Commentary: The worst jerks seem to drain the life out of everything

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William Carter, columnist

William Carter is a retired longtime Franklin city employee and published author. He may be contacted at wcarterfranklin@aol.com.

“Hey, Easy Money!” I hear someone call out as I enter the Mapco just down the road from my house.

I’ve stopped in on the way home from work for a can of Skoal and a bottle of Snapple peach iced tea. 

When I get out of the truck and slog through the wall of heat and humidity toward the entrance, I can see that a curtain of condensation has formed on the inside the glass door.

 I know that when those doors swoosh open, I will get hit by a blast of cold air and the sweat on my face will begin to dry.

 I anticipate exhaling a little bit as my shoulders slump some in relief and I subconsciously send out a prayer of thanks to whoever’s in charge of the small pleasures in life — and to the Mapco corporation, too, for footing the bill for air conditioning 

But when I step through the doors, some jackass hollers out, “Hey, Easy Money!” I see who it is and I groan, thinking nothing comes free and there is always a price to be paid for even the smallest of pleasures.

Sitting at one of the tables in the grill area, frantically waving me over, is the source of that voice. Beside him is a clearly uncomfortable younger guy who has a sick grin plastered on his face. Both have the remains of a meal in front of them, and drinks, and appear to be finishing up.  

I hold a finger up in that “just-a-minute” gesture and slowly walk to the back cooler, where they keep the Snapple and idle there awhile, hoping the guy will leave before I get back up front. Or maybe he’ll explode or get raptured away, so I won’t have to deal with him 

But, no, he’s still there, and I groan again but walk up to him and say “Hey.”

The guy wears suits all the time with an American flag pin and a Jesus fish on the lapel. He’s about my age, has a jowly face and is on the fat side of beefy. He has a year-round-tanning-bed tan and a head full of hair he spends way too much time on. He’s in the money business in town — I won’t say where — and is one of those guys who thinks everybody’s glad to see him even though I don’t know anyone who ever is. And I can’t imagine even his own mama liking him.  

He’s made an art out of making people feel small and seems to always have a smirk on his face. He tells racist jokes all the time in that loud voice of his, and sexist jokes, too. He will repeat the punch line two or three times, and if you don’t laugh he gets mad, kind of, and accuses you of being sensitive, as if being sensitive is a bad thing to be.

 He calls me “Easy Money” every time he sees me. For those of y’all who don’t know, “Easy Money” is a mildly derogatory nickname given to people like me — people who used to work for the city — by people like him who don’t think city workers earn the taxpayer money we’re paid to do the jobs we do or deserve the pensions for which we’ve worked 25 or 30 years.  

He introduces me to the young guy he is with as someone he’s training. I swear the kid looks like he’s rather be be anywhere but there, as if he’s being held hostage.  

When the jackass gets to the part where he tells the guy that I used to work for the city, he holds up his hands and does air quotes with his fingers when he says the word “work.” He smirks and I have a very brief but satisfying fantasy in which I grab his hands and force them to the table and smash the hell out of his quote fingers with the bottle of Snapple I have in my hand.

Upbringing prevails, though, and I sidestep toward the counter as he loudly launches into a joke about Mexicans, aiming his piggish eyes at the four weary Hispanic guys wearing uniforms for a landscape maintenance company. Caked with dirt and stiff with dried sweat-salt, they are standing, stone-faced, in line only five or six feet away.

He delivers the punch line twice, laughing alone both times at his own joke, and then he asks what I’m up to. I tell him I’m done for the day and am heading home from my post-retirement job. It is only 4:30 or so and he looks at his watch in mock amazement.

“It’s not even five o-clock!” he exclaims. “What are you working for anyway? That pension of yours I’m payin’ for not enough for you?”

I ignore him, but he keeps going, gesturing toward the sweaty and exhausted guys in line in front of me.

“Hell, those boys right there look like they’re ready to pack it in for the day, too! I wish I had a job where I could go home anytime I wanted!”

 You know what? I wish he had their job, too. What a treat it would be to watch his fat, cholesterol-laden, three-biscuits-too-many-at-breakfast body struggle through a long day of doing all the things that have to be done but no one else wants to do. Especially on a 98 degree day, when you actually have to concentrate to breathe.

But that is unkind.

I pay for my stuff and he follows me. I discover his late model sedan is parked next to my truck.  

“See ya, Easy Money.” he calls out before gets behind the wheel and turns the key. The car clicks, then falls silent, the battery is dead.  

I imagine him cursing as I back out and head toward home, smiling a bit as I think of the jumper cables behind my seat. And I give thanks to whoever’s in charge of the small pleasures in life.

William Carter is a retired longtime Franklin city employee and published author. He may be contacted at 

wcarterfranklin@aol.com.

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