A man goes on a journey, a guy walks into a bar

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

According to the late novelist John Gardner, there are only two kinds of stories: “A man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town.” I figure the “a guy walks into a bar” qualifies as the latter. Here’s one that recently made me laugh:

A vegan, a cross-fitter, a Linux user, and a Raspberry Pi enthusiast walk into a bar.

They’re all the same guy.

One guy walks into a bar.

Why won’t he please shut up!

As a vegan myself, I find jokes about them funny. And my second-oldest friend is a cross-fitter. I’ve lots of Linux users in my circle. And one dear tech hobbyist friend loves to tinker with Raspberry Pi. It’s fun to laugh about yourself.

But here’s the thing: The joke doesn’t match my experience. I’ve heard nowhere near the amount of evangelism from those four groups in my entire life, than the amount of blowback from people complaining about them over just the past half dozen years.


If we’re honest, I think we have to admit that deep inside, these things make us feel judged.

  • Every time I see a cross-fitter’s post about some physical accomplishment, I feel a twinge of guilt for not taking better care of myself, not walking more, not using the free gym membership for seniors.
  • Every time a Linux enthusiast recommends dumping Windows or Mac for the open-source OS, I feel a twinge of foolishness or laziness for doling out cash to “rent” a corporate OS. Yes, there are valid reasons to justify that rental, but most of the work I do could just as well be done with open source software.
  • Every time someone mentions the customized computer they built to their own specs, I feel just a little bit ignorant and spendthriftish.

In each case, the thought is fleeting, but deep inside the feeling lasts awhile.

I’ve seen this with the topic of home schooling. “But how will your children learn social skills?” It’s couched as a question but serves as a criticism. And from my experience, home schoolers virtually never start the conversation, never say, “Well, I home school my children.” Instead someone else says, “Missy here home schools,” and the criticisms start flying.

It happens with veganism. “But where will you get your B12?” Most who ask the question have no idea what B12 is, why it matters, or what options there are. “How will you get your protein?” Same thing.

It happens with pacifists when they’re bullied or abused. It happens with religious persecution.

Not long ago, Cracker Barrel added a plant-based sausage to their menu and much of its customer base lost their minds. Logically, the response should be, “Well just don’t order it.” But emotionally, it seems pretty obvious that by its very existence, a plant-based sausage makes the traditional pork seem less healthy. And people don’t want the shadow of that implication cast across their breakfast plate.

People who home school imply, by their very existence, that public school is flawed. Which casts a shadow on parents who accept the status quo. Plant-based diets cast a shadow on the modern meat industry. Pacifism casts a shadow on the violence so inherent in our civilization, from household level to mass shootings to wars between nations. Religious faith—okay, in that case I gotta say that American Evangelicals have sort of spoiled things for the rest.

But in my experience, that guy walking into the bar doesn’t have to say a thing about his enthusiasms. The minute he asks if the fries are cooked in the same oil as the chicken, no matter how casually, the “So you think you’re better than us” circuit trips, and the blowback begins. It’s just human nature.

One thought on “A man goes on a journey, a guy walks into a bar

  • November 23, 2022 at 7:41 am

    Brilliant! That joke is awesome, and I think your point about people being defensive is accurate.

    I hope school one of my four kids because the strong social anxiety she had in 2019 went into overdrive after a year of pandemic isolation. She ended up in treatment for suicidal intent after we tried to send her back in person.

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