My Big Mouth




Every couple of years I almost get into a fight. 

So far I have always walked away unscathed, but these incidents get my heart racing and invariably, I wish I had just kept my mouth shut. I wish it could be like the movies, where people who are rude and deserve to be told off are told off in no uncertain terms, and if they don't like it, they get their ass kicked.  In the real world, the teller-offer is too often the ass-kickee.



For example, at a movie in early 2001 I asked a woman behind me to be quiet.  (She had just taken a one minute call on her cell phone.) I was relatively snotty about it, I have to say.  An older biker guy one seat to her right, who I hadn't noticed, said loudly back to me, "Shut the fuck up."  Right there in the theater--the movie was Nurse Betty, and there were maybe 50 people in there.  I had Arthur and Roger with me so I was feeling brave, so I stood up and told him, "East s---, needledick."  At this point he started to lunge for me, but thought better of it.  He said loudly, "Outside," and left the theater.  I didn't follow.  Awkward seconds passed like minutes.  After a time the cell phone woman left too. When the movie ended the three of us left the auditorium--and I half expected the guy to still be there. But he wasn't.  But that's no way to watch a movie, wondering if a biker is waiting outside to cave your face in.  Was the woman rude to talk on a cell phone during a movie?  Yes.  Was it worth it, telling her off?   No.




Another time I was jogging on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.  This is probably 1994.  A kid on a bike coming up behind me brushes me going by on my right.  I said something to him (if a bike hits you from behind, how can it be the pedestrian's fault?), and pretty soon he was ranting in my face from about two feet away.  We exchanged shouting and cursing right there on the bike trail.  People were staring.  At one point he realized I was 20 years older than him.  He said something like "You're so old.  I'll destroy you, you old fuck." No punches were exchanged, mostly because I backed down.  I wanted to kick his ass and throw his ratty bike over the cliff, and then him after it.  But I didn't.  This event sticks in my craw to this day.  Getting punched a couple of times out there on West Cliff would be better than feeling like a chicken for seven years.  Wouldn't it?  Of those choices, maybe the answer is yes.  But the best choice would have been to shrug off a minor bump in a public place and get on with my run.




One morning in Houston I had a battle with a guy who was using my neighborhood--my street--as a commute shortcut.  That used to really piss me off.  I backed out of my driveway very slowly, blocking his path.  He got pissed (that was the point) and honked his horn.  I went nuts.  I was even in my city car, a white Dodge Aspen--I'd zoom up on his bumper, he'd slam on his brakes, exchanges of The Finger, the whole road rage scene. Now that I'm in my 40s, I just don't get that mad about car stuff anymore.




Around that same time I flamed-on because I thought a car cut me off in the Ella Blvd. Jack-in-the-Box drive-through line.  This time I got out of my car, went to the driver's side window and yelled at him.  He had a date in his car, rolled down the window, and said something like, "Why are you hassling me, man?"  Why indeed.




A recent incident occurred in June, 2001.  I was walking on Pacific Avenue with Robbin and three visiting in-laws.  I was a little grouchy from an afternoon nap.  At one point I had to negotiate my way around a pack of homeless teens* that were blocking most of the sidewalk--sitting and panhandling--and under my breath said something like, "Get out of the way." 

Nothing happened right away.  Two blocks later as we're crossing the street,  a 45 year old man in gypsy attire catches up with me and starts telling me how sometimes his "ministry" to street kids involves blocking the sidewalk a little bit, and how sometimes you can't walk three abreast on a sidewalk.  I waited for Robbin and her family to get inside the ice cream store and then told the guy off.  He told me he was a "druid priest" and a mason, and then gave me a hex sign with his walking stick on the sidewalk.  He was really hot.  Had it come to blows, this is one fight I wouldn't have walked away from.  But it would have been better for all concerned if I had just silently walked around the group blocking the sidewalk in the first place.  

When will I learn?


* Santa Cruz, California.  World Headquarters of the Homeless Begging Teen Association.



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