So this is a tale, my good readers; one that will surely stretch the threads of your imagination. But you must realize it to be true. I would never steer you wrong, especially when you’ve been so kind to me throughout the months. No matter how strange this story seems, you have to understand that it really happened. I was there and I witnessed it in its entirety. I was at a gas station sometime last year. There was a line and I was in it, bored, looking around at things. There was a man behind me, probably aged 35. I couldn’t see his legs – they were invisible – so I could only deduce that he was wearing camouflage pants.
I happened to notice that right under the counter above was a display for gift cards. This gas station had gift cards for every store/restaurant ever – it was a amazing. They had them for Blockbuster, AMC Theaters, Regal Theaters, Home Depot, Chili’s, Applebees, Olive Garden, Wendy’s, iTunes, Rhapsody… this list goes on an on. They had an amazing selection of gift cards for being just a simple gas station. I thought people only went to gas stations to get gas, beer, smokes, and beef jerky. Learn something new every day.
There was also a gift card for Barnes and Noble. Without even thinking, I commented outloud, “Barnes and Noble gift cards? Who comes to a gas station to get a gift card to a book store?” That funny man I described earlier, who was standing behind me, started to laugh a bizarre, mentally challenged-sounding laugh. Some of the other patrons laughed to. Perhaps they were laughing at him? I don’t know. But it’s about this time when the unthinkable happened. Something that took me by surprise. I should have known then, however, that living in Florida brings out the oddest treats.
This guy – I call him Cletis every time I tell this story – then said, “Man, I ain’t ever read no book in my entire life.” He said that proudly, as if he was the smartest man in the universe and he got that title without ever having to read. But I didn’t believe him.
We Don’t Need Education Dollars (3/2009)
I quickly retorted with, “So you’ve never read Green Eggs and Ham or The Cat in the Hat?” I thought the suggestion of Dr. Seuss classics would jog his memory because who hasn’t read these? “No man,” Cletis said. I shot out some more simple childhood titles but he still denied me. “How did you get through elementary school without have to read anything?” I asked.
“I didn’t get too far in school.”
That was it. He was done laughing. All he wanted now was to purchase his Natural Light brew and go home to his trailer or whatever to party. Poor Cletis. Part of me wanted to teach him to read right there in the gas station, the other part of me wanted to destroy his existence.
I’ll never forget that story. Was he lying? I don’t know. He was pretty convincing. But why would he brag about something like that? Finding out a 30 year-old man, who is clearly allowed to have his driver’s license, can’t/won’t read. I guess being able to read stop signs should be enough for me. Clearly it’s enough for him.
And yet our government keeps taking away money from education. If these results are yielding such fine products as Cletis, what will happen to the rest of us in the future? It’s only going to get worse. Who gives a fuck if we have plenty of people to man fast-food jobs. Who is going to be able to handle anything else? That movie Idiocracy may have presented the closest thing to an actual future I can figure.