2019 Grateful 28

On the metro to Kelenföld the other day, I sat across from a young lad, no younger than 18, no older than 25. He had the foppish-hair-and-glasses look that seemed a season or seven out of date. He wore jeans and a quotation t-shirt and clutched a retro green football kit bag in front of him partially obscuring the writing on the shirt. I did a double take as I read the lettering. No mistake.


mmmm… okay…. but really? Didn’t your mother raise you better than that, I wondered. I couldn’t pull my eyes away. The more I stared, the more he squirmed. But I doubt he made the connection. I decided that if he got off at my stop, I’d ask him if he spoke English and then if he did, we’d have a conversation. My Hungarian couldn’t cope with the nuances I need to nuance.

I wanted to tell him that I was all for free speech, that his t-shirt could say whatever he wanted it to say. But I was curious. I wanted to ask him if he really meant for it to tell me that I didn’t matter?  I wanted to tell him how uncomfortable it was for me to read it. And yes, I could have moved, but that would only have addressed the issue for me. The old guy beside me was equally transfixed and seemed just as bothered.

The aggression in the words was at odds with his gentle foppishness. I wondered if he spoke English, if he knew how it read, how it sounded, how if felt? I’ve seen a lot of questionable t-shirts that have bordered on downright nasty and wondered if the minds wearing them really knew what message they were advertising? I mean, how else could I interpret those two words?

I kept staring. He moved a little, adjusting his hold on his bag. I could see the top of more lettering. Something else was written beneath, something I couldn’t decipher. My imagination ran amuck. It was a like one of the word puzzles my Dad is so fond of. I wondered how he’d react to a phone call asking him to complete the following phrase… no. Best not.

I tried to reason how it might end.

FY I’m grand!

FY leave me alone!

FY and the horse you rode in on (a bit long I thought; it was a t-shirt, not a nightshirt)

Mine was the last stop. He was still sitting as we drew into the station. I took a deep breath and readied myself. I’d worked myself up in a severe bout of indignation and was ready to spleen. Then he stood up… and I saw the rest of the writing.

FFS! Where’s the apostrophe? Where’s the article? I’m A dope surely. But well and good. If he recognised the idiot he was being, there was no need for my friendly intervention. Whew. I was relieved. I felt a fleeting flight of pity that he might think so poorly of himself, but that conversation was way too personal to have. And he might take offence at me correcting his English.

Later though, curiosity got the better of me and I did some digging. Turns out that Dope is an American heavy metal band from New York City, named after songwriter and lead vocalist Edsel Dope. The line comes from their song I Am on the album Group Therapy.

Sometimes you don’t understand
Sometimes I am what I am
Sometimes I just can’t be
Everything you hoped I’d be
And sometimes I wish that you could see
I’m not like you
I’m not like them
I won’t pretend

‘Cause I am (I am)
What I am
I am (I am)
What I am, it’s all I am

Sometimes I wish that we
Could agree to disagree
Sometimes I wish that you could see
What I see (what I see)
This is who I am
I’ve always been
And I don’t think you’ll ever understand
I’m not like you
I’m not like them
I won’t pretend (I won’t pretend)

‘Cause I am (I am) …..

Fuck you, I am what I am!
Fuck you, I am what I am!
Fuck you, I am what I am!
Fuck you! I am!

You don’t understand
I am what I what I am
And I don’t think you’ll ever understand
I’m not like you
I’m not like them
I won’t pretend (I won’t pretend)

‘Cause I am (I am) ….

So it makes sense, given the context. But context is what I didn’t have. I didn’t know where that chap was coming from. I was affronted by the in-your-face logo screaming that I didn’t matter. But I was a little too quick to judge. There’s a lesson there, for both of us, a lesson I’m grateful for.


One Response

  1. No, you were not too quick to judge – what you say means what your audience think it means.

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