A cursory examination of obese tailgaters

I had a friend once who was one of those “high school through college freshman but lose track after” guys. In high school, he effortlessly earned the title of Fattest Student. He was immense and he was one of my best friends. He liked science fiction and other assorted asocial proclivities. Using the modern BMI calculation (which I’m not even sure was in use in 1980), he was in the 45.0 range. I’m being generous. I guessed low on weight and high on the height. He was a huge guy and after graduation I paid a visit to his college town near L.A. We kicked back, talked shameless nerd talk, drove around…those post high-school college days are truly idyllic. I was weaning myself from the structure of civic-imposed Minor status. I discovered the freedom to do what the hell I wanted because I was 18. We ate lunch at Fuddruckers and the waitress was flirty with me. I remember this because it meant so much to me. At the time I was running low on self-esteem and positive-feedback reserves. Afterward, my friend drove us around the hick town in his old mini pick-up. He drove us up and down hills of dried and golden grass and at one point, we ended up behind a slow-moving car. My friend didn’t seem to care or feel impelled to obey any sense of personal space because he rode on that car’s tail for miles (there were no turnoffs and it was a single lane). We were at point where you finally decide to hang back and not force the issue. So what? The person in front of you is driving slower than you. Live with it. We were college freshmen in between quarters. It was a beautiful day. He was riding the car in front of us really hard. I started to get uncomfortable and my friend just kept on talking and cruising up the car’s tailpipes. I don’t remember how long it took before we were finally separated, but my sense of relief was strong both for myself and the guy in front of us. I hate tailgaters and I hate it when they are my friend.

In my subsequent driving years, I was both passenger and driver countless times. After such a protracted period of experience, you can’t help but form general observations, and one that was driven (so to speak) home last week was this. Obese people are the most aggressive tailgaters.

Last week I pulled into the parking structure and here you must refrain from blatant road rage because it’s possible you actually work with the offensive person who drives like shit. As I pulled onto the second level, this Jetta pulled up behind me, determined to scale the floors with the maximum speed possible. As opposed to myself who really doesn’t give a crap. In fact, my First Personal Commandment is “Thou shalt never rush to work.” And I uphold the commandment. Rushing to work is for losers. It either means, 1) You are a sloth who cannot wake up on time, or 2) You are a corporate rat trained to run until your heart explodes once you are on their property. I sped up a little, but not much. The car stayed close behind me and finally I reached the spot I like and the car flew by, finally freed of my snail’s pace. I crawled out of my car, as is normal, and gathered my lunch bag and other belongs and headed to the stairwell and happened to look up and sure enough, exiting the Jetta was my company’s fattest employee. A woman about my age who everyone likes but whose girth supersedes all. As I descended the stairs it occurred to me she was the one tailing me up the ramps. It reminded me of chubby friend from college, and interestingly, two other obese drivers I know of who seem are prone to the most egregious sort of tailgating, the sort where you are literally up the car’s tailpipe. I saw a pattern.

I know of two other cases of obese tailgating, one in which I was the victim and another in which I was the passenger. When you consider that obese people do not comprise that large a portion of the populace, it’s interesting that the few I’ve seen behind the wheel tend to be aggressive, up-your-rear-axle drivers. Now I’m not in the business to only raise questions, but to attempt vague and unfulfilling responses to my many queries about observable life. What is it about the obese personality that indicates aggressive tailgating?

Firstly, I don’t believe obese people are really “aggressive” drivers in the truest sense of the word. The only prototypical aggressive driving trait I’ve observed in obese subjects is aggressive tailgating. I’ve not noted other aggressive driving behaviors among the obese. Tailgating seems to be a commonality that joins obese drivers. They share a casual disregard for mutual respect and space on the road. Tailgating is essentially a passive-aggressive activity because it is widely known that doing so doesn’t alter the driving behavior of the tailgatee, but merely transmits dissatisfaction with a dose of odious behavior. Tailgating is akin to an eyeroll and a sigh, but expressed within the disconnected realm of vehicular road-sharing traffic. Driving as a shared activity is expressed passively/aggressively. It’s kinda like the overbearing Chinese customer behind me in the grocery story line who is nearly standing on my heels even though we are both waiting for the same cashier and progress only depends on the speed with which the front customer’s order is processed. There is no benefit to rushing within the line because you cannot speed up beyond the limits of the end of the line. Likewise, tailgating rarely causes anyone to go “faster” and is weakly symbolic.

I think obese people have internalized the evocation of disgust from others to such a degree that they have become desensitized to the offensiveness they trigger. Offensive tailgating is an extension of this behavior and whereas it may present a shameful expression to the non-obese driver, the obese person merely considers their behavior within the normal purview of their daily effect on others. There is an element of throwing the baby out with the bathwater in this behavior. To be obese, or to reach such a state, involves a degree of surrender. Surrender to the extent that one’s life becomes a march of self-defacement. With such a self-directed sense of hopelessness, you can’t help but externalize noxious emotions that normal people might withhold since they are not acclimated to evoking such feelings in others. In other words, you don’t worry that driving up the other person’s rear axle means much, personally. You are fat and you don’t care about offending because it is…you.

My sanctuary, my prison

I visualize myself in circles.
My life is spent in circles.

I’m in many circles simultaneously.
Throughout the day I wander into circles, leave circles, loiter at the perimeter of others, approach the centers, and ricochet from circle to circle. Circles always await and bid farewell.

There is only one circle I’m in continuously. It is my own circle. This circle surrounds me and keeps me at bay and perfectly poised at its very center. As long as I remain mentally and emotionally balanced, maintaining an absolute central bearing in my circle will be simple. It is only during periods of intense turmoil and emotional unrest that I find myself sliding away from the center. Towards the edge, the precipice of my circle. It is imperative that I remain at the center of my circle. This circle represents my life, my world. It is my reality and sole existence. The perimeter is symbolic but physical. I cannot surmount this barrier, for the harder I attempt to exit, the more elastic the boundary grows and it merely stretches to accommodate my persistent exit.

Strangely, despite the fact my circle’s perimeter is impossibly tough to penetrate in an outwardly direction, it is remarkably porous when someone attempts to enter it from the outside. For this reason, circles easily glide in and out of my life randomly and at will. These circles are the possessions of other people. Everyone has their own circle with identical properties as my own. All day long, we wander in and out of circles and with some people who we know well, our circles are conjoined permanently in a state of union. The circles become enmeshed but the painful truth is that every circle can break free of any other circle at any time. No circle is ever affixed permanently to any other circle. Every circle is capable of breaking free and wandering off into the vast plain of lonely, nomadic circles.

I exist in complete awareness of my circle. I elevate it and rejoice it. My circle is my life and my succor. My circle is the best hiding place I ever knew. I seek to be the absolute ruler and dictator of my circle and I do not allow any one to compromise it. I’m the tyrant of my circle. It is a sterile environment and no human encroachment is allowed for that would be to risk human contamination, which is the very worst sort.

My circle is my sanctuary and my prison. It is where I flee and where I am bound. I cannot leave this circle, ever. The world outside my circle is overwhelming and scary and I do not understand it. I do not comprehend existence outside my circle so I remain ensconced in the safety of my own personal predictability. No one is permitted to enter my circle and no one can harm my spirit for it is impervious to intruders since there are none. To be sheltered so long is to be bred into utter debilitating seclusion.

I love my circle. And it loves me.

Untouchable evil

I’ve always had this strange preternatural, almost instinctive abhorrence of capital punishment. As long as I remember, the thought of the state putting men to death has struck me as a tragic business. I was idealistic about the subject when I was young. I hated the death penalty on principle. I thought it was barbaric. We are a mature, civilized society, right? As I grew older my distaste for capital punishment did not subside, however I found that my justifications for opposing it shifted.

My exposure to tales and recounts of executions are riddled with disproportionately strong emotional reactions which astound me. Witnessing the portrayal of an execution, or reading the narrative of one, conjure turbulent feelings of sadness while evoking the mightiest reactions in me. If you believe in reincarnation, you might explain this by guessing that perhaps I was an executed prisoner in a previous life. I can think of no reason why anyone would have such an inexplicable reaction to the death penalty. When I read “The Executioner’s Song” or watched “In Cold Blood,” there was a part of my soul that shrieked in spiritual agony. Watching a man march to the gallows strikes the deepest chord in my soul and triggers a shower of mysterious reactions.

The effect capital punishment has on me is confounding because I’m not the bleeding heart type. I don’t believe people’s misdeeds should be excused or rationalized. I feel justice should be swift and harsh. I just don’t believe it should involve murder. I believe that to be shackled in a cell for the rest your life is a much more potent punishment than simply being released from this life. So they kill the murderer…then what? His suffering is over, but the suffering of his victim’s family and acquaintances lasts forever because they continue to live. The state did not give them the easy way out.

I have a difficult time reconciling my anti-capital punishment sentiments with the monstrous acts that I hear in the news.

There must surely be a better way to punish human beasts that doesn’t involve killing them? In the United States, our recourses are bound by the limits of “cruel and unusual” so my vindictive creativity must be denied for any theoretical conjecture I have about possible punishments meet the wall of Constitutional reality.

I don’t believe capital punishment is a formidable deterrent. Those who would murder are the least likely to heed the law to begin with. We’re talking murder, not jaywalking. The concept of deterrent to murder is a joke. On the practical side, capital punishment does save us money in the long run by extinguishing an ill-deserved life and freeing up a prison cell. However, capital punishment is barbaric and its retributive effects do not offset the callousness of the deed which we all participate in indirectly by allowing and enabling our government to kill people in the name of justice.

Murder is simply murder, is it not?
How can we value one type of murder as more deserving of execution than another?
Murder is an absolute unforgivable act of evil. A gang member who kills another gang member in a turf war is just as bad as Daniel Ehrlick, isn’t he? How do we parse out evil?

It’s to be human that we are unable to equally weigh these 2 murderous situations. One is horrible and unspeakable while the other is a routine happenstance involving two people who have chosen to live a rough life and any misfortune is easily shrugged off as their “fault.” You made your bed, now lie in it is comforting for it excuses random misfortune.

Daniel Ehrlick tortured and murdered his girlfriend’s 8-year-old son, Robert Manwill. Melissa Jenkins, his girlfriend and Robert’s mother, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for allowing the slow torture of her son to unfold over a span of several weeks. Ehrlick’s torture of 8-year-old Manwill escalated to murder when the boy, covered in bruises, was due to return to his natural father after the short stay with his mother and her boyfriend. His sentence is now life in prison without possibility of parole.

But the 38-year-old had committed cruel acts on Robert, such as dropping his knees on the boy’s chest if the child misbehaved, in the privacy of his home, she said.
“Robert died all alone in substantial pain with no one there to care for him and love him,” Williamson said.
Robert, who read Harry Potter books and was saving his money for violin lessons, was forced to sleep in a baby crib while visiting his mother and her boyfriend the summer he died, according to authorities. The boy lost weight because Ehrlick forced him to eat the meal he hated most _ oatmeal and raisins _ causing him to vomit, prosecutors said.
Robert was hidden in a closet when social workers visited the home weekly to check on his mother’s other son, an infant who had been previously removed from the home.
Ehrlick was convicted in June and will not have the possibility of parole. The boy’s mother, Melissa Jenkins, also was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison for her role in the 2009 slaying. She pleaded guilty in January to aiding and abetting second-degree murder as part of agreement with prosecutors.
Jenkins, 32, sobbed as she faced the boy’s father, Charles Manwill, and told him that she would repent for Robert’s death for the rest of her life.
“It’s my fault that Robert’s not with us anymore,” Jenkins said. Manwill mostly did not look at her, staring straightforward and shaking his head as she apologized.
The boy, who lived primarily with his father in New Plymouth, Idaho, was visiting Jenkins and Ehrlick in Boise when he disappeared. Prosecutors claim Ehrlick, who is more than 6-feet tall and weighed 277 pounds at the time, tortured the 50-pound boy in a pattern of escalating violence that ended with fatal injuries to his head and chest.
Authorities say Ehrlick killed Robert, then stuffed rocks in the boy’s pants pockets and dumped his body in an irrigation canal. The body was found about a week after Robert’s disappearance set off a massive, high-profile search across Boise.

Items like this make me realize the precariousness of my opposition to capital punishment. If I was the Manwill’s natural father, I can’t help but contemplate that I would spend my last living day seeing to it that I personally killed his murderer brutally with my own hands. This is the vengeance of a parent and vengeance is as evil as murder.

The story is riddled with tragedy. To put Ehrlick to death would just inject more tragedy to the depressing situation. “Fortunately,” Ehrlick was sentenced to life in prison but it seems that this, while not the kindest fate, is still too nice for a man of such low evil caliber.

We want people to pay, we want them suffer for the suffering they have wrought. But our appetite for vengeance can never be fed. I’m positive that the dearth of soul necessary for a person to take another life leaves them impervious to punishment for their sense of suffering and regret is at odds with that of “normal” society. We can whip them, lock them up, pull their nails out, brand them with a hot iron…but the depth of punishment we dish out does not cure a thing. Human sickness, human evil, are elemental misfortunes affixed to our soul. Our inability to cope with such unknowable terrors that make us grasp for punishments that we believe will fulfill our thirst for vengeance, to quell the fears that strike our soul in the face of human evil.

But no matter who we kill or maim in the name of innocent victims, evil is untouchable. Human evil is the dark, brooding shadow we can never catch.