‘There’s a Bunch of Idiots Out There’

By Michael Kaufman

Before the days of E-ZPass it was not uncommon to see toll booths marked “Exact Change Lane” or “Exact Change Only.” One such booth, at exit 11 of the NJ Turnpike, where the Turnpike intersects with the Garden State Parkway, featured an additional hand-made sign: “NO DIRECTIONS.” The idea was to create a lane at the busy toll plaza where traffic could move quickly for drivers who had the exact amount ready and knew how to get where they were going. The lane was much appreciated by people on their way to work or to the shore, and it usually worked well. But not always.

One morning on my way to work my car was third from the booth when traffic came to a halt. I could see the toll collector, a short, gray-haired man who had been at the job for years, gesturing angrily at the driver of the car at the booth, and pointing to the “Exact Change” sign. But now there was no other place for the driver to go, and the toll collector eventually gave up the argument and made the necessary change.

Then the driver of the next car asked for directions. Again the exasperated toll collector pointed, this time to his hand-made “NO DIRECTIONS” sign. And again he had no choice but to provide directions in order to get traffic moving again.

When it was my turn and I handed him the exact change, he looked around, then at me, and said sadly, “There’s a bunch of idiots out there.” I have been using the line ever since, particularly with regard to family members whenever they get on my nerves. My children have all come to regard “bunch of idiots,” or simply the singular, “idiot,” as terms of endearment. Fortunately, they were able to explain this to their cousins the first time I affectionately referred to them as a bunch of idiots. “That means he really likes you a lot,” I heard  Gahlia tell Olivia. Or maybe it was Sydney. I know it was one of those idiots.

But aside from family members, those words are reserved for people I truly think worthy of the name. I’ve noticed quite a few in recent weeks. Remember the rally in Albany to protest the new gun-control law in New York State? I’m not saying all of the reported 7,000 people who were there are idiots. (I can say that all the people I saw in the newspaper photo are white….but that is a topic for a column itself.) One guy had a sign, “I don’t need an AK-47, but I want one.” Another nitwit thought it would be amusing to use his sign to poke fun at some immigrants: “My guns aren’t illegal, they’re just undocumented.”

I don’t really think that Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton is an idiot. But he is acting like one by going to all the pro-gun rallies and pandering for votes in his bid to become the Republican candidate for Orange County executive. Sweeton has now been quoted in several newspaper articles, saying of the law, “It is unconstitutional.” Since when did he become Oliver Wendell Holmes?

Then there’s the guy who wrote a letter to the editor after the Boston Marathon bombings, echoing the oft-expressed sentiment of his fellow idiots that people in Boston and surrounding areas would have felt a lot safer if they all had guns during the time the suspects were at large. Notice that you never heard of many (if any) people from Boston make such a statement. That includes the police officers and other law enforcement workers, whose jobs would have been made immeasurably more difficult if a bunch of idiots (or even just plain frightened citizens) were running around with guns. Remember when John King told CNN viewers that a reliable source told him the bomber was a “dark-skinned male?” Or when the NY Post put a picture of a backpack-toting high-school kid on the front page? Do these people not remember what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina?

I haven’t even gotten to Ted Cruz or some of the other wackola Republicans in Congress but I think the point has been made well enough: There’s a bunch of idiots out there. Feel free to comment and add your own.

Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.



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4 Responses to “‘There’s a Bunch of Idiots Out There’”

  1. Walt Says:

    Divide et impera. The ‘State’ has a term for those who still hold on to the two party speak; useful idiots.

  2. e miller Says:

    Unfortunately there is no cure for stupid, or idiot.

  3. Bennett Weiss Says:

    I speak as one descended from a long line of lovable idiots. Well mostly lovable anyway.

    Your story dredged up a memory long suppressed due to mortifying and soul-scarring embarrassment. My dad was a toll-booth idiot. Big time.

    Almost every summer weekend,on the way up from the Bronx to Ellenville’s Ideal Bungalow Colony, my dad would curse the Governor Whoever-the-hell-it-was every time he threw a quarter into the pre-EZ pass change basket. Well one time he tossed a nickle in and before he could get to the two dimes that would have made the 25 cent transaction complete, lo and behold, the barrier gate rose. This was clearly an act of Divine Intervention w. My dad exuberantly sped away like one of our distant ancestral idiots racing through the parted Red Sea. I bet that the was the only time a 1955 Rambler left a 20 foot trail of burnt rubber.

    But that wasn’t the really embarrassing part of the story. That would happen when every single weekend from then on, my father would toss one nickle into basket and wait for the miracle of the toll booth to recur. A full 10 seconds would pass. One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi…. Only then would he throw in the next nickle and so on all the way to last expletive-deleted nickle flew from his trembling finger tips. Needless to say, the line of car drivers did not categorize this as “lovable idiocy”.

    (Later those hot summer evening my dad would blow 20 bucks at Monticello race track and shrug it off as having had a good time anyway. Ahh,, the joys of mashugganuh idiocy!)

    But there was nothing even slightly joyous or charming about the savage and deadly idiocy I encountered a few weeks ago when I picketed the Middletown Gun Show with a home made sign, STOP THE NRA. I’ll spare you the details for now.

    Oh, by the way, my mother always insisted that the magic toll booth nickle was really a quarter in the first place.

  4. Michael Says:

    Great story, Bennett. I can picture your father tossing a nickel into the basket and then waiting for magic to strike again as the traffic backed up behind him. And I tend to agree with Walt: A lot of today’s Democrats now in office make conservative Republicans of yesteryear seem like liberals by comparison.

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