The island where I live has a colorful mix of citizens – generations of island families, left-leaning newcomers (like me), rich retirees, and erstwhile business folk trying to make a go. I love the soup that it makes of values, ideals, opinions, politics and lifestyles. Small town America with a moat.
Because this is an island, I ride a ferry to work. Usually an early ferry. Mostly this means a lot of sleepy drivers conked out in their cars for twenty minutes, or using the time to grab coffee or put on make-up in the vanity mirror on the visor. Sometimes it means parking behind someone who wants to advertise an opinion. “Wag More, Bark Less,” “Wage Peace,” “Boeing Workers Do It – Right!” etc.
This morning I parked behind an animal lover. The bumper sticker, at eye level for me because it was on a large truck/SUV, said, “I Love Animals… They’re Delicious” with the number 800-343-HUNT underneath. The driver was not behind the wheel. I pictured some old white guy, with an Elmer Fudd cap and a toothpick sticking out of his mouth, upstairs getting coffee.
I’m not so big on hunting. It never seemed exactly fair or kind to me – chasing something down, scaring the crap out of it, and then shooting it. On the other hand, I know a lot of people who hunt, and I like these people. One of them pointed out that the elk she shot for winter meat had lived a much happier, more humane life than that chicken I served for dinner. Okay, point taken. Before I pretend to be the Dalai Lama I’ll listen to all sides.
The 5:10 ferry seems an unlikely place for a philosophical inquiry into the ethical boundaries of killing sentient beings. But there I was, staring at the lights of Everett, Washington on the horizon, and pondering the extent of my own responsibility for the taking of life on the planet.
As the boat pulled into the slip, I spotted the animal lover making his way back to his truck. I knew it was he. Tall, bearded and lumbering. He walked with that swaying motion that comes from thighs so large that your legs are not really parallel anymore, but more of an inverted V – hips and knees beginning to wear under the burden of so many pounds for so many years.
This was undoubtedly a man who loved animals. A lot. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. This was a guy who might look up from a gurney in the ER and say, “What the fuck do you mean, a heart attack? I’m only forty-six!” and then remember that his dad had died at fifty-one of a massive coronary. A meat and potatoes sort of fellow. Not the sort of guy you’d peg as much of a listener, but, yes, an animal lover at heart.
He opened the large truck door and hefted himself into the driver’s seat. The steering wheel was tilted up to make room for his XXL belly. I felt sad for him. I wondered what I could possibly say to him. He shot a scowl at me in the rear view mirror. No, there really wasn’t anything I could do. I wondered if he smoked too. My guess would be yes.
This morning, that bumper sticker seemed wincingly ironic. I love animals too – probably even the one pulling out onto a rainy Washington highway, heading for his next meatball sub.
Usually I love ironies… They’re delicious. This one, not so much.