For the uninitiated, the Pie Hole is a pizza parlor on State Street. They serve pizza with a lot of range. At 5 p.m. their pizza might not legally be able to qualify as food with a thick layer of grease on a crust chewier than a radial tire. But at 1:30 a.m. after pouring drinks for six hours, the food is sublime. It’s hard not to marvel how the Pie Hole hasn’t been awarded a James Beard Award after being on your feet all night and you’ve only subsisted on handfuls of tortilla chips.
I had a hell of a night and didn’t get a chance to eat dinner. So after closing down the club, I bee-lined it to the Pie Hole. There was a line out the door but an open parking spot in front. I pulled the truck in and got to the back. The crowd was a mixed bag, but they did share two qualities. One, they were young. There wasn’t one that was old enough where I could have been their father. And I’m talking about responsible family planning, like I decided with their mother that we wanted a kid—not some torn rubber in the back of a Mercury Topaz type of family planning.
Two, they were absolutely schnockered.
It was the kind of drunk where they could quite stand up straight or get a cigarette into their mouth without looking extremely intently on the pack. The guy behind me must have dropped his American Spirits three times before finding the eye-hand coordination to get one in his mouth. Best of all, every time he dropped the pack, he’d say very passive-aggressively to me, “Thanks for the help.”
I didn’t raise you to be a condescending little prick, son.
The kids in front of me were bobbing and weaving like punch-drunk fighters in late rounds when I finally got to the trays of sloppy goodness. Because they were all born when Clinton was in the late stages of his presidency, instead of focusing and ordering slice of pizza and getting out of the way, they immediately went to their phones to tweet/Instagram/update statuses/Uber/quick game of Candy Crush (I have no idea). Old Man Raskin be damned—what’s up with getting distracted the very moment you get to the head of the queue? Why would you get in line for pizza and when you finally can have pizza, you decide that you’d rather SnapChat or hop on Grindr? I nudged the guy ahead of me and asked politely to order or step out of the way. He gave me the most incredulous look while glancing away from his phone as if to say, “Hey, Bro, the world can wait until I finish this Periscope of Travis waiting at the back of a line ‘cause he’s getting pizza.”
I eventually order two slices (actually three and it took more willpower than you can imagine not to have ordered five), paid and got in my truck.
The sidewalk was littered with flicked cigarette butts, crushed cans of PBR and drunken hooligans. Sliding in the truck, I put my seatbelt on, and start getting ready to turn right on 400 South when some ogre-ish kid with a weak chin started walking towards the driver side.
Oh boy, this is not going to be good.
It’s not that I can predict the future, it’s just that I’ve seen this lumbering walk before. Hell, I’ve done with aimless walk before and in fact, it was probably on Tuesday when I had one too many Wild Turkeys. Unlike most of the people hovering around the Pie Hole, this guy was tall and heavy—probably 6’4” and tipping the scales around 250-ish. With shaggy blond hair, bloodshot eyes and jean shorts that were doing the Lord’s work without a properly secured belt, he saunters over and wanted to know if could ask me a question.
Probably isn’t going to be state capital trivia or how to shoot a free throw.
“Can you give us a ride?” he slurred as he pointed to the cast of The Hill Has Eyes. “We need to go to the Avenues.”
Not only is the Avenues the wrong direction, they all had the look that they needed a relatively new to vomit in or they wanted to sodomize me in a ritualistic fashion usually reserved for Aztecs.
“Uh, no,” I said making strong eye contact.
Thinking this would suffice considering the imposition he wanted to put me in, he scoffed and said something that guaranteed the fabric of society just got shredded a little bit more.
“Why not, faggot?”
Why not, faggot? Are you kidding me?
You’d think he just answered his own question, but he waited patiently in the middle of the street, blocking my exit and clearly exasperated that I didn’t immediately change my mind.
“Well, since you asked, it’s because you used a very offensive word and I am not going that direction,” I said rolling up my window and preparing for the consequences of running him over. He balked for a minute and stumbled back to the curve.
I get that language has changed dramatically in just the time that I’ve been living in Utah, but throwing out the other F-word has been pretty consistent since I was a kid. It was a surefire way to kick off a brawl in the playground or get a rise out of anyone 30 years ago and I don’t think much has changed in the intermediate time.
Even worse, did the guy actually think I was some sort of creampuff?
Look, I get it—big trunk equals small wiener, but I’m a pretty broad guy with a decent enough beard and enough crow’s feet to prove I’ve been around the block once or twice. If I had pulled this stunt back in Reno, the state assembly would be drafting new hate crime legislation six month I had a closed casket funeral.
Why not, faggot?
We all the wherewithal to avoid rattling snakes and snarling dogs, isn’t a grizzled man carry pizza back to his truck the ultimate, “Uh, I’m going to stay the fuck away from this potentially deadly animal?” Thumbing a ride drunk is different than dropping the other F-word mostly because one has consequences. He’s lucky I had pizza to eat and podcasts to listen to or I’d show him a thing or two.
Ah, who am I kidding? I’m a wuss driving an oversized truck.
The highroad at 2 a.m. is driving off and avoiding conflict, but I wanted to mention that I always take the low road when it comes to slurs providing there isn’t pizza involved. And so should you. There’s no better sense of self-satisfaction than getting on a high horse and telling people not to use the F-word, B-word, C-word, K-word or any other word. In fact, you should just tell people to stop talking all together. That’s the best way to get the conversation started.
Or instead, just get Del Taco on your way home. That’s how you can avoid any conflict.
Ben Raskin is a bartender, writes emails for a vitamin company and has a dog named Shelly Belly.