July 23, 2006 at 1:00 am (Uncategorized)


A buddy sent this to me today because he wasn’t around to flash these obscene gesture in person. Now that’s committment.



So, I’m sitting in my car at a traffic light at dusk. My hands are placed neatly at ten and two on the steering wheel and I’m preparing to proceed in a safe and responsible fashion once the light turns green again.

A car pulls up to my left. It’s one of those decked-out cars, with the tinted windows, dazzling stickers and dual whatever on the back. The stereo is cranked and the car bounces up and down like an inner city carnival ride.

Several young men are staring at me from inside the car. They have bandannas all over the place, oversized basketball jerseys and baseball caps tilted at every angle allowed by physics. Just as the light turns green, the badass dude in the passenger seat speaks to me.

“You know,” he said, all low and menacing. “Smoking is bad for you.”

My friends, I was rattled. Not because of this new revelation that cigarettes may contain carcinogens and presents other health hazards. But because the badass in the car had said something I was completely unprepared for.

I hate to say it, people. But when it comes to the ugly exchanges that occasionally pass between people, predictability is the rule of the road. When you cut off someone in traffic, you can pretty much count on what he will say to you. He will say: “Why don’t you watch where you’re going, moron?” Because that’s what his daddy taught him to say. And his granddaddy before him.

There is a very sensitive gauge standing somewhere in Denver, Colo. Its only function is to measure the number of times a certain insult is flung across America. Just recently, the line: “Why don’t you learn how to drive!” was screamed for the one billionth time. They had fireworks to mark the occasion.

I’m not saying we are predictable by nature. If that were so, I would have nothing to do on those long, lonely jaunts around pristine Lewiston. People do unpredictable things all the time. No gauge anywhere, no matter how sensitive, can possibly predict the number of stupid things somebody will do downtown.

But when the heat is on, and an angry person is forced to express himself, the old chestnuts are always just too close to resist. It’s the same on the bathroom walls, or on the scarred bricks in the back alleys. What’s the first thing you see written in those places? That’s right. It’s my name and telephone number.

But the very next thing you can count on finding is that one word: the one nasty word that has been dirty since it was invented by primitives who scrawled it in caves. The mother of the four-letter-word can be found scratched onto library tables, spray painted on the sides of buildings, written in pencil on telephone poles.

Millions of people every day, given one chance to deliver their views to the word, choose that one word over and over. The world is their canvas, yet all they can muster with the pencil, the magic marker or the chalk is that one word. The word is so ubiquitous and widespread now, it may be the first thing extraterrestrial see when they first visit the planet in 2017. The E.T.’s will look at each other, scratch their tentacles and say: “Fuck?”

Behold the middle finger. Such a commonplace gesture, it is believed to date back to the year 1415 when one Viking ship rammed another. Yet billions use it every day, and you don’t need the Denver gauge thingy to verify that.

The middle finger really means nothing anymore. The idea of any such gesture made in anger is to set a person back and make him feel your rage. But the average kid has seen the one-finger salute a hundred times by the time he is 9 years old. It has lost its effectiveness through sheer overuse.

The next time some yahoo steals your parking space, try jamming your thumbs up your nostrils and wiggling your ears. You will look ridiculous. Your wife will crawl back in the car and hide behind the seat. But that gesture will cause the focus of your ire more genuine unease and confusion than any cliché finger ever could. It could possibly keep him awake that night.

And so the kid with the public health warning at the stop light somewhat pleased me because he said something I didn’t see coming. And none of it really matters much, because exchanges like these are small disruptions to your day.

The sad part is that we have locks on our doors, court systems and armies because, when it comes down to the serious stuff, the deadly stuff, that’s when people start to get inventive.



  1. Mainetarr said,

    I rarely give the finger, I have done it maybe three times in my life. I prefer to scream obscenities. I mean, how can you really get across “Shove it up your ass, loser!!” by giving the finger? And how on earth would someone derive, “Get off the road you stupid bastard” by giving the finger? See what I mean. It’s just not the same. No matter how hard you try, when your husband makes a huge mess and leaves it for you to clean up, there is just no way possible he could think that giving him the finger would mean, “If you do that one more time, you will be sleeping with the fishes.”

  2. Linda said,

    Too right, MT!! Though I’m not so much the screaming obscenities type as the measured slice-and-dice type, but still.

    The times I’ve used the gesture — when words won’t work, because of distance or whatever — it just isn’t articulate enough. Mark, you may be right, an entirely different gesture might be the ticket. Though I can’t wiggle my ears so it’d have to be something else.

  3. Mainetarr said,

    Houseguests gone Linda? Are you finally going to get to just sit back and relax today? It is Sunday after all. Milo is back in the crate. I bragged too soon. THe housetraining took a nasty turn and I had to resort to training measures again. As a matter of fact, he is in there right now, giving me the finger as I type. I think he’s trying to tell me something.

  4. Bobbie said,

    The finger is usually reserved for members of the household around here, namely my husband. That action saw a lot of use when the kids were here-Dad would say something and automatically, 3 fingers would go up and she’d say, “I’m Number 1” with a big smirk on her face. (we had impressionable kids with us who had probably never seen that specific act before and the last thing we needed was for them to run home to Mommy saying, “So and so was using that middle finger WAAAYYY too much while we were camping”, so we had to be clever when it came to certain responses)

    The finger is reserved for really stupid remarks, maybe that’s why my husband always seems to be on the receiving end of things like that and not me.

  5. Bobbie said,

    And yes, we have been known to use both middle fingers on occasion. That action makes him really look at you in wonderment.

    MT, are you sure that the relapse in the potty training wasn’t due to the procedure that you forced your poor dog to endure the other day? Give him a few days and he’ll forget all about and be the good boy that you know he’s meant to be.

  6. jarheaddoc said,

    You guys are missing a very important message from Milo: cut off my nuts, piss on you. It just goes to show that a woman will not listen to a male, regardless of his species

  7. Linda said,

    Maybe peeing on the floor is Milo’s version of giving you the finger. I’d go with that.

    No, house guests slept late (hence the a.m. blogging) but aren’t leaving until tomorrow. We haven’t seen them since 1985, it’s a stroke of good luck that we still find them fun, funny, and very normal. Well, they seem normal to us. Those were funny times — well, maybe not the 80’s but the 70’s were funny. It was normal to be anarchists and hippies. We still worry about the same stuff (the environment for instance) and not about other stuff (our kids smoking dope, for instance). Anyhow it’s great to see them after all this time.

    They googled us to track us down — turned up my son in Australia, saw his photo, and knew that he was our son.

  8. Linda said,

    Hi jd, feeling a bit bitter this morning? (typo — i typed “biter”, nearly left it)

  9. jarheaddoc said,

  10. LaFlamme said,

    Ah, I dunno. I’ve heard several different explanations for the origin of the finger gesture. Each are as believable as the other.

  11. LaFlamme said,

    Sometimes, if I stub my toe on something, I’ll turn around and flip the finger to the offending item.

  12. Nadine said,

    Haha Mark!!! I do the same thing all the time! I more often flip off a “thing” that is annoying me then a person…aside from when I’m in a car and the person pissing me off cannot hear me.

    Check this one out, in no way does it beat your “fist of fire” though — that’s awesome!

  13. Nadine said,

    Oops, shoulda cropped that — isn’t he pretty?? Hahaha!!

  14. AO said,

    I just gave somebody “THE finger” the other day. Too bad he wasn’t around to see it.

  15. LaFlamme said,

    Ahhh. Finger art. We’re on a roll, now.
    I occasionally flip off my computer when it barks an annoying error message at me.

  16. AO said,

    And…what does your computer “say” to you when you flip it off? I’ll bet it “flips” you off. I remember a time not too long ago when you needed a c.d. to get your laptop running. Yeah, our computers seem to flip us off. Big pains in the ass.

  17. brenda said,

    My baby boy used to have that finger up all the time so I took a picture of that, when he was about 5 months old, when he was in his crib.

    Walking around Lewiston, we hear the f-word so much we are going to start a new game & count how many times we hear it in a day. Amazing how many people have to use it at least once in every sentence.

  18. brenda said,

    I think my moving to Lewiston was kind of a twilight zone episode, or “outer limits” – in which the thing the character complained about in the first part of the show is what he was swamped with in the alternate universe-

    because one day- I said: One Day – my man came home drunk and called me a “stupid fucking white bitch” and I walked out the door! I am not going to live that life! So, I took a train across the country to fucking Lewiston Maine, where my mother, brother & sister live, and what do I fucking find here? I find myself in a fucking city where I cannot NOT hear the very same fucking words that sent me across the fucking country. I hear these fucking words here every fucking day!

    parallel fucking universe

  19. brenda said,

    He was a beautiful man too.

  20. Omnius said,

    Anyone ever see the stand-up comedy bit about the guy who first gave the finger? I think it might have been Dane Cook.

  21. Nadine said,

    HA! YES! I have that taped Omnius! Dane Cook is freakin’ hilarious!

  22. Asshat said,

    What the fuck are you fucking talking about Brenda? You mean these fucking Frenchmen in Lewiston say fuck a lot? I say fuck em, right in the ass. Fuckers.

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