You're the Inspiration

I met a white senior citizen this past weekend. Though I can't publicly share the context of our meeting for various reasons, I'm still going to repeat some details of our awful encounter.

When I first approached Bill*, he greeted me warmly and I thought he seemed like a nice fellow. In the meantime, a Temptations song played in the background. Then the old man said the following to the guy next to him: "I like those Temptations. The music is what black people used to be good for. They had God in their souls and you could hear it in their voices. Today they have that awful music; who can listen to that?"

I hoped that when Bill said that that's what African Americans were good for, he meant that he liked that about them particularly, not solely. I was feeling charitable and willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

Bill continued, "Like Bruce Springsteen. I just can't get into that noise."

I was unsure whether Bill thought that Springsteen is black or that was the most contemporary musician he could think to name, but it was unintentionally amusing regardless. All the same, I chose to interact with some other people instead. This was a successful scheme for about twenty minutes until Bill took command of the conversation. With practically no lead in, he started a monologue.

"Whenever I look out at the beautiful scenery of the world, I know that creationism is real. I dare anyone to just look at a sunset and then you'll know, without a doubt, that creationism is real. I heard on the radio the other day that today people agree that either evolution or intelligent design was how life was created. And I thought, says who? Don't tell me that crap when I know creationism is real."

I wanted Bill to go away, but he wouldn't. In fact, he kept talking.

"The other day, I looked at the people running for the school board in my town and all of the people were Chinese. What's worse is they sent me my ballot in Chinese, too, so I couldn't understand it. They just assumed that since most people in town were Chinese that I was too. I complained about it, but it didn't really matter because I wasn't going to vote for any of them anyway. Oh, and I was on the phone the other day and I got the automatic voice thing telling me to 'Press 1 for English.' Why should I have to press a button to get my language? I'm sure in Paris it doesn't say 'Press 1 for French.' Welcome to America."

Some people, perhaps including me, must have made unpleasant faces to that comment because Bill got defensive.

"What? I can say that because my wife is Mexican."

The poor thing! What was she thinking? He calmed down a bit after that and I thought the worst was over. But when I finally went to make my exit, Bill stopped me and said he hoped we'd meet again, so I wished him a nice day.

"I'm an inspiration to young people, you know," Bill told me, with his arm still on my shoulder.

Who does that?! Who touts himself an "inspiration" to someone else. If he lives in an immediate community of Chinese people surrounded by communities of Spanish-speaking people, there's probably not many people wanting to listen to this crap, let alone be inspired by it. Rather than addressing his statement, I told him to take care and left.

But I guess Bill is right, he is an inspiration. He did inspire me to write this.

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