I see the man as soon as I enter the 7-11. He and his son are turning the corner, heading for the Slurpee machine.
Neither is wearing a mask.
Signage on the door clearly requires customers to wear masks. The employee behind the counter, plus two other customers inside the store, are wearing masks. I’m wearing a mask.
I take two bottles of Diet Coke from the cooler and find my place in line. Father and son are standing in front of me. Another customer – wearing a mask – is finishing at the register with the employee.
As father and son step forward, the employee behind the counter says, “Could you please wear a mask next time?” He’s polite but firm.
The father laughs at the employee. His son, probably about seven or eight years old, starts laughing a second later. “Yeah, right,” the father says.
I clear my throat. “Thank you for asking customers to wear masks!” I call out to the 7-11 employee.
The father turns. Opens his mouth to speak.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” I say.
He isn’t expecting this. He freezes for a moment. His son looks up, waiting. Confused.
The father starts to speak again.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” I interrupt.
Before you think that my comment is daring, it’s not. Two people are standing behind me in line. Both are wearing masks. Another person wearing a mask has just entered the store. I have at least four other masked people in the story who are presumably on my side. I’m not exactly going out on a limb here.
Father and son are seriously outnumbered.
“Masks are a joke,” the father finally manages to say.
I remove my phone from my pocket. Hold it up. I do nothing other than holding it, but it’s enough to make the father quickly turn around and shut up, as I thought it might. Perhaps he fears appearing in one of those viral videos of idiots who refuse to wear masks in public places and act like lunatics while refusing.
You know the type.
Father and son pay for their Slurpees and leave. I thank the employee – someone I see all the time – a second time and depart.
Here is what I couldn’t help but think as I was driving home:
That kid is probably on a path to becoming an idiot jackass, just like his father. The boy seems to really like his father. I saw love, admiration, and even a degree of reverence in those small, brown eyes.
He reverses a selfish, ignorant jackass. How could he not become one?
Maybe, as the boy gets older, he’ll begin to recognize his father’s selfish disregard for the needs of others. Maybe a broadening of his horizons will eventually allow him to spot his dad’s inflated sense of self-importance. Perhaps education and maturity will cause the boy will ultimately reject his father’s bluster and stupidity.
But what are the chances?
How much of a person’s heart and mind is truly their own, and how much of it is simply an imprint of their parents’ hearts and minds?
If you grew up respecting, admiring, and loving your parents, maybe a lot.
Ask yourself this:
Did you choose your religion through introspection, research, and soul searching, or does your religion conveniently match the religion of your parents?
Did you choose your political beliefs after a culmination of life experience, or are your political beliefs conveniently aligned to that of your parents?
Did you choose your occupation, or is your job in the same field as one or both of your parents?
Do you love the same sports teams as your parents? Celebrate holidays in the same way? Own the same kinds of pets?
That little boy is probably going to end up becoming an idiot jackass unless somewhere along the way, he decides to stop admiring and respecting his father and finds a new path.
On the way home from 7-11, I pass by the home of a super Christian, pro-life, Bible-thumping, Trump-supporting conservative lady. She plants signs on her lawn stating as much. As I drive by those signs, it got me thinking:
What are the chances that she came to these conservative beliefs on her own, after much study, debate, and contemplation?
More than likely, her Mommy and Daddy feel the same way that she does. Her beliefs probably aren’t born from anything more than an imprinting of her parent’s beliefs.
It’s a Catch-22:
If you love and respect your parents, you’re far more likely to simply accept their truths as your own, thus becoming a carbon copy of sorts rather than a unique, self-determining, self-actualized person.
But if you’re like me, growing up in a home where you often stood in opposition to your parents, you’re more likely to reject your parents’ beliefs. It’s no shock that I rejected my parents’ religion at an early age. It’s no surprise that I was a Yankees fan in a home filled with Red Sox fans. It’s no surprise that my political beliefs are diametrically opposed to the political beliefs of my parents.
But that still means that parents can play a role in your choices. Perhaps not to the same degree or specificity, but if your opposition to your parents drives you away from the things that they hold dear, you’re still defined in some way by your parents beliefs.
Perhaps not as directly as the person who ends up emulating their parents, but certainly indirectly.
That little boy in the 7-11 is probably going to be a jerk when he grows up. He may already be a jerk. I suspect that the father’s father is probably a jerk, too.
This doesn’t mean that cycles can’t be broken. It doesn’t mean that the child of every monster becomes a monster. But when you love your parents, I think you’re far more likely to end up looking a lot like them later in life.
Unless, of course, this father and son’s unwillingness to wear masks leads to one of them a near-fatal case of COVID-19. Then perhaps his father’s tune will change, at least in regard to masks.
Even idiot jackasses can change their mind, particularly when their particular brand of stupidity is challenged on a personal level. It often only takes one gay person in a family to turn a bigot into someone who suddenly understands that love is love.
It would be nice is the bigot didn’t require their daughter or nephew to be gay in order to dispense with the bigotry. Lots of people understand that love is love, even if they don’t have a family member or friend who is gay. But at least change is possible.
So maybe that boy will grow up to be a kind, responsible citizen. Maybe his father will change his tune in the coming months as more and more Americans die. Maybe the super-conservative, Trump-supporting lady with the lawn signs will see photos of children in cages or read about Trump’s recent payments to a porn star or watch a video compilation of Trump’s self-serving dismissals of the coronavirus back in early 2020 when action could have saved tens of thousands of lives and suddenly swap out her Trump sign for a Biden one.
All are possible. All, I suspect, are unlikely.