You've just left the concert or convention, and now you're ready to leave all of that stress behind and head on home and OH SHIT THE PARKING LOT!
I like to think that a species is a good, reasonable species if its chief concern is self-preservation. I see a thing that wants to keep living and I say, "Yeah, that fella's on the ball, he's got a good head on his shoulders." Success = survival.
So when I'm surrounded by a bunch of other crazed drivers in a dangerously busy parking-lot-induced traffic jam and I make decisions that actively show no regard for my own safety, I feel like I lose whatever soul I might have had before.
"For the next 10 minutes, God is dead and I'm the only real person left on the planet."
If I'm in a crowded parking lot, the hall that previously held the symphony or adult sex convention that I'd just attended suddenly becomes a bomb ready to go off at any minute, and I need to get as far away as possible, even if it means killing myself. Especially, in fact. If someone is trying to sneak his way into my lane, I'll speed up and do my best to flash him a look that says, "I'm ready to die. My soul is prepared; how is yours?" I want everyone to know that I'm just crazy enough to take this whole goddamn place down with me, a message I present via sexy and dangerous car-dancing (there's a lot of swaying and cursing and awkward forward-jerking that takes place). I don't do this in regular traffic; only in crowded parking lots. Survival becomes secondary to letting everyone else know that I'm the crazy one. "You all need to watch out for me because I'm not looking out for anything or, in fact, even looking while I'm driving right now."
But it's not selfish, because so is everyone else. Even if we all objectively know that things would be easier if we were all calmly and patiently navigating the parking lot with extreme caution, we lose that objectivity as soon as the parking lot monster shows its ugly head. It's the one time that the part of your brain that doesn't fear death (and, really, why do we even have that part?) overcomes every other part of your brain.
I know I've ranted and grumbled on this column a few times, but it's always been feigned outrage. I'm not an angry guy. Usually when I feel like I might get angry, I think about what I'd look like with a big mad-face on, and how silly that would look. Because when some people get angry they look intimidating, and others look like they're trying to poop. I'm in that second group.
"Whoa, you'd better not mess with that guy. He's shitting himself, currently."
If you suffered from Poop Face Disorder, you wouldn't get angry all that often, either.
As level-headed as I tend to stay, I am at my absolute worst as a human being in an airport terminal. I not only get angry, I lose all sense of empathy and reason. The night before a flight, I am the most organized and prepared person you will ever meet. I make a list of what I need to pack and I go through it. I clean my apartment. I pick out the clothes that will be comfortable and shoes that will be easy to take off at the security checkpoint. I make sure I have transportation to the airport, and I make sure that the people picking me up when I land know my flight number, so they can track it during the day in case it gets delayed. I reduce the amount of things that will be in my pockets to only the absolute essentials (passport, the ticket I printed in advance, a Spider-Man toy) and safely pack the other things that usually load my pockets (wallet, keys, cellphone, an additional Spider-Man toy). I triple check everything, and then I set three separate alarms (if it's a super-early flight).
But then I get to the airport, and everything except the caveman part of my brain shuts off, because in my head, absolutely every motherfucker in this building wants to stop me from getting to my destination, which means I'm allowed to fight them. Fight them with biting.
I don't know what it is about the airport that makes a person think they're the only one who needs to get anywhere, but that's where we're at as a culture. It happens to me every time I fly. If a line is long and I worry that I might miss my flight, I panic, because I feel like everyone else is there to inconvenience me. I'll suppress the urge to shout, "Look, I know all of these yahoos came to the airport to wait in line like a bunch of jerks, but I actually need to go somewhere. Somewhere important.
It's a strong sense of entitlement mixed with a total lack of concern for absolutely anyone who isn't me. I could march through an airport while hundreds of people around me die and I would just think, "Hey, that's their thing, I need to get to Austin."
But I'm not even the worst. Have you ever seen someone on standby, hoping to get a flight? These people are on standby because they've missed their original flight, and now they're hanging around on the off chance that there will be an opening for another flight. They're usually delayed by several hours, and their new flight, if they get one, will probably involve some inconvenient stopover in some other state. These people are the most miserable and haggard people you will ever meet. They circle airport employees like vultures. They loudly complain about how ruined all of their plans are, like their mild inconveniences are on par with being kidnapped and tortured ("And then someone at the counter was rude to me! And I was like, where am I, a Saw movie? Set in Communist China? With Nazis?"). They look at the people who do have tickets, and they size them up, mentally working out how hard it would be to murder someone, take their tickets and hide them in an airport bathroom.
Most of all, they lose all sense of reason. I fly a few times a year, so I've seen this exchange maybe a dozen times:
Employee: You are in this situation because you missed your flight, because you were late. And there are no seats left on this new flight.
Deranged Woman: But I need to get to D.C., you don't understand! I bought a ticket!
Employee: I understand that, ma'am, but you have to --
Deranged Woman: That's not good enough, I need you to get me to D.C., this is your responsibility.
Employee: We have a flight out tomorrow morning for --
Deranged Woman: No, no, no, this is your JOB. This is what you DO. Find me a flight, I don't care how you do it.
Employee: No, well ... well obviously you don't care, no one ever -- but that's not important, the point is there are NO flights to D.C. until tomorrow. I can't cha --
Deranged Woman: Fix it. I don't care, fix it. Give me someone else's ticket. Get me to D.C. Right now. You have 20 seconds to get me in the air.
Employee: I don't ... I'm not even sure where that threat could go ...
Deranged Woman: 19 ... 18 ...
And the weird thing? The rest of the other future passengers and I have no sympathy for this woman whatsoever. We all automatically assume "Well, she's not getting on the plane because she did something wrong. She's not as good at flying as I am. What a fool." Even though whenever we get delayed, it's not our fault, but the result of some giant airport conspiracy designed to screw us.
But her? She's an idiot, and we're happy to watch her scream her head off, while we feel nothing.
People are terrible.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's Senior Writer (ladies), and is prepared to die for his cause, provided his cause is getting out of Comic-Con's parking lot (cars).
Check out more from Dan in 7 Great Men in History (And Why You Should Hate Them) and Why Humanity Can't Get Past The 7 Deadly Sins.