The Doctor Is In

in Poetry

Dr. Wes

We Bad


As I've been saying, I was once a cab driver during the eighties. I say it this way to describe it as a passing thing, like saying I once thought to visit a whorehouse but changed my mind, or I once ate a raw oyster but now I see where I went wrong.

I know, you see, that if I were still a cab driver, or just identified as the type, I would also still be subjected to the same stale dumb stereotypes. I would rather be subjected to fresh smart stereotypes.

Speaking of stale dumb stereotypes, the Washington, D.C., area (alleged) sniper(s) sure have a lot of often negatively stereotyped people wishing HE'D been from Outer Slobovia
There's the "thief" stereotype. All cab drivers are assumed to be thieves until they happen to prove themselves otherwise. Of course there is rarely an opportunity to prove yourself honest in a ten minute car ride. The best you can do is to prove yourself an ineffective thief. "Heh, heh," the rider thinks later, "he didn't cheat me that time. He must be really STUPID."

A beautiful example of the public's attitude happened to me once when I was sent to pick up a Times employee. Our company had some sort of deal with the Times to be their cab company of choice.

Usually I didn't know one Times employee from any other, but I recognized this one right away as a certain weekly columnist whose writings I had admired. Not that I could afford to buy the Times every day back then, but if I could I would always look for What's-His-Name's column. Which column always ran with a picture of him looking ten years younger, so I knew it was What's-His-Name.

So I said, "Gosh, golly, you're What's-His-Name, aren't you? You're my favorite local newspaper columnist," or words to that effect. Except that I attempted to utter his actual name. This was my first mistake. He angrily informed me that I was mispronouncing his last name, and that I should know better, for it's a very common Outer Slobovian name, and if I really cared about his writing I would know he was an Outer Slobovian-American, and if I cared about reading in general I would have learned how to pronounce all Outer Slobovian last names out of love for language. The fact that I didn't know how to pronounce Outer Slobovian last names proved in fact that I either was LYING about admiring him, or that I discriminated against Outer Slobovians.

OK he didn't say Outer Slobovia. He was descended from people from a real country with a real name that I didn't care about. He had me there. So I tried to recover by emphasizing again that I really did like his writing. At this point he said, "Don't think you're going to get a tip for flattering me, I don't tip crooks."

Then there's the "stupid" or "scatterbrain" stereotype, popularized by Christopher Lloyd on "Taxi." I generally liked that one because I would rather be stupid than immoral, but even that got old.

As I approached What's-His-Name's destination he seemed to soften and actually said something pleasant to me. He asked me what I thought of Stephen King. I said I hadn't read anything by him, as I wasn't into horror these days, as my life had enough of the personal kind. This was followed by a tirade from What's-His-Name about how ignorant all cab drivers were.

Since then, I haven't enjoyed reading What's-His-Name's column so much, although I did enjoy parts of the one he did many years ago about his trip to China and how the awful nasty Chinese didn't personally supply him with Western toilets everywhere he went. That was funny.

Speaking of stale dumb stereotypes, the Washington, D.C., area (alleged) sniper(s) sure have a lot of often negatively stereotyped people wishing HE'D been from Outer Slobovia or some other imaginary fly-away republic.

Recently there have been folks who have gone to great lengths to try to prove that homeless ex-military are rare. Real ex-military people are supposed to be too well trained and too self-reliant to ever become homeless. Finally one gets in the news and he's a damn serial killer. What a pain.

The Good News: Now everyone sees Washington State as a breeding ground for serial killers, what with this guy, Bundy, the Green River Killer and that Twin Peaks show all going to prove it. So if I go east, and I want a little space, all I'll have to do is remind folks of where I'm from. We're bad.

© Dr. Wes Browning:
2129 Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 (206) 441-3247

Adventures in Poetry Columns       © Dr. Wes Browning's Home Page
The Great Speckled Bird Columns on Homelessness