Carrot on a stick

It was a morning like any other.

OK, that's not exactly true. I had gotten up early to go running, so it couldn't have been a morning like any other. A morning like every other morning, maybe. Or every third morning. It all depends on my Jenga-playing schedule and pasta intake.

The point is, I was aerobicizing happily away, lost in my own wheezy thoughts as I padded down a shady suburban street that will remain nameless, to protect the privacy of all concerned. (Hint: If you rearrange the letters just so, they spell out the words "Interlachen Avenue.") Pleased at my own diligence in combating middle-aged love handles with the healing prospect of a coronary thrombosis, I had found full and comforting refuge in healthful semi-routine. That's when I looked up and saw him.

Carrot Top.

Now, anybody who's lived in this area for a few years or more has his or her own story of running into the Vegetable-Crowned One at the most unlikely moment possible. It's like a badge of citizenship. "He looked really buff," is the most common postmortem, given that us puny mortal types tend to stumble across our good pal Celery Head while he's jogging, working out or engaging in some other form of strenuous exercise that you, too, would find necessary for your self-defense if you had made Chairman of the Board.

On this day, he was trudging down the same, not-to-be-named street as me, albeit in the opposite direction. He was shirtless in the morning sun, his massive yet distressingly pliable upper-body carriage doing the epidermal jiggle that's unique to joggers of a certain age and dissipation. As we crossed paths, I followed polite custom and nodded my head in his direction. "Morning," I exhaled through lips chapped by mild exertion.

The son of a bitch refused to respond.

I was, as the English say, gobsmacked. Leaving universally recognized runners' etiquette to the plebes, Broccoli Brain declined to even meet my gaze. He stared straight ahead and sped on, doubtless deep in the crucial planning stages of a routine that'll absolutely kill next month at the Chuckle Hut in Casper, Wyo.

Given that I already spend a major portion of my waking hours railing against slights both real and imagined, I instantly knew I would be using the soapbox of this column to get even. But then my sense of civic duty kicked in. If we're all accustomed to encountering Señor Cuke Cabeza when we least expect it, I reasoned, wouldn't it behoove us to have a few insults ready that we can peel off at a moment's notice whenever it looks like he's about to get all uppity on us?

Of course it would. That's why I devised the following list of veggie-centric salutations. Learn them by heart and whip one out the next time you need to cut a manners-deficient Root Boy off at the knees.

"Lookin' good, Sinbad!"
"Mario Joyner in da house!"
"Hey, Margaret Cho: nice tits!"
"Step lively, Mr. Fifteen Minutes; the doors to the Friar's Club are swingin' shut."
"Can I call you Ray, can I call you Jay, or should I just kick you swift in the nuts?"
"Careful! Joel Schumacher coming up right behind you!"
"Don't look now, Felix the Cat, but somebody just shit in your magic bag."
"Kevin Meaney is back, and this time he's got man-boobies!"
"Didn't I see you at Seinfeld? You did a real fine job parking my car."
"My name is Yakov Smirnoff, and you shall not pass!"

There's always the chance that he'll keep up his game face and elect to blow you off, like he did to me. That "implacably stoic" routine is something a guy has to properly cultivate if he's going to make a living feigning pigtails. That's why I've worked up some additional procedures you can follow to get Asparagus Noggin good and rattled if words don't do the trick.

Go jogging with a steering wheel around your neck and a T-shirt that reads, "EVEN DEAD, SAM KINISON IS STILL FUNNIER THAN YOU."

Keep your cell phone glued to your ear and make like you're trying to get him a gig at Crane's Comedy, but they won't bite because he doesn't do magic tricks.

Throw steroids on the ground and see how fast he dives for them.

Make that Pauly Shore "weasel" sound as he passes by. Shake head; laugh ruefully.

Hand him passes to Club Paris, but with the words "VIP" crossed out and "Card-Carrying Hometown Disgrace" written in with a No. 2 pencil.

Not convinced any of those will do the trick? Think something a bit more drastic is called for to teach Cauliflower Ear some perspective? You've come to the right place.

Pretend to mistake him for Danny Bonaduce and whup his ass on behalf of post-ops everywhere.

Leave him to the mercy of vicious Rottweilers you've trained to go crazy at the stench of human failure.

Take a sledgehammer to his skull, then apologize by saying that you're on heavy prescription meds and the mere sight of him confused you so badly you were sure you were back in an old Gallagher routine.

Take a sledgehammer to his skull and don't apologize.

Readers of a sensitive nature may feel that a gentler course of action is called for. They'll likely argue that, instead of wasting precious mental energy nursing petty grievances, you and I could learn to cut strangers some slack when they don't act exactly the way we want them to. We could channel our hostility into more productive pursuits, they'll advise, like voter registration and reading to the blind.

To them, I say: You're sweet and all, but you sure don't know funny. Why, I oughta call you Turnip Dome.