White Men Don’t Rent Cars?
Not long ago, the perfect economic storm forced me to travel for the first time in my career. After 23 years of being home every night I became what USA Today calls a “Super Commuter,” making the trip from Atlanta to St. Louis and back every week. It just about killed me but you know the saying: “What doesn’t kill me only makes me really, really tired.”
One thing I learned from my travels is that all rental cars come with radios pre-tuned to hip-hop. The first time I got into my Hertzmobile the radio was tuned to hip-hop. Twice, thrice, even four times in a row I could pass off as mere coincidence. But after renting 20 cars and being greeted by blaring hip-hop each and every time, l was close to the perfectly natural suspicion that white guys don’t rent cars.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking the Hertz detail guy is a double agent, an undercover hip-hop evangelist who pockets a modest Hertz check, then turns around and hauls in a fat stack from a major record label. In return for messing with all the radios, winning hip-hop converts and driving MeanMugg’s CD sales through the roof, he hauls in a tidy moonlighting supplement.
Wrong! I know you’re wrong because I suspected the same thing myself. So I flat-out asked the Hertz detail guy, “Hey, man, are you a double-agent who always resets the radio to hip-hop when you’re cleaning out the car?”
His reply, and I more or less quote: “Whaaaa? Get the BLEEP outta here, you crazy bleeper-bleeper. I ain’t got no bleepin’ time for this bleepin’ bleep.” Then he studied me for a moment with the side-eye and dismissed me with what I thought was a rather condescending, ‘Bleeeeeeeep.”
As a student of humanity, I could tell right away that the guy was as honest as the day is long, and there went my double agent theory. So what’s the deal?
The deal turns out to be a shocker. The deal is that every business traveler, no matter how old, no matter how uptight, no matter how white, SECRETLY LISTENS TO HIP-HOP WHEN HE IS ALONE IN HIS HERTZMOBILE! There can be no other explanation.
Need evidence? Watch the first five minutes of the movie, “Office Space.” In the opening traffic jam scene, nerdy computer analyst Michael Bolton (no, not THAT Michael Bolton) belts it out along with the radio, crying, “I cain’t talk to my wife so I talk to my die-ree.” Moments later, after a discrete pause to roll up his window as a panhandling window-washer shuffles by, our dorky hero slides the window back down, turns the beat back up and chimes in without a hitch, wailing, “Rainin’ shots nonstop ‘til yo’ monkey a** drops.”
But wait. There’s more evidence. Why do we laugh when country bumpkin Kip, Napoleon Dynamite’s dorky loser brother, morphs into a do-ragger in order to woo his soulmate, the Amazonish LaFawnda from Detroit? We laugh because we know that of all the guys on earth who look cool in a do-rag, the un-coolest of them all is either Kip or ourselves, and we’re so relieved that it’s Kip rather than us who thoroughly degrades himself by selling out for all the world—well, all of western Idaho, anyway—to see.
Just like 30 million other white businessmen, I find that hip-hop completely disagrees with my soul. It doesn’t make me feel the way I want to feel. It makes me feel like The Jerk, the square peg trying to squeeze into a round hole, the hapless honky on the front porch pathetically botching the beat, snapping my fingers an instant too soon and stomping my foot a tick too late.
So why do we do it? Why do white guys listen to hip-hop? Because hip-hop is the ultimate pressure-relief musical genre. Just as honey is nature’s perfect food, hip-hop is nature’s perfect way for button-downed businessmen to secretly blow off steam before returning to their suburban habitats and their soul-stifling domestic duties.
So what, really, is the spiritual significance of guys who don’t fit the hip-hop stereotype picking up the beat in the privacy of their rental cars? It’s that we all have facets of our personalities that we don’t show “nobody.” It’s an extension of the age-old, singing-in-the-shower therapy. If you have even one person in your life with whom you feel comfortable letting 100% of yourself hang out, you are a rare and blessed bird indeed.
God is with us even in our most secretive times, and it’s an Old Covenant Hangover shame that His omnipresence usually comes with a negative spin. “God’s watching you! God knows what you did! God’s gonna get you!”
Yes, God does see it all. He’s with us when we sing in the shower. He’s with us when we pretend to be “somebody.” He’s with us when we try other identities on for size. The beautiful thing about this is that God knows exactly how weird we really are, yet he cherishes the weirdness. He also knows how unique we are, and he cherishes that uniqueness even more. (See Rev. 4:11, which makes more sense in the KJV than in newer versions)
Few things will build intimacy with God more than inviting him into your most embarrassing moments. He’s there anyway, so why not be hospitable? If you’re going to practice facial expressions in the mirror, ask God to look on. If you’re going to crank hip-hop from the hotel to World HQ, ask God to ride along. Everything He made, He made for His pleasure, and that includes you when you’re acting like a nut.
When we get by ourselves and invite God to the party, those are the times to get our arms around his unconditional acceptance. Unconditional love is the most powerful force in the universe, and unconditional acceptance is an irresistible feature of that love, and God is the only place we can find it.
So crank it up, you white guys of the world. Ride low, do that hand jive, make that mean face. Go ahead and carry on like a natural-born rapper, secure in the knowledge that nobody but the Hertz guy and God will ever know. And there’s a very good chance that God, believe it or not, is into it.
This week there’s only one scripture. It’s Psalms 139:1-18 and it will make you feel the way you want to feel.
Get high on him. Stay high on him. Peace!
(Btw, to calm my nerves when speaking in public, I used to do the trick of picturing everybody in their underwear. From now on, I’m picturing everybody in their Hertzmobile, rapping along with Pitbull.)