Covid-19 was surging again but Swamp Rabbit and I were back on the road, selling environmentally friendly products upstate at a vegan fest. Most of the vegans were polite and receptive, but it was my misfortune to cross paths with an ultra-orthodox member of the tribe who couldn’t abide anyone who doesn’t follow a strict vegan diet — no meat, no fish, no dairy, no arguments.
I told her I’m partial to fruit and veggies and grains but I’ve been known to eat a hamburger now and then. And eggs in the morning. I’m an active guy who needs high-energy foods, you know what I’m saying?
She scowled. “You present yourself as pro-environment but you’re not vegan. That makes you a hypocrite.”
“I was a pescatarian for awhile,” I said. “Before that, an Episcopalian.”
She said I shouldn’t be allowed to participate in vegan events. Animal species all over the world were going extinct, thanks to me and other meat eaters. The Amazon rainforest was being destroyed to make room for cattle grazing and soybeans for livestock.
I told her I was against destroying rainforests, against factory farms, against all the creeps who are wrecking the environment for the sake of their profit margins. It was like trying to convince an anti-vaxxer that Covid-19 vaccines save lives.
“You look faint,” I said, losing my cool. “How about a hard-boiled egg? I’ve got one in my backpack.”
At that point Swamp Rabbit noticed the ruckus and intervened. The uber-vegan marched off and I let flow the stream of curses I’d been holding back. Most of them started with the f-word.
“How many times I gotta tell you?” Swamp Rabbit said. “A big smile is the best way to say ‘eff you’ to kooks. You ain’t never gonna be a good salesman if you don’t know that.”
He was right, I guess. Frowny faces inflame kooks but smiles pacify them, especially if you have good teeth. If a kook approaches, smile and be serene. Do not engage. I will never master the art of the automatic smile, but maybe I can learn to use serenity as readily as I use anger, and so what if I reach the point where I can’t tell the one from the other.
Footnote: Swamp Rabbit had a scary thought. “Are most vegans also anti-vaxxers?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I said, “but make sure you get that covid booster shot.”