|Smiling Herbert, on the left|
It’s been years since I spotted a herbert, but to my delight I crossed paths with one yesterday afternoon. I was waiting to sneak out of the back streets and in to the usual depressing stream of commuter cars on Connecticut Avenue. A battered white non-brand vehicle was toiling along the inside lane, coming from my left, and there in the open window on the passenger side, was a young herbert. He was staring me in the eye, and then he raised his finger to me, for no apparent reason than perhaps an immediate, instinctive dislike of graying suburbanites looking to merge with traffic. I stared back at him. His face began to betray some uncertainty. “Why am I showing this bloke the finger?” could have been the thought process, if ‘thought process’ was a possibility beneath the close-shaven head bone. His hard stare began to crack, and then it broke into a mindless grin. In that second the inner herbert was unmasked.
Sadly he and his chauffeur were subsumed by the Beltway traffic before I could catch him up, flag him down, and then swap details so that we could maybe meet up and talk about the dying art of herberticism. Still, I’d long since assumed that herberts were extinct, like sincerity and the ivory-billed woodpecker. To see a face bearing a cheerfully shit-eating smirk of vacuity completely made my day.