Steven Ivory

*I’ll call him Dale.  I’ll call him that because the name seems innocuous enough.  And because by not using his real name, no one reading this can track him down and kill him.

We meet one Friday afternoon while sitting under a sun umbrella at an L.A. car wash, waiting for our cars.  

Before going any further, let me just say you never know  who is sitting in, say, the lime late model Audi  next to you on a stop light.  You don’t know who they are or what they think. That is, unless you   happen to wash your car at the  same time and place as the person you’d  sit next to on a stop light.  That would be Dale.

Late thirties. Groomed, close beard accenting a striking chiseled, face.  Athletic build. Aqua plaid knee length shorts and  white long-sleeved tee with a  gray-colored  sports brand’s swoosh on the front.  Leather sandals. Not cheap.  Expensive watch.  Yankees cap.  

It’s my fault.  I ask Dale how he’s doing today.  Great, he says, thanks for asking.  Then, somehow, a  benign conversation regarding the Lakers  morphs to women–that’s not an impossible transition–and Dale, while handing me a card from the investment firm  he works for,  says that since he’s just interested in sex these days, he only dates women who have already gone through “the change” or who have had hysterectomies.  “That way,” he says,  “you never have to worry about her having a period. She’s always ready.”  

Gee. Where do you begin? I keep it simple and  wonder how he  could    know whether a woman is  post-menopausal or has had a hysterectomy?  “You  just ask, once you get to know them,”  Dale says with the nonchalance of someone offering  directions to the freeway.      

“With the hysterectomy,  I have my own way of telling before I even  introduce myself. If she’s in her thirties or forties, hasn’t  got but  one kid and is single, then it could be because her man probably left her when she couldn’t have anymore kids after the hysterectomy.”  I look at his face.  He’s earnest. Yikes.

This, Dale explains, was the case with the last woman he “seriously dated.”  Bless her soul, whoever and wherever she is.  “She spoiled me, man.  No muss, no fuss, if you know what I mean.”  

I’d like to make it clear: I don’t know this man.  Never seen him before in my life.  But I can’t bring myself to stop listening.  

Dale’s  prattle about women leads to a dissertation on  money before  bleeding into discussion regarding the national debt, which Dale says he can fix.  

“Tax the overweight,” he declares with a straight face. “That might sound mean or whatever, but America is too politically correct. The government could establish a federal weight for citizens based on  age, height and health. If they  get beyond their weight limit,  make them pay more for food  and  for meals when dining out.”  Apparently, Dale has thought about this.  “There’s a lot of fat people in America.  You tax ’em and I’ll bet they’ll lose weight.  You knock down the deficit and make people healthy all at once.”  

Gingerly, I suggest to Dale that his deficit-busting plan is beyond politics; it challenges the most basic human right.  “Well, I’m not telling citizens how many kids they can have, like the government  does in Japan, ” he counters.  “I’m telling people to lose weight.  That’s a positive thing.”      

First, you were pissed at him.   Now you’re pissed at me for even giving this any amount of space. Well, consider it public service.  The world is a wonderful place, but you need to be aware  that someone like Dale could be standing behind you in the check out line at Macy’s.  This is a guy holding tight to the concept of emptying the nation’s prisons by sending the worst of the lot off to war.  

“Why have innocent people die?” Dale reasons. “Let [convicted criminals] repay their debt to society in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.”     

I know.  I thought  about it.  I considered the notion of stopping him dead in his tracks on  this stuff.  But we’re talking about intense, soul-quaking  discourse;  serious  shaking and waking. Even if he wanted  to change and wanted it  really, really bad, Dale’s metamorphosis would be an expansive process.  Longer than it takes to Armor All four tires, for sure.

And so when the attendant raises his rag to inform me my car is ready, I excuse myself in a hurry.  

Occasionally, strangers  delight and amuse.  However, I pull away from the car wash knowing there are lots of Dales out there, in all shapes, sizes, colors and genders, sitting anonymously at stop lights all over the country.  The very idea  of this scares the absolute shit out of me.

Steven Ivory is a journalist/author who has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years.  Respond to him via [email protected]