An old Popeye cartoon depicts Brutus, the eternal ruffian, at a stoplight impatiently revving the engine of his hopped up roadster. In the modest family car next to him sits Wimpy, patiently waiting at the same light. Finally it changes and off roars Brutus, tires squealing.
Wimpy ever so slowly accelerates and eventually catches up with Brutus, who now sits at the next traffic light, cooling his heels, waiting for it to change. Red turns to green just as Wimpy’s car arrives. Brutus peels off again, temporarily leaving Wimpy in a cloud of exhaust.
Another stoplight later, the joke becomes obvious. Brutus, who races to successive intersections, is always overtaken by the slow-driving, never-stopping Wimpy.
As a younger person, at least in this respect, you may as well have called me Brutus. Now that I’m older and to some degree wiser, Wimpy is more apropos.
The wisdom would have been more wisely gained by watching the aforementioned cartoon. Alas, it actually arrived courtesy of men (and occasionally women) dressed primly in uniforms adorned with shiny badges on their chests and revolvers on their hips. They were exceptionally courteous and I courteous in return, it being a hard, fast rule of mine not to be contentious with someone who wears a gun for a living.
Therefore firepower was never really required. They made their points with pen and paper, thus demonstrating the truth that the pen can have more negative impact than the sword, mainly because those white slips of paper had to be redeemed at the county courthouse with green slips of paper from my wallet.
One wishes one could say one learned the lesson after the first such experience, but this one can’t say that. It took multiple episodes before the realization dawned that it was just too hard to keep explaining to my wife (who’s never had a speeding ticket) why I had garnered yet another one.
In those days, getting behind some oldster driving the 25-mile-per-hour posted speed limit on Broadway (for instance) would cause my blood pressure to jump into hyperspace. “We’re having a ‘slow’ contest,” I would exclaim sarcastically, “and that guy is winning!”
My attitude then was the old fellow was clueless and didn’t realize there was someone behind him he was torturing. Now that I am that oldster, it occurs to me that may not have been the case. He may have been like I am now, which is to say similar to a newly self-righteous former smoker who broke the habit and can’t understand why anyone still does it.
If so, it is for spite, out of the sheer delight of knowing I’m causing pain for some impatient and grimacing young whippersnapper in my rearview mirror whose bumper is so close to mine a fat gnat couldn’t squeeze through.
In such instances, I now exclaim, “We’re having a slow contest, and I’m winning!”
This, of course, opens me up to name-calling, the only appropriate one of which is “Wimpy.”