I like to consider myself a relatively well-spoken, good-natured sort of guy. I'm not particularly pretentious, I'm not aggressive, I'm easygoing. I can get along well with just about anybody, at least for a few minutes. I smile at strangers. But when I see young fathers holding their babies or pushing them about in strollers while simultaneously smoking, I wish I could turn into the Hulk.
A week ago, my wife and daughter and I had just enjoyed a fun day in Portland proper, and were in a parking garage, preparing to leave. I've become incredibly sensitive to the smell of cigarette smoke these days. Smoking was actually banned in the city we moved from (San Luis Obispo, California), so naturally it seems like every person on foot in Portland has three lit cigarettes between their fingers and another burning nub tucked behind their ear.
I noticed another family putting their baby into a stroller. As a fairly new dad, you notice every baby, every other father, and you make eye contact and there's that invisible, unspoken bond. We're dads, man. Right on. Except this father was standing over his baby, smoking.
I've never punched an adult, but I wanted to walk over to this guy and lay him out. Could I have? I think I could have. He noticed me staring at him, which wasn't hard, because I was glaring pretty forcefully in his direction. He gave me the international sign for Sup, bro, you want to go? and I just stared until he followed his wife and child to the elevators. I'm not sure he knew what I was glaring at him for, but I hope he was able to piece it together.
Yesterday I encountered another father doing the same thing. And then, not five minutes later, a woman blowing smoke into her small puppy's face. Then, a couple of minutes later, a knot of people on bicycles blocking the sidewalk, all smoking. And -- I swear -- two minutes later, two asshole cyclists mocking an overweight woman who was daring to jog in public.
I glared at all of them.
If only my glares were punches.
Back in the writing world, there's a lot more visible vitriol, and as more people begin to read my books -- both readers and other authors -- I find that some of that vitriol is directed at me, which is interesting. Some of it is misguided -- a few readers have misunderstood flashback scenes in my books as "whole sections of the book where Jason slips out of present tense and into past tense for no good reason" -- and some of it is in direct response to my writing style. In particular, some readers really don't like to read dialogue that isn't framed in quotation marks. Some fellow authors are equally angry about my absent quotation marks -- strangely, passionately angry -- and have taken the time to write long-winded diatribes about how I'm alienating readers and damaging my ability to earn.
Okay, says I.
I can handle a few readers who are unhappy with my writing style. When you walk around wanting to punch irresponsible, dangerous fathers, it's refreshing to listen to someone's opinion of your books. It just rolls right off.