Monday, February 21, 2011


I'm in a bit of thought about this encounter I had a few minutes ago. I came back down to the Gaslamp Pizza for a calzone I'd ordered; an Asian American couple started joking with me as I stood in line. It seems like the smell permeating the whole block was marijuana, so I cut up with those two as I waited, then paid for my calzone. We were still conversing, bantering, when some drunk guy walks up to me and pulls out his wallet to show me some sort of i.d.---not very clearly. "How ya doin'?" he says. "Now get the f--- out of here."

So I asked the guy at the counter who the hell this guy thought he was, talking shit to people who were minding their own business. I could feel the guy bristle. Unfortunately, I really wanted him to know I would throw down with him without hesitating. He never turned around again, and I walked out, which was my plan, anyway.

Now, what we talked about at home is that it is better to respond in some way such a person doesn't expect. I'm talking about some higher path. Unfortunately, after the business one of my in-laws has pulled lately---trying to cut off his kids and wife and telling addled lies---this weekend I have been feeling very ornery. I have had to back away from some of the thoughts I've had, about what I'd like very much to do to him for the many years of misery he has visited on innocent people. You see how that works?

I probably wouldn't have liked what this guy said, but it is possible to reply in smart ways. You could ask him to pull out that wallet again---even though that's not how anyone involved with law enforcement that I've ever seen has handled things---so you can jot down his credentials. You can laugh---but it's hard not to say something sarcastic, too, because while it's really nothing, joyless laughter never leads anywhere good. There are sweet, Wayne Dyer-type remarks full of compassion that occur to the rare individual. It's not like I haven't been taught well how to protect myself if I'm in danger; I managed to fend off three guys on a dark street one night back in the pizza delivery days. (Some other time.) And of course, there's waiting at the door to flip his food onto the floor---but that's taking a chance on trouble for a meaningless gesture. You never know when he's going to be a b----and call the cops for what YOU did.

Arguably, your ability to act unintimidated or to demonstrate force is not the hallmark of what makes anyone---any man---great. Not when it's for nothing. It can even be a little wimpy sometimes when an individual makes a big deal of how unafraid they are. Just the same, I knew my wife didn't want me sitting there with hot calzone, getting cold, even though it crossed my mind soon that I could've just sat down there to prove he was ineffective, and he would've had no recourse. I could've kept joking about the pervasive weed smell, but I'd lost my sense of humor. Anything else, really, would be based in ego. I even went back on a walk around the block minutes later, scowling into the store, looking for the guy. Unfortunately, I am part of why you don't mouth off to people while you're drunk. If only I were more parson-like in my responses.

But the point is, whatever was bugging that dude was brought out on me; I said much less controversial things than the friendly fellow who started the conversation. And what was bothering me---what crosses my mind sometimes when I'm not burying it in friends, loved ones, and the arts---was going to come out on him. Not that what he did mattered---that is the nature of anger. Whoever you lose it with, it seems, you just take all your frustrations out, and no matter how reasoned your arguments are, the emotion is really just a total rejection of every unfair thing you've filed away---all you've let go in the process of just getting on with what you care about.

I can think of at least three or four coherent responses to this off the top of my head. What do YOU think?

"People be watching Kojak too much...they think 'Macho Man'!"---Richard Pryor

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