What’s the last thing a redneck says before he dies?
“Hey, y’all, watch this!”
One time my wife and I were at a Lucinda Williams concert at Jannus Live here in St. Pete.
It’s an outdoor venue. Holds a couple thousand. Bars line the perimeter. Jam-packed in the middle, where the sound is best.
We were standing just behind the most ambitious of the crowd.
Given my druthers, I’d have squeezed into the thick of it. My wife, however, is a bit claustrophobic, so we nestled into our agreed-upon spot on the fringe.
The sound is still pretty good there, but you’re susceptible to bar noise.
Two guys were standing directly behind us, oblivious to the band, yelling to one another about stupid shit like their golf game, different trucks they’ve owned, prized catches… typical Florida Guy crap.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m at a concert, I’m there to hear the band.
I don’t go to just say I was there, or because it’s “something to do.” I want to float on every note and feel the music permeate my soul.
When the band and the audience become ONE, it’s transcendental. Tribal. A moment in time that carries you away from the mundaneness of life and reminds you why we exist.
I’m also afflicted with the curse of hearing everything going on around me. Hard as I try to tune it out, I can’t not hear things – especially voices.
So, there’s Lucinda Williams, pouring her heart out to two thousand people. Every ounce of agony from a hard-lived life encompassed in poetic narrative, backed by world-class music makers accenting her every word with a gut-wrenching backbeat and inspired licks.
At least, that seemed to be the case. All I could hear, though, were two Kyles shouting their tiny dick-measuring contest.
I couldn’t take it anymore.
I turned to them, expecting to say some version of, “Hey fellas, if you’re not here to listen to the band, there’s plenty of spots in the back where you can talk without shouting.”
What came out of my mouth was, “You know what’d be great? If you assholes weren’t talking right now!”
To my dismay, these guys were not the Tommy Bahama boating types I pictured in my mind, but rather, young muscular dudes who could easily twist me into a pretzel while the other kicked me in the face.
They looked at each other, stunned.
“Seriously!?” Said the guy closest to me.
I was now committed, and full of spontaneous fear-rage, so I doubled down and said, “Seriously, motherfucker!”
At which point, my loving wife, shocked and embarrassed, grabbed my arm, turned me towards her, and said, “What are you doing? Calm down.”
To which, the other guy said, “Yeah, listen to your lady and shut the fuck up.”
These are the moments where, in a flash, your life is on the line.
A split-second decision can either inflict permanent harm or merely become a story you’re not proud to tell.
I’d be fascinated to see a brain study on the cluster of chemicals that crowd the mind in moments when people “see red.”
Even more intriguing is how past experience influences your next move, and which kind of experience wins out in the moment.
I have a vivid memory of being a passenger in my father’s car when I was around 12-yrs-old when he got into a road rage incident with another driver.
I have no recollection of what started it or who was “at fault,” but I’ll never forget the result.
My dad pulled to the side of the road, followed by the other driver. The other driver got out and approached our car. My dad rolled down his window and started chirping at the guy only to be “outmanned” by the other guy’s brazenness.
In this scenario, I was the terrified bystander, just as my wife was at the concert, pleading with my father to “just go, dad!”
The other driver used my tearful plea to taunt my dad.
“Listen to your kid and get the fuck out of here, before you regret it.”
Surely some snatch of that traumatic memory blinked through my mind in that moment at the concert.
Did I gather myself out of empathy for my wife, reflected as 12-yr-old me?
If I had leapt at the guy, would it have been because I subconsciously sought revenge over the road rage bully?
How many criminal defense cases have hinged on such factors? The kind where, despite the judge’s decision, there is no winner.
Perhaps the only sure way to avoid a spontaneous rage moment from resulting in tragedy, is to avoid being in one, best you can.
When you feel the rush of anger coming on, or find yourself in a threatening situation, don’t lean in – move away.
Heroes run toward danger not to escalate it, but to stop it.
There’s no bravery in fueling an avoidable fire.
And whatever you do, please, never talk over the band.