Those Heathens



At the local supermarket, the mall and other public settings, you’ll notice when strangers pass by, if their eyes meet, usually their lips stretch into a half smile and they crinkle their eyes just a bit as they pass.  This is called a ‘social smile’ and is pretty much a worldwide thing.  Make that face to anyone anywhere and you’re liable to get it back.  That is unless you’re a member of the Anti-Social Heathen Club.  They meet every Tuesday and Friday night in secret and discuss their agenda, which is to promote social anarchy.

My first encounter with a Heathen was in 1988, when I drove a taxi in Washington DC.  He was dressed like a classic hobo with unwashed, faded clothes and a slouchy hat atop an unbrushed mop of hair.  Had I gotten a better look at him I probably would have pulled off, but he jumped into my cab at the airport and yelled scruffily, “Shut up and drive me to the Hilton on Ambassadors Row” before I could give a proper how-do-you-do.  A little miffed, I headed to the hotel and turned the volume up on my radio, which prompted the man in the back to holler, “Turn that racket off!”  The rest of the trip was spent in silence, except for various sounds coming out his body.  I would glance at him in the rearview mirror from time to time and saw, among other unspeakable things, him chewing on his beard as if it were a salad, looking for lost treasures in his nose and spitting out the window.  When he got out he tossed me the fare in change and a pamphlet and slammed the door.  Thinking it was a religious tract, I stuck it in my shirt pocket to read later, wondering which church would have him as a member.  That later happened when my shift ended and I got home, and it opened my eyes to a growing movement happening right under our noses.

The Heathens (as they lovingly call themselves) began as a group of rejected and retired sociologists who decided somebody had to shake things up a bit, and practiced what would become the art of rudeness.  They and their followers claim this is all done in the name of science, to awaken the masses to their mindless mechanical behaviors, but if you ask me, I think they genuinely like it.  If someone at the supermarket accidently bumps into a Heathen and apologizes, instead of brushing it off by saying, “That’s ok,” he or she reacts by bellowing, “You stupid jerk!  You hurt me!  Get the cobwebs out of your eyes and watch where you’re going!”  Instead of a social smile, a Heathen will grimace and say something like “Phew you stink” or “What are you lookin’ at?  You think I’m cute or something?”  The Heathen thrives especially in crowds.  They love passing gas at the checkout counter right before leaving, leaving dentures at the buffet table and all kinds of other things designed to elicit revulsion.  The denture thing actually happened, by the way.  Ask a Heathen and you’ll be informed that they are merely being completely honest in everything they do, and do not live a contrived life.  While I can sympathize with their cause, I just couldn’t take up the mantle of smelling armpits in an elevator.

I’ve kept close tabs of the Heathens, even subscribing to their monthly magazine.  It’s pretty interesting, and beats anything you find in a doctor’s office waiting room.  This month’s edition has an article entitled “Eleven ways to get served immediately, no matter how busy they are”.  One involves bringing a bag of chicken blood to the emergency room and smashing it on your head just before entering.  Another is to get into a fast food restaurant’s drive-thru during rush hour, complain about food you didn’t get and demand a replacement meal before you move your car any further.  Out of a sense of decency and public responsibility I won’t mention the others.

But here’s the bottom line:  Ignore them.  This drives Heathens nuts.  Consider yourself warned, because there are new Heathens being born every day.  If you’re in the growing service industry, practice your best social smile, because you’re going to need it.  It’s not easy mollycoddling an unpracticed Heathen, but in this economy it’s harder to find another job.  Good luck.

About jaytharding
Christian Mystic-in-training, burgeoning Apologist, Writer, Poet, Philosopher, all-purpose curmudgeon Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 11 Corinthians 5:17

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