Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

“You Talkin’ To Me?”

I am going to use several movie references for this post.

In the movie “Taxi Driver,” actor Robert DeNiro is rehearsing some sort of dialogue he intends to have during a pending conflict. I am paraphrasing the lines, as he is looking in a mirror, repeating, “you talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? (He looks around himself) I don’t see nobody else here, so you must be talkin’ to me. I’m standing here. You talkin’ to me?”

One of my favorite comedy movies, with clearly the greatest one-liners, is Airplane. Throughout the entire movie, an air traffic controller played by the late great Lloyd Bridges, states the many vices he had given up, but during the crisis currently involved in, has relapsed with all of them from smoking to “sniffing glue.” The meme I have posted is my own, and will explain shortly.

As it turns out, my grandmother had actually prepared me for this particular day, more than forty-five years later. A smaller than average kid, I was an easy target for bigger kids looking to make an image or reputation known, for being tough, a bully. Not only was I small, but I was also shy, and then the worst of it, clothing I wore, bought by my grandmother, definitely was not cool or trendy. I had all the trademarks of an easy mark.

My grandmother had an interesting way to deal with the various efforts of bullying and taunting. “Just turn the other cheek, and walk away.” While clearly my size was against me, this strategy failed miserably, as I just got attacked from behind.

As an adult, I understand why she said what she did. It clearly did not help the situation though. In conversations with my daughters I have used my own philosophy, “a fire will only burn if you keep putting wood on the fire.”

Indeed, very “Mr. Miagi”-sounding, of course referencing the original “Karate Kid.” Yes, Gen Z-ers and millenials, there was a movie series prior to Cobra Kai. Focus Paul-son.

Getting back to my meme with Bridges, and the Coke reference, I found myself referencing all three movies the other night. And while I am sure I will hear from fellow cancer survivors and friends, all with their recommendations of the many other uses for Coca-Cola besides ingestion, none the less, that is what has triggered this post.

I walked into the convenience store, not like the Sac-O-Suds in “My Cousin Vinny”, though I have to wonder, was it much different given the mentality of the store clerk I was dealing with?

I needed to purchase some gas for my Camry, not a 1964 Buick Skylark, and while doing so, grabbed a bottle of Coke. I really should not be drinking it for several reasons, and have quit many times before, but at this point, was off the wagon.

Between me and the clerk, were sheets of plexiglass suspended over the counter, the purposes of protecting both clerk and customer during the Covid19 pandemic. In full disclosure, my hearing is often questioned, whether selective or actually failing. But in this particular moment, I am pretty sure my hearing was spot on.

I put my bottle of Coke on the counter and explained that I would like to put $20 of gas into my car. That was it. No other small talk, clearly neither of us were interested in that.

How is this for a reference? From “Dude, Where’s My Car?”… “and then?”


And odd thing for the clerk to utter, and honestly, I thought like many other clerks, who work with ear buds in the ears, he was likely listening to something and simply reciting along with it. But as I said, with my hearing, I was not sure what I was hearing, though it sounded like a sheep sound. And then he did it again.


Now, I could probably post a snapshot from the movie Clerks for this, but that movie was funny. What was happening right at this moment, was not.

As I looked around me, like DeNiro in “Taxi Driver”, there were four other people in the store besides the clerk and I. They all shared one thing in common, and different from me.

I was wearing a mask. They were not. I was 95% certain, this clerk was trying to provoke me. I was not sure what I had heard the first time, I was 100% certain after the second sound. And then… as if more confirmation was needed, Floriduh man behind the counter started putting words together, the first word I heard being “Covid.”

At that point, I knew what was happening, and unlike the lesson my grandmother had taught me, which never worked, I replied very DeNiro-like, “excuse me?” At that point, the clerk now looked up, had stopped mumbling his crap. I repeated myself, “are you talking to me?”, making him clearly aware that I had heard his provocation.

This jackass was making a reference that I was a “sheep” or “sheeple”, because I was wearing a mask, recommended in helping to prevent getting infected by Covid19, and from spreading it to others. Clearly, he was one that did not believe in wearing a mask, and the fact that the remainder of people in the store did not have masks, made him more brave to take a shot at me.

In fairness, this dope had no idea that I wear a mask, as one of the more vulnerable people to Covid19, having a compromised immune system, as well as other co-morbidities related to my cancer survivorship. And that is none of his business, just as my decision to wear a mask or not, just as it is none of my business whether he wore one or not.

He did not respond to me after I called him out. I grabbed my soda, and went out of the door to pump my gas. And then I steamed. I did exactly as my grandmother once taught me. As I child, I never understood the benefit to walking away other than I was not going to get my ass kicked. But, as an adult, I was getting more mad. I do not like leaving things unresolved. I was provoked. I wanted closure.

This situation is different than just a conversation between two people sitting in a bar, or passing by on the street. The was during a business transaction between customer and employee. And while I understand that employees can have cranky days, and end up reflecting that on the customers, this was not the situation.

Representing his employer, this putz decided to exercise his free speech, and acknowledge the division in our country over whether the wearing a mask is appropriate or control. I have long given up on this debate, especially after two years. After two years, we are where we are because of the decisions both sides have made, and hopefully not worse. But it is unlikely that any large percentage of people will change their minds as to their stance. If science is correct, which I believe in science, like the other viruses I have faced in my life during my survivorship, I will get through the pandemic. Sadly, too many still will not, yet to come. And then… for those who made the claim that Covid19 was “just like the flu,” will finally be able to make that claim, because like the flu, Covid19 will not be going anywhere. One major difference, is the number of people Covid19 has killed, and did not have to be that way.

We are divided, there is no doubt. And an employee like this does not help. And while I risk a “Karen” reference, which will not be allowed because I am only using movie references in this post, I did speak to the owner, who agreed that he did not want this issue having an impact on his business.

And with that, my final movie reference.

Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask. We know the difference masks make. We know the political inference by those opposed to wearing them. We are who we are. And just like Mr. Vernon in “The Breakfast Club” had to do, we have to just accept we are who were are in the world of Covid19.

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2 thoughts on ““You Talkin’ To Me?”

  1. Lynn Boddy on said:

    Well said, Paul. I’m so sick of going places, and I’m one of the few wearing a mask. I have lost some elderly friends from Church. They were getting old and most died from old age issues. A couple did die from Covid. I would like to tell the non-wearers off, but I, too, walk away,

    • My deepest sympathies for all the losses you have experienced. The sad reality, is that both sides must accept their choices, and make the conscious choice to respect the other’s sides. Because after two years, hardly anyone will change their mind unless deeply impacted like yourself, myself, and others.

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