Monday, September 19, 2005

Movies And Television Led Me Astray Once Again

I could hear them through my window, louder and louder until I had to look. Peeking through the blinds, I saw two men in the road right in front of my ground-floor apartment, shouting profanities at each other. One man was a cabdriver, the other one clearly intoxicated, with a thick English accent.

The way someone treats a service worker is the clearest measure of their character. Anybody that snaps at a waiter, barks at a bartender, or shouts abuse at a cabdriver is on the short but all-too long list of clear assholes in my book.

The shouting escalated, and I thought I heard the English guy shove the cabbie. I stood there behind my open, ground-floor window with the blinds shut, listening hard for any signs of violence. I live in a decent neighborhood, but this is DC. Life is cheap here, and I'm not having anybody get shot if I can help it.

I called 911 and asked that the cops just drive by and break this up before it escalated too badly. "Just have them drive up with their lights flashing," I said, "and that should clear it off."

It always takes the cops too long to show. The shouting escalated further, and there was no other place to go but up. The English guy was louder and louder and the cabbie wasn't backing down.

You always hear about these murders that take place in the city, totally preventable in front of an apartment building. The neighbors don't want to get involved and then somebody's got to come peel a body up off the sidewalk. That's not happening in my neighborhood. No way.

I broke my silence by shouting out from behind the blinds, "hey SHUT UP! The cops are on the way!"

"You shut up, you cunt," the Englishman replied. "I'll shut up, but it's not going to stop the cops from coming! Just please go home," I replied, my voice rising in fear.

They stopped. I heard the cab door shut and the cab roared away, its engine grumbling its owner's indignance.

Then I heard footsteps, and a voice not six inches from my head, just the other side of my blinds said "Oh, by the I know where you live, bitch."

Bumps leapt up on my arm and made all my body hair stand out like toilet brush bristles. "Is that a threat?" I asked. "No, not really," the man replied, and walked away.

Two hours later I was still wide awake in bed. I haven't been able to stop thinking about the incident since.

Then something else happened. I was at my neighbor's open house, chatting with the other residents on my floor about politics, New Orleans, babies and god knows what or why when the topic came around to strange behavior in the neighborhood. I started telling the story of the Englishman and the of the neighbors chimed in to say that she had heard that fight, and thought it was really scary.

Right before I mentioned that I was so scared I called the cops, another woman broke in. With a dismissive laugh and a roll of the eyes she said, "Oh, that was probably my husband. He's always getting into fights with cab drivers."

I could be wrong here, but you have to wonder: if a man will abuse a cab driving stranger, how does he treat his wife after a tough day?

"Wait a second," I said. "Does your husband have an English accent, by any chance?"

"He does," she replied.

Then the world went splitscreen. One second I saw my finger pointing, hovering in the air in front of my face like a weapon in Doom. It cut to a high crane shot of the open house, the camera aimed straight down at me pointing at this woman and raising my voice slightly, but with an uncontrollable edge. I was barely in control of my faculties, little more than the eye behind the camera at this point.

All of a sudden, in front of about ten strangers, I said "you tell that motherfucker the next time he sticks his head through my window to threaten me, I'm coming out there and taking him up on it."

I have absolutely no intention of doing that. What a stupid, empty, pseudo-John Wayne thing to say. Movies and television make us think that if you get off a good enough line, the scene will cut and we never have to live with the awkward consequences that come from saying any old fucked-up thing we can think of.

She sat there silently for a second while everybody in the room stared at me. Then she jumped up and said "I'm going to go...goodnight," and split fast.

So I ask you this, readers: If you have one man that abuses cabdrivers and threatens strangers through their windows, and another that makes a great big ugly scene in front of the first man's his absence, no less, and holds her responsible for his actions...who's the bigger asshole?


At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the bigger asshole is the Englishman, obviously!

really well written post.


At 4:27 PM, Anonymous richmond melody said...

I'm going to call this one a tie. About year ago, I got tired of the soap operas created by people who send grievance messages through third parties. It's lame to have to hear about your relative or friends misdeeds as if you are somehow responsible for them. However, the threat of violence, to a stranger trying to prevent a violent act, is not just asshole, it's reprehensible. So the Englishman is more than just asinine.

Reminds me of the time I tried to break up a fight at the drycleaners here in Richmond. An obviously emotionally ill woman was threatening the Korean owner simply because the owner was enforcing her no loitering rules. This was one week after another Korean business owner was shot and killed by some creep. I was afraid for the owner so I called the cops damned skippy! Good job Jeff!

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody likes a tattletale Jeff. English dudes are always getting in fights when they're drunk. They don't mean anything by it. People are always sounding like they're about to get into fights in front of my apartment building at 2 a.m. They yell and scream at each other sometimes for 20 minutes or more, but it's always bullshit macho posturing. I would like to yell something like, "Fight or shut the fuck up!", but I'm too chicken.


At 10:00 PM, Blogger eb said...

What about the wife. She's the one who rolled her eyes and dismissed the incident with a laugh, even though it was obvious that you and at least one other person had been shaken up. She's an asshole if you ask me. She asked for it.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger weasel said...

The Englishman is always at fault. On the upside, we don't carry guns so you should have fought him.

Signed, an Englishman.

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Jeff Simmermon said...

A couple points-

1) Melody, I don't have your current email can email me through this blog, and I'd live to get in touch

2) While it is true that it is tiresome to have to keep hearing about a partner's misdeeds through third parties - and that's why I felt terrible about my role - if you are hearing about your friend or partner's poor behavior time and again, it might mean that you are involved with an asshole. Family, that's another story.

3) English guys may not carry guns, but who knows what the fuck an angry cabbie is going to do...that's why they called the movie Taxi Driver, you know...

At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nature is about survival of the fittest, and inevitable consequences. The inevitable consequence for that woman is being embarrassed at a party - if it wasn't you, it would have been someone eventually, or her husband himself, threatening someone over a tray of devildogs. Hopefully the next step is her realizing that she's married to an asshole.

Also, have you seen Grizzly Man?


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