Casual man of the people that I am I like riding the bus. Fortunately I usually only ride during the non-rush hour periods – one of the great benefits of not having a regular job - and have plenty of room when making my way around the city. One random afternoon last week I didn’t have that luxury and found myself on a crowded bus during the traditional post-work hour. My displeasure about being confined so closely to my fellow common man was heightened by sitting next to a member of the Homopolitical Assholesapian species.
HA was blathering to another of his kind using an iPhone – of course he was too cool to have a Blackberry. Over the course of eleven excruciatingly long minutes, I gleaned the name of his lobbying shop, the names of three United States Senators he thinks are assholes, a smattering of House Members who are “dumber than CVS workers*,” their next two duplicitous lobbying efforts, the Political Action Committee that will give then cover.
As I stood to alight, HA ended his conversation and followed me through the rear exit. In retrospect, this was clearly a moment to keep my pie hole shuttered, however I saw the words hanging in the air before the brain-mouth filter could catch them.
“Pardon me. Not for nothing, but in a city where you never know who might be sitting next to you, you might want to be a little more discreet.” I was really trying to be helpful and I thought my tone reflected it.
His extremely eloquent response: “Fuck you, dude.”
The universe was offering me another opportunity to display my ability to be silent – I rejected it. “I’m sorry, I was just trying to be helpful and I must have mistaken you for an adult capable of accepting friendly advice.”
I know – I shouldn’t have escalated the situation with an insult – I blame it on the filter.
HA continued to display his mastery of the King’s Language by replying “Yeah, well fuck you and your advice, asshole.”
Another opportunity, another rejection – “You have both the manners and vocabulary of a spoiled toddler who lost his rattle. When someone offers you advice, they’re probably just trying to help. Accept it, reject, whatever, but don’t be a dick about it. You’re the reason people hate DC.”
I knew that I had crossed a line of civility, but the look in his eyes demonstrated how small that line was getting in my rear view mirror. He threw a right hook towards my jaw. I leaned away from it but his punch still made some contact. I threw a left fist squarely at his windpipe.
The rules of a street fight are simple:
- Avoid them – that ship was no longer in the harbor
- A man that can’t stand can’t hurt you – sweep the leg like Cobra Kai
- A man that can’t breathe can’t fight – especially if your foe has a height advantage, hit him in the neck
HA was on his knees searching for air when the Police Cruiser chirped its siren.
“Gentleman, do we have a problem here?” the MPD officer calmly asked in a tone one can only use if you have gun and the power to strip freedom.
As HA was still not quite able to speak, I answered the officer’s query with my brief synopsis of events.
“I offered this gentleman some friendly advice; he profanely rejected it. I thought that he needed a manners lesson, and now you’re here.”
“Was that punch the manners lesson?”
“No, the manners lesson came first followed by his punch to my jaw. My punch was the logical response to his” I replied.
Having reclaimed his voice HA protested “Officer, that man assaulted me; I’m a lawyer and I want him arrested.”
Of course you’re a lawyer I thought but my filter caught it before the words escaped.
Fortunately there was no need for comment as the Officer dead panned “I am sure you are an attorney, sir, but I saw you throw the first punch. If anyone’s getting steel bracelets today, it’ll be you.” Turning to me he continued “Would you like to press charges, sir?”
“What, I’d really like is to go get a beer” I replied.
“Well it looks like this silliness is settled then. You’re going to walk this way, and you’re going to walk that way and both of you are going to think about how stupid it is for grown men to be trading punches in the middle of the sidewalk.”
A piece of friendly advice that I hope we will both accept.
* As obnoxious as I found this publicly shared tirade, the CVS line was damn funny.