The other day I got flipped off while riding. It had no real impact on me as I had done nothing wrong and it was just some random redneck passing me in his truck and he felt the need to give me the bird. I just gave a big laugh in his face as it just bounced right off of me. I've found that to be a better retaliation than to shoot it back at them. I'm getting older and in my quest to be a bit better of a human being (I'm not that good but just trying to do a little better) I've pretty much quit popping the bird to people. I really don't think giving the finger is that big of a deal however there are some people who do so I refrain. There was a day, not too long ago, when I would 'fly the arrow' quicker than Josey Wales could pull his pistols. When someone drives by at 60 mph yelling something at you or possibly throwing something at you the bird seems to be your only available response in such short notice. Chances are they aren't gonna hear anything you say, unless they're going real slow, and the bird is something that after they go by and are looking in their rearview mirror, they can see and you know you got a word in or perhaps landed a blow back. Most of the people that know me can't even imagine that I actually have a temper but its there. I guess everybody has one. Over the years I've managed to bury it a little deeper and I try to keep it tucked away as best I can. I know its still there though, waiting for that special moment to come to life. I can't even remember the last time I got really pissed off. Its extremely hard to piss me off, especially when I'm around people because I always try my best to stay calm and keep things under control. Being in control really is the most efficient way to live however its easier said than done. Emotions can get people into big messes really quick. You can flip me the bird, cuss me, threaten me, I've even been pushed and shoved and I didn't get that worked up. I'll probably just serve them some smartass retort similar to what they've served me. Try to feed me crap I'll just feed it right back to you. You could probably even say something about my mother and it wouldn't make me mad, because I know that it probably isn't even close to true. My mom is a sweetheart country girl who has spent most of her life in church. She never drinks alcohol, never smokes, and I've only heard her cuss a couple of times, and that was at me. Trust me, I deserved it. Even then all she said was "damn" or "dammit", not even a bad word by my standards. A couple of things that will get a rise out of me though is if I see someone mistreating an animal. The blood starts to heat a bit and I'll probably say something even though I know it's best to keep my mouth shut. Avoiding the situation hurts me more than saying something. If someone messes with my family or my friends I tend to get a little anxious as well. This never really happens but if it did I would get off my rocker. But then there is one thing that really gets my attention quicker than anything else and it's something that I have no idea why it bothers me so much and thats when someone drives by me and yells, "Get outta the road!" At that moment I'm all in. The first thought that comes to my mind is, "Let me see you make me!" I want them to stop the car and let me take off my shoes and I want to make them eat carbon fiber soles until they've had their fill and need a new set of teeth. Theres the temper. They're gonna have their work cut out for 'em to keep me out of the road. The more someone tries to keep me out of the road the more I'm gonna dance in the road. That reminds me of one Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with my family a while back when someone asked me, "Don't you worry about getting hit by a car?" My mother replied, "Are you kidding me? Dimitri plays in traffic." I didn't say anything but I felt good inside, like I still had it. So anyway, enough about me, lets get back to this middle-finger thing.
After this guy flipped me off the other day I spent the majority of that ride (only about an hour) wondering how the whole middle finger jesture came about. Why do people get so upset when someone sticks up their middle finger? Its harmless. You can't really feel it. It doesn't hurt. I can remember one time, many years ago, when I was just a kid, that me and my family were down in Florida on vacation. Me and my sister and mom and dad were eating at Kentuckey Fried Chicken kinda late one night. So in walks this drunken man and he goes up to the counter and he starts bouncing change off the counter demanding some chicken. Well it obviously wasn't enough change because they didn't give him any chicken and told him to leave. He started yelling and cussing at everyone as he walked out of the store and then once outside he walked right up to the big window right in front of our table and gave everyone the bird. A big, angry, pissed off bird. He was mad. Go figure, he couldn't get any 'dirty bird' so he gives everybody the 'dirty bird'. My dad just kinda looked at him and then kept eating his chicken, but I remember my mother turning her head away and putting her hand up as if to block Satan from entering the KFC. Like I said, she grew up in the country with probably only a couple hundred people around and I'm guessing the bird wasn't something that got passed around alot. Myself, I just remember being scared at the fact that a grown man looked willing to fight the manager of the Kentuckey Fried Chicken. Who would stand a chance to beat up a man wearing a red and white striped shirt and a bow tie with a name tag that said, "Manager"? My dad wasn't worried a bit. He probably wanted something to happen in order to curb the boredom. He was a Golden Glove champ in North Memphis in his younger days and went on to train fighters in the service as well as other areas of boxing. He would've dropped that drunk with a quick shot and then probably bought him a 'snak-pak' and set it on his chest so that when he came to he would have something to eat and it would all just seem like a bad dream.
Giving someone the finger, popping the bird, the finger wave, the highway salute, a New York hello, where did this idea come from? And then, low and behold, just a couple of days ago my wife comes home and tells me that one of the doctors at the hospital came into the pharmacy and by some odd chance they were talking about whatever and the doctor asked her and the others if they knew how the idea of the middle finger originated, and then proceeded to tell them. She comes home and mentions it to me and now I'm all ears. What timing. "Lay that story on me!", I says to her. And here is what the doctor told them, maybe you've heard it before.
Apparently, way back in some century hundreds of years ago, at a time when the bow and arrow was the predominant weapon, this middle finger thing got started. I'm not an archer but supposedly you need your index finger and your middle finger to shoot a bow and arrow. When two armies would fight one another and one army would capture one of the other army's archers they would cut off their middle finger so that they could no longer shoot a bow and arrow and therefore never be a danger to them down the road. Then we come forward a bit to the point where one army has won the battle and in order to shove a little extra salt into the wounds of the losers, the victors would all hold up their middle fingers as if to say, "Screw you, we still have our middle fingers." I thought that was a pretty cool story and that it made perfect sense. However, after doing a little research apparently the whole middle finger thing dates back much further than that, back to the ancient Greek and Roman days where apparently it had some sort of insulting phallic connotation, which is kinda along the lines of what I was thinking while I was pondering this whole thing on my ride that day. I don't feel obligated to go into any details about this as I will just let you all think about this amongst yourselves. Anyway, that doesn't seem quite as cool as the whole bow and arrow story but I did find it amazing that popping the bird goes so far back and still has such a strong presence today. For me, these days it just seems too easy to just pop the bird. I mean, everybody does it and it's not creative in the least, but for some reason I still get a laugh out of watching other people flip the bird at one another. I really enjoy it when I'm riding with a group and someone else in the peloton flips the bird because chances are I am thinking the same exact thing only they're the ones doing it and I envy them a bit. Maybe it reminds me of my younger days. I'll be laughing inside knowing that I have their back should that driver stop. Keep in mind that this type of thing seldom happens to me anymore, and as I sit here talking about it I actually kinda miss it. I like the potential for some sort of crazy action to break up the monotony. Who knows, as little as I've been riding these days I may be on the road to some bird watching, if only it was that middle finger 'bird'. Have a nice day.