We’re up at Griffith Observatory, up on Mount Hollywood, fresh from the big room downstairs in which a facsimile of the solar system is displayed, and in which I, who may look 92, but am still four and a half at heart, got the giggles at the prospect of asking the Sherpa, or docent, or whatever, such questions as, “How big is Uranus?" and “What is Uranus’s average temperature?” We are in a long queue waiting to be admitted to a sort of domed theatre in which we will see a presentation called something like Our Wonderful Universe. A huge guy — we’ll call him Igor — with an Eastern European-sounding accent and a date with an Eastern European-looking blonde dye job quite brazenly walks to the front of the queue, sighs self-satisfiedly, and gives everyone a look that demands, “What are you going to do about it?”
I always feel at such times as though the top layer of my manhood is being peeled off, as though, even if no one else does, I should be the guy who confronts the asshole on the common behalf. But the sensible part of me (the part so easily confused with the cowardly) recognises some very obvious problems. Igor is around 30 years younger than I, with biceps approximately as big around as my thighs. He puts me in mind of an episode of The Sopranos in which a big Russian mafia goon advises Paulie Walnuts, “I wash my balls in ice water.” I have one working arm (I’m a few months away from having my right shoulder replaced for the second time), and am wearing an expensive custom contact lens in my right eye. I have recently spent $1100 on dental work to make my smile more irresistible. His walloping me could damage me financially as well as physically.
I think maybe what I might do is charm him out of his ghastly behaviour. I think I will make my way over to him with my big brown eyes all a-twinkle and say, “My friend, maybe it’s different from where you’re from, but in this country we join a line at its end,” beaming at him the whole time, as though we’re in on the same little joke. But then I picture him believing me to have embarrassed him in front of Ms. Baddyejob, and replying, “And in my country, a real man joins a line wherever he fucking pleases, and breaks the nose of anyone who dares challenge him.”
I will be hoping that, by this time, others in line will see what I’m doing and, inspired by my courage, make evident their support. Will Igor really want to take on half a dozen universe-lovers, or suffer the opprobrium of their WAGs? But even if no support is manifested, I must persevere. I will manifest gentle, avuncular, disappointment, and say, “My friend, my hunch is that you’re much better than this. Rather than all of us in front of whom you have queue-jumped thinking you an awful person, would it not be much more pleasurable to win our admiration by admitting your mistake and going to the back of the line?”
At which point, one of two things will happen. Others in the queue award me a small round of applause, making me feel loved, and Igor see the error in his ways, garnering applause of his own. Or, rather more likely, he will snarl something along the lines of, “Get the fuck out of my face, faggot, or I will throw you halfway down Mt. Hollywood and impregnate your wife.” I realise there’s another possibility, more mortifying than the second. A woman will confront him, and then I’ll really feel a woeful little dweeb.
In the end, neither I nor anyone else in line says a word, and I spend the whole of Our Wonderful Universe and much of the early evening hating myself a little bit. Not even the memory of nearly asking the docent about the temperature of his anus restores my good mood.