"Kid, is that what I think it is?" asked Karl the Curmudgeon.
Depends on what you think it is, I said. We were sitting in the Tilting Windmill, a Dutch-themed bar, watching the football team of my ancestral homeland, The Netherlands, put a pounding on Slovakia in their quarterfinal match.
"You didn't really get a vuvuzela, did you?" asked Karl, staring daggers at the plastic Alpine Horn-looking device I held in my hands.
Oh, but I did," I said, grinning evilly. I blew as hard as I could. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!
"Why, Kid? Why?" Karl shouted to be heard above the new noisemaker that was the target of many complaints around the country.
It's the World Cup, bay-bee! I bellowed. And when we watch the World Cup, we blow the vuvuzela!
Karl made a grab for the offending instrument, but I was too fast for him. Dude, you do not grab another man's vuvuzela! I said.
"Why do you even have one of those?" Karl said, rubbing his eyes hard, like he had a headache. Or was about to get one.
Because we're celebrating the World Cup. Haven't you been watching the games? You can hear the vuvuzelas blowing in the background at all the games.
"I know," said Karl. "The first time I heard them, I thought a swarm of angry bees had attacked the broadcast booth."
Oh bull, I said. Quit being such a bandwagon anti-fan.
"Seriously, they're the most annoying things I've ever heard," said Karl, plonking his beer mug down on the bar. He gestured to Nicholaas, the bartender, for two more beers.
I continued on: so many Americans are griping about the vuvuzelas, saying they're the worst things they've ever heard. What a crock. Just because they won't let themselves get swept up in the pageantry and celebration of the World Cup, they have to focus on people having a good time.
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!! I blared when Nicholaas set our beers in front of us. GO, NICO! I bellowed. GOOOOOOOOOOAAAL!
Nicholaas smiled in appreciation, although whether it was at the cheer or the five dollar tip, I can't be sure.
See, Karl, Nicholaas likes it.
"He's just smiling because his team's winning," grumped Karl. He lunged for the vuvuzela again, but I yanked it out of reach. "Gimme that noisy thing!" he shouted.
Karl, don't you feel the passion of the World Cup? Doesn't the sight of some of the world's greatest athletes competing on a global stage stir anything in you?
"Yes, it does, but that doesn't—"
And don't you feel the energy of thousands of people screaming, chanting, waving their flags, and beating their drums coming through the TV?
"It's not as good as a live game," he admitted. "I mean, you can really feel the energy in your chest, and hear the crowds booming in your ears."
And yet, you want to go along with the soccer haters, and hate vuvuzelas too?
"You can't get away from them," said Karl. "They're so damn loud."
They're loud because you have the TV turned up too high, you deaf old coot! The TV stations turned the crowd noise way down after the first couple of games, because too many people complained about the vuvuzelas. But no one noticed that, because they're not actually watching the games. They just hear their friends whining about them, so they want to be cool, and complain too.
"But I suppose you like them," said Karl.
Sure, a little, I admitted. They're kind of comforting. I like knowing they're there. It's white noise, like the crowd noise at a baseball game. I get excited when I hear them, because I know that for 90 minutes, the whole world is doing one thing at the same time, that they're watching the same thing I'm watching. By now, I was feeling the energy of the moment, and I rose to my feet to preach.
The vuvuzelas are calling the world, Karl! They're calling the world to tell them something exciting is happening!
I put the vuvuzela to my lips, to sound my own clarion call.
Karl held the stolen vuvuzela over his head in victory, before slamming it down on the edge of the bar, and bending it into a V. Then he threw it on the ground and jumped up and down it several times, grinding his heel on the mouthpiece for good measure.
He picked up the dead vuvuzela, breathing hard, and grinning triumphantly.
"The world can set their alarm clock like the rest of us," Karl said, offering it to me.
Actually, that was the one I got for your birthday. I reached down into a shopping bag next to me. I got one for me too.
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