I'm not one of those columnists who are always taking wildly provocative positions just to attract attention. So please don't question my sincerity when I write sympathetically about the lady in Washington, D.C., who threw a cup of pee onto a bus driver.
Now, hear me out. I respect bus drivers and acknowledge that pee-flinging anywhere, anytime, is repulsive, and unacceptable. You might ask, in fact: What decent human being carries around a weaponized container of her own urine?
As it happens, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation. Well before the attack, it turns out, the lady found herself facing extreme bladder urgency while on public transportation and relieved herself into her empty coffee cup. First, this is ecologically sound: She was repurposing a non-biodegradable substance, getting more use out of it before it is discarded, something we should all do more often. Our landfills would be less toxic if we all, say, harvested the foam from coffee cups for use as toe separators for nail-polishing. Or even pee catapults.
We need to keep an open mind. Who among us has not, on occasion, had to make use of emergency receptacles? Dozens of innocents are said to have resorted to just such things during Chris Christie's George Washington Bridge traffic-jam scandal. I myself once faced a similarly dire crisis while working alone one Sunday, many years ago, in a completely empty skyscraper in New York. The bathrooms were locked. There were no trash cans. If I left the building, I could not get back in. I briefly considered depositing something in the building's mail chute, but then decided that if such an act were ever discovered, there was probably some federal statute under which I'd be executed. Fortunately, I eventually found a window that opened on the 54th floor.
My point is, let he who is without sin throw the first kidney stone.
The real issue, of course, is what the lady did with her urine, and that's where I ask you to open your mind and soften your heart. This crime did not occur in a vacuum. It occurred as she was leaving the bus. By her account — undisputed at the time I write this — the bus driver told her to "have a nice day."
Please let that marinate for a bit.
I have been commanded to "have a nice day" thousands of times — it is an obnoxious imperative, when you think about it — and I have said it hundreds of times myself, unthinking, and then instantly winced. It has become a reflex, an idiot blurt, when your intention is not to wish someone pleasantness, but to end a conversation in a way that invites no response. It's effective in that sense, but also lazy and insincere. For that reason, no equivalent phrase is used in most European languages. They consider us rude when we say it. In fact, the word "nice" is the product of centuries of cleansing and bleaching — it originally meant foolish, stupid, senseless, careless, clumsy, weak or poor.
When you get right down to its roots, "nice" is not a nice word.
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking ... "Fine, but did the punishment fit the bus driver's crime?" and I think we can agree the pee-flinger overreacted. But so did British suffragette Emily Davison, when, in 1913, she bolted from the crowd and threw herself in front of King George's horse during a race at Epsom Downs. Emily died, and everyone agreed her protest was a tad extreme, but it helped win women the vote.
You see my point. I do not endorse pee terrorism against objectionable speech, but if it continues, let it also target:
"Have a blessed day."
"Thoughts and prayers," especially as tendered by pro-gun politicians after every massacre. Equally disreputable subset: "My heart goes out to …"
And finally — and this is personal — paramilitary types who send in aggrieved, indignant and contemptuous letters to the editor, if we call a ship a "boat," or if we call a revolver a "pistol," or flagrantly misidentify a SIG Sauer P320 RX as a Ruger LC9s.
I realize some of you might consider my position here a bit objectionable. If you do, have a nice day.