We don’t like them, and they don’t like us. What follows are brief reports on encounters between civilians and Hummers (and their owners) in an urban environment. ANY urban environment. If you want to add your own, please go to the “Tell Mr. Beller A Story” button and send one in. (The most recent additions are at the top.)
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
What perhaps is most perplexing and distressing is the most recent trend with Hummers: the extended behemoth limousine Hummer. To be frank, I could not stand the size of the Lincoln Navigator. Then the ostentatious Hummer arrived upon the scene. With both vehicles came their drivers, disrespectful of everyone: pedestrian or motorist; disrespectful of the environment; and moreover, disrespectful of every rule (unwritten or codified) of the road. Overnight they became a nuisance. Notwithstanding, however, I could understand the temperament of these owners /operators, they have money and with money comes the belief that they can do whatever their little hearts desire. C’est la vie.
The trend today, as I have seen it on all too frequent an occasion, is the Hummer Limousine. This stretched monstrosity is akin only to a series of barges tied together traveling up the Mississippi River. Like a series of barges it careens along with a whimsical mass plowing through whatever may be in the way. Unlike barges hauling toluene or benzene, the H2 Limmo just lugs around noxious people.
Luxurious to the point of cupidity, inside are a dozen or more flat screened televisions, two or three bars, neon tubes and fiber optics frills. Additionally, if all other annoying features fail to attract attention, it possesses a pulsating stereo system guaranteed to wake corpses out of their tombs.
What is worse about today‚s trend of the stretched Hummer is the cargo, the aspiring abnoxious. They are those who can only afford a nightly rental. During that fleeting period of time these intemperants assume the semblance of being mightier than those who are mightier than they themselves.
Recently I had a literal run-in which such a pack of profligates. Their unbridled sense of self-worth seethed from the exhaust of a stretched Hummer. At the time I was on a mission and the altercation did not lodge upon my grey matter until minutes after the fact. I must preface the mission with a few background details to place the event into its proper perspective.
I spend most of my days in a smoke filled law office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is here, in an office straight out of Perry Mason, where I draft memorandums and briefs along with other legal pleadings. I keep looking for Della Street to show up at the front desk, but she consistently fails to appear. At least twice a month I make it a point to get out of the office and travel the Great State of Loooziana. I explain to the attorney that I work for that my purpose is to break the monotony. But, alas, it is mainly to fulfill my alter-ego: Jim Rockford. The Rockford Files are in my blood and I cannot get rid of them. So I go out into the world on occasion to act as a process server.
It was on the particular occasion, last month, when I had a Bankruptcy Summons to be served in New Orleans. The art of process serving involves the element of surprise. Most people do not wish to be dragged into court, especially when they are on the short end of a bankruptcy proceeding. It was this particular proceeding that I found most satisfying. To be served: a Nouveaux riché who had succumbed to the George Bush economy. In the flailing of the economy this unwise capitalist managed to overspend himself. His name was a familiar one to me; and though I had not had the pleasure of meeting him personally, I now had my opportunity.
This individual, who we shall call Mr. Smith, had taken up residence in the Vieux Carre. (To those unfamiliar to New Orleans, this is The French Quarter). Mr. Smith had purchased a yellow two-story building on Toulouse Street erected in the early 1810‚s. The purchase was for a hefty pecuniary sum. And I proceeded towards this residence on an early Thursday evening after a fine dinner at Galatoire’s.
As I made my way down Bourbon towards Toulouse, I came to the intersection of Conti. There was a commotion stirring a block towards the River. There were police units, fire engines and many emergency personnel scattered about. This attracted my attention. As I went to cross Conti Street I was foolishly looking to my right observing the mayhem. I stepped off the curb and I walked straight into the side of a stretched out Hummer. It seemed to engulf the entire roadway and stretch the entire block.
Stunned by the mere magnitude of the object I had collided with, mentally occupied with the scene a block riverside, I was unaware that a window had rolled down. Suddenly I heard a voice.
“You! Yes, You! You, ya fuckin‚ imbecile. Why don‚t ya watch were the fuck ya walkin‚” I observed a white male peering out of the side window flipping me the bird. Then I heard a bunch of “impressed” females giggling at my chastisement. I had no reflex, and I just stood there limp and took the his next line of abuse: “ASSHOLE!” A blue haze then swallowed me up as the monster and its posse, laughing at my expense, turned left and made various attempts at mowing down unsuspecting tourists.
As I stated above, it took a few minutes before the incident fully registered in my mind. Then I was a bit pissed off. But what could I do? They were long gone.
Or were they?
As I made why way down Toulouse Street I noticed the gargantuan stretched Hummer parked illegally, sidewalk straddling, in front of the two-story yellow building I was looking for. One of the doors was open and I heard someone screaming for Charlie, to get the hell down there, bcause they were going to be late. As I approached the Hummer, Charlie made his way down to the stoop. He jumped into the Hummer, but before he closed the door I grabbed it. It was the same white male now staring at me eyeball to eyeball.
“What da fuck da you want? Hey, you’re the blind asshole from a couple of blocks over aint ya?”
I conceded that I was the blind fuck, and then asked if he was Charles Smith.
“What the fuck is it to you if I is or I a‚int?”
I explained that I had an invitation for him.
“You have an invitation for me?”
“Yes, here you go. You are invited to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on September 10, 2003 at 09:00.”
The women stared at me, and then they turned their focus to him with eyes wide and mouths gaping. If a pin dropped you could have heard it across the city. I walked away into the sweltering night with a calm feeling. I had ruined a Hummer wannabe owner’s evening. I bought a cigar and walked next to Old Man River.
Where: Chicago, IL
I was the doorman on the 2nd shift. When I showed up for work the other night, I looked at the drive – the space in front of the hotel where custumers pull in – and I saw a black Hummer parked in the money spot: top corner. The valets explained that the car was paid for, and that there was an unpaid BMW that the 1st shifter left to cover for it. This is how a doorman makes money: he parks cars in special slots for the highroller types. The usual price for a highroller slot is twenty but every now and then you’d get a fifty – prices were never spoken and usually crossed through the fold of a handshake.
The Hummer was the old school, ridiculously unaffordable type; not the H2, which is to Hummer what Billy Idol was to punk rock. But what was most important about this Hummer was that it was in my money spot. So it needed to be moved.
I was younger and whiter than everyone else on the drive so the valets (an Iranian, an Iraqi and an African American) razzed me; they didn’t like the American slurs though, they liked the Spanish that Guillermo taught them. Words like puto or bendajo or coolie. They especially liked the word puto, which is Spanish for homosexual.
When I got to the drive I asked Edmond for the keys to the Hummer.
“Where you want? I move.” He said.
“No. I’ll get it,” I shouted back — I wanted to drive it.
“No, No, I move it for doorman.” “Where are the keys?” I smiled tightly back at Edmond; it was crucial to never seem exasperated in front of the valets. Showing exasperation is a weapon only the rich can deploy. In response Edmond shouted across the driveway. “Hey where are Hummer keys. Puto wants keys.” Then Riley, the other valet, opened a drawer and threw me the keys.
I liked sitting in the highroller’s cars, especially the ones with the heated seats. It was quiet in those cars, quieter than regular cars.
The first thing I noticed about the Hummer was the passenger seat was about 8 feet away from the driver’s, making it nearly impossible to talk to anyone; it’s a truck made for people who don’t like to talk. The other thing about the Hummer is that it doesn’t move if you lightly press the gas. It’s heavy, so you really have to hit the pedal when you want it to go. I was terrified of hitting that pedal too hard and ramming it through the wall of the hotel, so I gingerly revved it out of the money spot. The valets were watching and listening to me pull off like a little old lady leaving for church. I could see them laughing and pointing. I could see their mouths frame “Look at puto.”
I split the money evenly with my valets. This was why the 1st shift doorman and I no longer spoke, as he did not. I was spoiling his valets. This caused problems on his shift; the valets started sloughing off and no longer listened to his barked orders the way they had before. This pissed him off and in retaliation he got one of the valets transferred on some bogus theft charge involving hotel shampoo, which sent into tumult the relations between the doormen and the valets, and subsequently between the doormen.
I tried to make peace with the valets. One night I swindled a pizza out of the kitchen as a reward for having weathered an evening rush. Edmond and Medhi tore into the pizza, folding it in half so they could devour it more efficiently. Riley, the valet who always accused me of ripping him off, walked over to the pizza looked at it then at me and said “Black people don’t eat mushrooms.”
In one shift there’s usually two waves of parking, the people who park for dinner or shopping and the people that park for drinks. It was 9 o’clock and the owner of the Hummer still hadn’t returned, which was beginning to annoy everyone on the drive.
“Puto was right for putting that Hummer on the street,” Edmond said shaking his head.
“Hey Edmond,” I said, “Why do you call me puto?” I was almost painted into that Seinfeld corner. “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being puto, but why do you call me that.” Edmond looked at the other two valets and they all started cracking up. I waved my arm at them then grabbed the broom and started sweeping the drive. As I was doing this I saw three large men spin through the hotel’s revolving door wearing high heels, miniskirts and wigs. One of the men was easily recognizable, even in drag: Dennis Rodman, who pointed to the Hummer and asked for the keys. I shouted to Edmond for the keys, and he ran them with a huge smile over to the Hummer then unlocked and opened the door for Rodman. Medhi and Riley eager to be part of the spectacle also ran over and held the doors open for the other mustachioed ladies in Rodman’s entourage. This made everyone’s night. They all called people on their cellphones and cackled the story to all their friends. “Yes. Rodman. The Worm. He is crazy. HE IS CRAZY.”
I turned to Edmond. “So he is crazy, but I am puto?” I asked with a smile. He responded by wiping away his smile
“Yes, You are puto,” he said to me.
Where: Seattle, WA
I used to bartend at a fine dining Italian Restaurant in Pike Place Market, the only permanent outdoor market in Seattle, overlooking the Puget Sound. The owner of this restaurant was quite the womanizer, with his customers and staff. As the only female bartender that worked there, he insisted I wear a low cut black cocktail dress to work. Of course, his ride of choice was a brand new candy apple red Hummer.
One early evening, just as the sun was beginning to set across the water, he ran into the bar excitedly, barely able to contain himself. “I need you to come out here immediately,” he demaned. I left what I was in the middle of and hurried with him out the front door. There was his shiny new red Hummer, parked sideways in a no-parking zone. “Look underneath it,” he shouted.
“Um, but I’m in a dress, and um, you want me to kneel down on the GROUND?” I said as diplomatically as I could. He was, after all, the boss.
“Oh, it will be worth it, trust me.”
So I hiked up my dress got down to the ground on my knees, and looked underneath the car. I didn’t know what I was looking for.
“Do you see the plate?”
I began scanning the bottom of the car, when I found a silver plate bolted to the bottom of it. “Oh yeah,” I said. “I can see it. What is it?” I asked, acting as interested as I could considering I was technically being paid for this.
“Can’t you READ IT?” he asked, sounding suddenly panic-stricken. And that’s when I saw it. He had someone install an engraved silver plate on the bottom of his Hummer that read, “If you can read this, tip me over.” I read it out loud, and he laughed uproariously for an oddly long amount of time.
Appalled that he’d interrupted me in the middle of work for this, mortified that he’d asked me to get down on my hands and knees in the street, I found myself completely speechless and dumbfounded by what this must have cost him, all so he could have a reason to get poor, unsuspecting young women in black cocktail dresses down on their hands and knees for him. I mean, we all know that Hummers don’t tip over.
“Cute” was about all I could bring myself to say, and then, wiping off my dirty knees, I went back inside to apologize to the thirsty people I had left behind.
Where: Park Slope, Brooklyn
Hummers get a bad rap. In Brooklyn, there’s benign Hummer, a gentle giant, if you will, and he lives in Park Slope. He’s yellow and black, like a taxi. His license plate says ICES, and when he’s not cruising Fifth Avenue he’s usually parked on Union Street minding his own business, a popular neighborhood place for homemade ice cream and Italian ices known as Uncle Louie G’s. During the blackout this summer, a crowd gathered outside the store. Uncle Louie G’s has no indoor seating, so customers sat on benches and stood in groups exchanging stories, flickering flashlights and eating waffle cones in the dark. Then the Hummer rolled up. The crowd parted as he slowly moved from street to sidewalk. He parked there and kept his lights on, illuminating the area for the ice cream eaters. The party continued, though I don’t know for how long — I had a hot fudge sundae then headed home — but I’m willing to bet it went on well into the night, or at least until the ice cream melted.
I think Hummers are a stitch. I mean, they really break me up.
Why? Well, if you look hard at what’s been happening in Iraq, you see pics of blown up, burned out, zilched Hummers – all the time. Everywhere. I mean, they look like they’ve been defenestrated – and then incinerated.
They aren’t armored underneath. One little hand grenade. Maybe even one little molotov cocktail. And . . . whooooooooosh! They’re history.
Heard some Congressman talkin on tv the other day about how we’re not supporting our troops in Iraq correctly. “We haven’t given all of them,” said the man, “the newest, most effective body armor. And the Hummers aren’t armored!”
Sunday 8:38:31 PM 11/2/2003 So when I see a Hummer-dork drivin around like s/he’s something large, verrry important and imposing, I break up. And wonder what would happen if I just tossed a lighted cigarette under it, near the gas tank.
–Dee Alpert, New York City,
Where: Greene St. and Prince St., New York City.
Walking through Soho, preoccupied, the autumn sky bright and blue, sidewalks crowded, the Fanelli’s neon sign familiar and homey… Then a sound burst out over the intersection, a shriek, something like a horn but so loud that, by comparison, an eighteen wheeler’s honk is the peep of a oboe. I mean a loud god damn sound! I look up, shaken from my reverie of worry, and what do I see barreling through the intersection, right at me, but a White H2, brand new. It was very white, very new, the windows very black. It had those chrome hubcaps that spin independently of the wheels they are attached to.
“Jesus!” said a woman’s voice as it passed. Her voice contained all the indignity I felt, but was too stunned to express. That wasn’t a honk, it was an assault weapon. I had been in the line of its path and had seen it’s ugly grill staring me in the face. The way it bounced over the cobble stones of Greene Street suggested pure contempt for the idea that pedestrians have right of way. For pedestrians, period.
Perhaps, were I not so preoccupied with my worries, I would have just glared at the Hummer, as I often glare at Hummers in the faint and admittedly ridiculous hope that whomever is driving them will notice, or care. But somehow this behemoth was the embodiment of what I was worried about – basically that someone bigger and richer than me would stomp on me with their lawyers – and so with a poker face and a beating heart I headed off up Greene street in the direction of the offending Hummer. It was now pulled up at a stop light. As I got closer, I saw through the black tinted rear window contained four guys, two in front and two in back.
There was some suspense as to whether I would catch up to it or not. But the light stayed red. I came up beside it and, standing about spitting distance from the front window, stared into where the driver was sitting. I could not see him. The light turned green. The two cars in front of the Hummer began to move. Then the tinted window came down.
Inside sat the four men, all in black T shirts, and very built. The driver’s face was pure easy going violence. The driver wore a baseball cap of some kind, a pleasant well shaven face, dark skin. All the men inside were ridiculously buff. But his wasn’t a hip hop mobile. On skin color and general vibe it was more along the lines of a Brazilian kick boxing squad who moonlit as waiters at the Royalton.
“Did you honk at me?” I said. It had a slightly croaky undertone, but on the whole not bad.
“Yeah,” said the driver. “So what?”
“Why’d you honk at me?” I said. The croak was ascendant.
“Cause you were in the fuckin intersection!” they guy said.
The fact that it had been me jaywalking was something I forgot about. It gave me pause. But the car was so blindingly white and the guy was looking at me like he was thinking of getting out of the car, as though I were a smudge he was going to wipe.
“Don’t honk at me!” I said.
“Why the fuck not?” the guy said and, of course, honked. By now all the cars behind him were honking, and he had started to roll forward a little. Every building on the street shuddered at the violence of this honk, but I did not flinch. Instead, I did what any civilized city dweller with a death wish would do: I gave him the finger. Stuck it more or less in his face. At spitting distance.
The interior of the car erupted in a chorus of fuck yous. I knew that a few cars back was a traffic cop. He was a middle aged black guy. I had seen him getting into his car with his white his cap pushed back jauntily on his head, as though it were the end of the day and he had met his ticket quota. His presence had been reassuring going into the exchange with the Hummer.
They yelled and honked again, and the boat horn reverberated against the cast iron buildings. I stood my ground, arm extended, middle finger locked into position, the Ghost of Dirty Harry on one side, the ghost of Charles Bronson on the other.
The Hummer gave in to the insistence of the cars behind it and rolled away. It turned the corner, heading east towards Broadway.
I walked to the corner and was relieved to see the Hummer had not stopped. It pulled up at the red light a block away, and I thought I could see them all looking back at me, gesturing, even though the windows were black. I waved. I stood there for as long as they were at the red light waving as though I were seeing off friends on a cruise. On either side me that October afternoon were not ghosts but construction sites. I was flanked by two of the new buildings that have sprung up like mushrooms on Houston Street in the general vicinity of Broadway. The pavement was muddy with concrete run-off. That corner had that terrible placeless feeling of construction sites, and I knew nothing about where I stood was mine.
But I enjoyed waving good-bye like that. If you drove by then you would have seen someone waving and flipping the bird in the general direction of departing traffic. You would have thought it was just another craxy person in the city. And you would have been right.
Where: Los Angeles Freeway.
I was driving in Los Angeles, hating Los Angeles for all the right reasons, when a Hummer pulled up next to me at a traffic light. Unable to resist the temptation to scream at someone driving around shamelessly in one of those horrifyingly ubiquitous, totally detestable, environment mocking pigs, I rolled down my window and said, “Cars that big and gas guzzling are destroying what’s left of this godforsaken world, you know.”
The driver, a woman, spat back, “Do you wear leather shoes?!?”
I said, “Yeah, OK, we’re all slightly hypocritical, but isn’t there a middle ground here? Can’t we strive for BALANCE?! When did the notion of BALANCE suddenly fade off our collective screen? Can’t we at the very least yearn for a vision of a healthy future?!?”
“Fuck you, you fucking dick,” she yelled, and drove off.
I was driving a friend’s borrowed Peugeot Diesel. I tried catching up to her to tell her how much I now truly hated her and her vile pig-mobile, but the damn car lacked the pick up I was looking for. So I drove through the front window of a Starbucks instead and signed on to the Internet using their wireless hub. What a relief it was to feel connected again.
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