When I was a pre-teen my younger brother had set the bottom of my mattress on our bunk beds on fire with a lighter and it had smoldered until we discovered it as the source of the smoke and threw it in the front yard where it was completely consumed in two days time. As my brother refused to confess to the act, my parents had us interrogated by two arson investigators from the Fire Department. "I know you did it." One of them told me when we were alone. I stifled a laugh. "Do you think this is funny?" He nearly yelled. Yes. Yes I did. Because his conviction of my guilt wasn't based on any factual evidence, and because I knew I had in fact NOT done it, completely destroyed his credibility. By speaking to me in the way he had, he'd admitted he knew absolutely nothing. Of course my brother and I are different people. My brother didn't care what they thought or what they could prove. He was quite adept at both lying, and being entirely unconcerned with consequences. Their interrogation yielded nothing.
In junior high I'd somehow lost one of my textbooks and reported it as missing. Later, I was called into the vice-principal's office where my book was sitting, but not all was as it seemed. The vice-principle wanted to discipline me. You see, it had been found in a restricted hallway, and he'd concocted the theory that I had been carrying this heavy book on the way to lunch, decided that I no longer wished to be burdened by its weight, and therefore slid it down the restricted hallway where I could later retrieve it after the lunch hour, and when it wasn't there when I'd returned, reported it missing. It took me a full hour to convince him that his fabrication was nothing more than that. In the end, I got my book back, was not disciplined, and had lost all respect for the man.
I was pulled over Monday in Junction City for doing 65 in a 55. When the officer asked, "Why were you going so fast?" I replied that since I had my cruise control on at the time, I was going to go with assuming it was the posted speed limit. When he returned from his cruiser with my warning I had a question for him: "How is that you found yourself parked on the side of the road at the bottom of the rise right before the 65 miles-per-hour sign?" His reply? That he had clocked me at the top of the hill. "Yes," I continued, "But why were you sitting there?" He could only repeat to me that I had exceeded the speed limit, and to reiterate, explained that the speed limit was 55 for the trucks pulling out of the plant. I thanked him and left. Did he really misunderstand, or were his woefully inadequate answers just a feint? Where's the honor in that?
At Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, the back gate was always a bustle of activity in the mornings as everyone, civilian and military alike arrived for work. There were two lanes in - two guards checking identification - but the left lane was always stacked with more cars because that was where the primary glut of personnel were assigned - headquarters and the administrations buildings at the "left turn only" lane, whereas the right lane wen straight t to the airfield. Oftentimes, because many people are distracted with their coffee, and the radio, and rolling up their window, and putting their ID back in their purse and whatnot, I would simply speed up in the right-hand lane, turn on my blinker, move over, then turn left. My Master Sergeant friend Fred Bohne once said to me after I relayed this story, "Heh, I don't let people over, they should wait in line like everyone else." I looked at him incredulously and asked how he would stop me from coming over. He explained that he simply didn't slow down enough to allow the time needed for the other car to move over until the road forked. I said, "Fred, your truck can't out-accelerate my car. No matter what you do, I'll always be able to overtake you, and change lanes. There's nothing you can do to prevent that." We just stared at each other.
The first time I'd heard the word, "queue" I asked a Mounted Royal Army vet who'd served in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) what it meant. He was the driver of the shuttle bus between RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth in the months before I purchased my Jaguar and we had just passed a sign which read, "Queues May Form." When I asked what a queue was, his answer both confounded and fascinated me - he explained to me that a queue, was these things, which formed. Well, I was just beside myself! I wanted to know the circumstances surrounding their formation - what were they? How did they form? He went on to explain they formed most often around roundabouts. You cannot imagine my fascination with this...unknown... was it a lifeform? Did lifeforms form? Or was it sand? Did the wind cause these queues to form? What the hell was a queue? It was simply, that which formed. This is how I feel about most answers I get from people when I ask them questions.
When I was stationed in Virginia, O.J. Simpson was big news, and every dependent wife (the best source of gossip and information on an USAF base) told me unabashedly that they knew he was guilty! I was downright amazed, for though I wasn't exactly "following" the story, it was on every television, radio and newspaper at the time - I remember half a dozen books at the bookstore arguing the case, and my roommate photogoot would watch the trial with his dad on the phone. I was as eager as could be to know how they knew - they, above all the judges and lawyers and authors and news people - how did they know? Their answer 100% of the time? "I just know." It was myself this time who lost the respect of others as I very carefully explained how that was not a real answer.
I don't expect to have philosophical conversations with many people. My neighbors in Anna and I could touch on it when we were drinking, but I think they were mostly frightened of me in the light of day - I've seen many people use alcohol as an excuse to act out-of-character and I applaud them for their ingenuity, but being ashamed the next morning lessens my respect of their intoxicated fortitude. But I do enjoy the conversations. I prefer the sober ones, but I'll take what I can get. And usually everything is fine, even my shocking open-mindedness about damn near everything. The rub? Asking them why they feel the way they do. "That's just the way I feel," they say with conviction, yet without any quantification whatsoever.
The first Terminator had it right. If you want to blend in, and not stick your neck out or get noticed - if you want to live just enough to be accepted but not questioned - if you simply want to go about your business without the hassle of friends or family or inquiry, all you really have to do is memorize the following seven possible responses:
Its just that simple. You, and everyone else.