Friday, October 3, 2008
“Are… those… menthols?”
I have a love/hate relationship with my hometown of Bakersfield, CA. For most people, it’s generally just a hate relationship. But there are some things to love about this quirky little community. Like, how it’s this one weird bastion of conservatism in a state of rampant (and totally awesome) liberalism. If I ever want my head to explode, all I have to do is step outside.
But all joking aside, one of the things about Bakersfield that I both love and hate is the fact that 98% of the people who live here are batshit crazy in one way or another. Whether it’s an excess of religious fervor, or a taste for punching things that are different, or the fun that comes with shooting 12 year-olds, the vast majority of people living here have something decidedly wrong with them.
Take this story for example: The Kern County Fair ended last weekend and I had the grave misfortune of attending a few times during its run. On one of these occasions, I went with a friend and her two kids. Hilarity ensued.
Now, we expected the usual “Bakersfield” things. We figured everyone would assume that we were married (Because men and women in this town do not associate unless they’re bumping uglies.). We also figured that there would be a percentage who would assume that I was her gay “BFF” due to my pride bracelets and painted fingernails (Yes, I painted my nails purple and black to celebrate the beginning of hockey season.).
We even sort of expected the crazy girl who alternately tried to flirt with and heckle me to acquire the multi-colored flashing heart I was wearing around my neck. Not that situation exactly, but those sorts of things just happen every day around here.
What’s unexpected is when someone high out of their mind on crystal meth (or whatever) approaches you. Not the “someone high out of their mind on crystal meth” part. That’s pretty typical. The unexpected part comes when they open their mouths.
“Canibuyacigarettefromyoui’mjonesingforacigaretterightnow andi’llpayyouforacigaretterightnowifyou’llsellmeonebecause ireallyneedacigaretterightnow.”
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of change. Seriously, it looked like she had three or four bucks in change and she was going to pawn it off on me in exchange for one cigarette. She started handing the pile of change to my friend who was not smoking, and doesn’t smoke to begin with.
She tried to point the woman towards me. I was, in fact, smoking. She looked at me and asked, very slowly:
“Are… those… menthols?”
I waited a beat and replied:
Without missing a beat, she grabbed my right arm and said:
“Those things will freeze the hairs on the inside of your lungs!”
And she walked away without saying another word. Oh, Bakersfield…