Back in the 1980s, I remember reading a news story about a disgruntled man named James Huberty. Huberty had a bumper sticker on his car that read “I’M NOT DEAF, I’M IGNORING YOU.” At age 41 in July 1984, Huberty was known for being cranky and “sour” and raging at his wife, Etna, and their two daughters, Zelia and Cassandra. Originally from Canton, Ohio, Huberty had a degree in sociology, had learned how to embalm people in mortuary school, and often worked as a welder.
For some reason, on July 18, 1984, Mr. Huberty was in an especially foul mood. He visited a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California and went on a shooting spree, killing 21 people and injuring many others. Huberty was the 22nd person killed that day when he was fatally shot by a SWAT team sniper.
The day before he went off the rails, James Huberty had called a mental health crisis line. The receptionist misspelled his name on intake as “Shouberty”. He had not indicated that his situation was an emergency, so his call was never returned. The morning of his shooting rampage, Huberty and his wife had taken their two daughters to the San Diego Zoo. Afterwards, they ate at a McDonald’s– different than the one where Huberty went on his spree. Later that afternoon, Huberty was leaving his home, and his wife asked him where he was going. He said he was “hunting humans” and that “society had its chance.” Mrs. Huberty never reported this behavior, bizarre as it was. A witness saw Huberty leaving his apartment and heading down San Ysidro Boulevard with two firearms. The witness notified the police, but the dispatcher gave the reporting officers the wrong address.
At 3:40pm, Huberty began his massacre. It went on for 77 horrifying minutes. Huberty discharged 257 rounds of ammunition before he was finally killed by a sniper. As he was killing people, Huberty declared that he’d killed thousands of people in Vietnam. However, he never spent any time in the military. A couple of years later, Etna Huberty unsuccessfully sued McDonald’s and Huberty’s employer, Babcock and Wilcox. She claimed that the unlucky combination of McDonald’s food and the heavy metals Huberty was exposed to at work had caused him to go crazy.
What has me thinking and writing about James Huberty today? I’m not sure. I remember when that shooting occurred. I was twelve years old, and my parents subscribed to Newsweek magazine. I remember reading an article about the massacre and seeing pictures of the horrified people who were involved in the attack. I didn’t remember the details of the shooting until I read up on them this morning. What I did remember was the testy bumper sticker Huberty had on his car– “I’M NOT DEAF, I’M IGNORING YOU.”
I’m feeling kind of like Huberty today. No, I don’t have any plans to shoot up a McDonald’s. I’m not that off kilter. I don’t own any guns and don’t feel like getting dressed, anyway. But I am feeling sort of testy. I think it’s a combination of being bored and being perimenopausal and hormonal, and spending too much time connected to electronic devices. My allergies are acting up, my boobs are itchy and sensitive, I’m ragging, and I’m hungry. On top of that, my Facebook feed is alternately riddled with annoying comments by overly helpful people and ads for “cute” face masks being marketed as gifts. How bizarre is it that a year ago, fashionable face masks weren’t a thing. Now we have people marketing masks with Bea Arthur and various dog breeds on them. And it just reminds me of how irritating things can be… especially when we have leaders who don’t really care and are only interested in lining their pockets and staying in power.
Back in the 80s, the phone was really the only device where people could invade your home and irritate you at will. Nowadays, we have email, a plethora of social media platforms, instant messaging, Facebook groups, and, of course, blogs. And when I’m already feeling irritable due to my special time of the month, I have less patience for people than usual. I should probably exercise some self-control and do something old fashioned, like read an actual book or watch television. The skies are cloudy this morning which means that there could be rain. I think I’d like that. The air is full of pollen, which is making me hack, wheeze, and cough, even though I’ve had no close exposure to other people and am definitely not sick.
Anyway… even though James Huberty was a total bastard for killing so many people, maybe the sentiment on his bumper sticker wasn’t such a bad idea. Perhaps it’s time I logged off and plunged back into the offline world. If I don’t respond to an unsolicited PM, “overly helpful” Facebook comment, or text message, just know– “I’M NOT DEAF, I’M IGNORING YOU.” But then, none of those novel modes of communication require the ability to hear. I guess that makes the sentiment expressed in Huberty’s quaint bumper sticker even more interesting.
Hope you have a healthy and annoyance free Monday, wherever you are.