all the same,” she snapped. “Just like my boyfriend. He won’t work but tells me he is looking for a job. I don’t think he gives a damned about me, just like my last two deadbeat roomies. He just wants to screw me and take my tips every night after I have done this shit for 10 hours a day,” she motioned across the bar derisively.
Then she paused. Her breathing had become irregular and I interjected.
“You’re right. He doesn’t love you. He wants someone to support him and fuck him. It’s a good deal if a guy can get it.”
“God damned it!” she screamed, pounding her fist on the cocktail table. “I knew it!”
She stomped off behind the bar weeping uncontrollably and I felt good that I had helped her see the light which in her case is an 18-wheeler about to splatter her pretty face all over modernity’s vocational pavement.
As I reflected on that experience and passed the 411th Subway shop in less than 200 miles, It became clear to me that the vast majority of Americans find themselves mired in this service hell with no excuse for anything, and no hope, none whatsoever.
As far as I can see from driving through America’s broad middle, the rest of the working herd drive trucks hauling cheap Chinese shit to Wal-Marts, sprinkled liberally with government workers who would serve lattes at Starbucks if they had any ambition whatsoever and didn’t despise all mankind for shit that happened to them back in high school.
There is also an increasing number of motivational speakers telling others how to be successful even though they have never been successful at anything.
Most of the rest are zombies who disappear into tall glass buildings everyday to steal and count money for crony-capitalists who are too few to mention by name but hold an outsize slice of the world’s wealth and intend to keep it.
Oh, and a few are building the roads, or at least need to.
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