It was early morning, and we were all in the maintenance truck, barreling down the highway to our first job.
As usual, Crew Leader Carl was driving. Before we’d left, he’d slid a motivational CD into the player.
“My girlfriend wants me to work on my anger issues,” he’d explained. “She said that I’m often hot-headed and irritable, and that I always have to have my own way. She’s hoping this CD will help me to turn over a new leaf.”
“So we all have to sit here and suffer so you can supposedly reform?” I asked. “Because the rest of us want to listen to music.”
“Dammit!” Carl slammed his fist on the dashboard. “I’m the foreman, and this is my truck! And I get to choose what we all listen to!”
“Wow.” I looked at the other guys, grimacing. “By all means, then, play the CD. Hopefully it’ll do some good.”
So now we were listening to tranquil synthesizer music, which was overlaid with waterfall sound effects and a soothing female voice.
“You are a calm, peaceful person,” the narrator said, her voice monotone and hypnotic.
A small car cut us off, and Carl slammed on the brakes. The tools in the trailer clanged around.
“You useless scum-sucking bastard!” he yelled, laying on the horn and waving his fist. “Haven’t you heard of a signal light?”
We continued on.
“You are not bothered by the little things,” the CD said. “You are slow to anger. You let life’s little nuisances brush across your shoulders like wind grazing the ocean, and you never give them a second thought.”
We were approaching an intersection, and the light turned yellow. The car in front of us started to brake.
“Go!” Carl yelled. “Go, you muttonheaded bastard! We can make it!”
The car came to an abrupt halt, and the light turned red.
Carl laid on the horn and punched the steering wheel. “You useless son of a bitch! We could have made it! Stupid, stupid bastard!”
The car’s driver held up his middle finger to the rearview mirror, wagging it. Carl held up his middle finger and wagged it back, then laid on the horn again.
Drivers in surrounding cars stared at us.
“I think your girlfriend should request a refund on that CD,” I said. “It doesn’t seem to be working.”
“Shut up!” Carl snarled. He lit a cigarette, his hand shaking. “You want a broom handle shoved up your backside?”
I shrugged. “I just think she got ripped off, is all.”
“You are a calm, peaceful person,” the CD said. “You—”
Carl wrenched the CD out of the slot, then threw it out the window like a Frisbee. It sailed across all four lanes of traffic and bounced off a telephone pole.
“Wow,” said Stan, who was sitting beside me. “Nice shot!”
Carl didn’t respond. When the light turned green, he punched the gas, tailgating the car in front of us. When there was enough room to pass, he flew into the other lane and barreled ahead of the clump of traffic.
“Remember, Carl,” I said, “you are a calm, peaceful—”
Carl spun in his seat. “One more word out of you and I’ll kick your ass! Now shut up!”
“Wow,” I said, crossing my arms and frowning. “So much for turning over a new leaf.”