Prologue: I’m a Douchebag.
I’m running late. Five-hundred-and-eighteen snorting horses nudge my two-ton sports sedan down the busy Ninth Street off-ramp into San Francisco, twin car seats framing the back row, Cheddar Bunnies and Cheerios smashed into my quilted leather upholstery. My liquid dashboard announcing two incoming calls: the boys’ Mandarin pre-school headmistress reminding me of the obvious; and my wife, Debbie, whose worried inquiry carried by satellite from an Orlando hotel room would be very precise and polite. Sorry. On my way. Yes, I promise. Yes, I am driving carefully. Won’t happen again. Love you, too.
By the time I respond to both calls, I’m roaring down Ninth towards Russian Hill. I bypass Van Ness and cut into the Tenderloin district, San Francisco’s proverbial grease trap, infamous for its brackish sea-level buildings with cracked windows and spray paint, padlocked Port-a-Potties, weak streams of piss flowing over shit-smeared sidewalks, wheeled walkers, Rascals, clicking canes, cigarettes, and addicts in overcoats shuffling in circles attempting to eat their own mouths. Tourists avoid these streets.
I accelerate up the potholed pavement of Larkin Street while avoiding the stoned jaywalkers popping out like shooting gallery targets. But as I cut around a braking Uber driver, intending to accelerate through the intersection, the stale yellow light flipped to red, causing me to stomp on the brake pedal like Fred Flintstone. My low-pro tires shrieked and spit stones at people near the crosswalk, the stink of burnt carbon and middle-aged arrogance now commingling with the scuffed dust of the street.
“WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!” I looked over my left shoulder to see three men, each twice my mass and masculinity, now approaching my car with the slow confidence of magma, large knuckled meat hands, tattooed fingers with thick metal rings, spotless Timberland boots, the smell of low grade weed and alcohol trailing their exclamation like thunder after lightning. I slowly leaned out my open driver’s side window, tilted my head upwards to meet their riled eyes and said,"I...AM A DOUCHEBAG, AND I’M SORRY." Which immediately caused the leader to laugh out loud while stomping his big boot twice. I burst out laughing too––with relief––because two seconds previous, I was expecting to be ripped out of my intact seat belt, spiked to the pavement and pummeled like a Russian protester. Instead, this very large young man extended his open palm and said, "That was awesome dude…you are awesome!”
In male speak, a douchebag is an overreaching tool, two insults in a single word. A tool is a low-functioning person who by definition is unaware of his limitations. The douchebag on the other hand is a tool laboring under a transparent façade of arrogance and grandiosity like a spoiled media executive who frightens his neighbors by driving like an asshole.
My wife hates the word douchebag. My mother would call it "dirty." My therapist told me it was a breakthrough.