Fisticuffs on Columbia Road

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.


18 Responses to Fisticuffs on Columbia Road

  1. liz says:

    ha ha! i don’t have a filter either, but at least i haven’t been beat up (yet) because of it! this past weekend i was with my family in NYC . . . we’re in line at the Dean and DeLuca at 30 Rock, and one person ahead of us are neighbors from our small Maryland town of 5,000! Random, right? We start chatting animatedly, and after a few minutes, i decide to clue the woman between us in on why this is so very fascinating. she was beyond uninterested. she had no reaction whatsoever. in fact, i think she was a robot covered with flesh. if she was a man, though, she probably would have hit me. i’m glad i’m a girl!

    the truly odd thing is that my filter is normally functioning too well

  2. […] The Restaurant Refugee put an intriguing blog post on Fisticuffs on Columbia RoadHere’s a quick overviewHA was blathering to another of his kind using an iPhone – of course he was too cool to have a Blackberry…. […]

  3. Lemmonex says:

    Whoa…thats some hardcore shit my friend.

    I have an honest question, though: were you really trying to give friendly advice or were you trying to rile him? It is ok if it is the second choice–I feel the need to do it sometimes–but I don’t honestly think you have a real desire to help some prick on the bus out. You wanted a response and you certainly got one.

    Lemm, I bullshit you not, I was sincerely trying to be helpful… the first time.

  4. freckledk says:

    Something like that is totally going to happen to me someday, I just know it!

    I just wonder which persona you would be in that inevitable scenario.

  5. Mandy says:

    I was at a performance at The Warner Theatre recently and the woman beside me kept text messaging and even *gasp* actually answered her phone in between one of the acts, leaning her head down between her legs to chat. After a good half hour of this distraction (both light and noise) I took a deep breath and in the nicest most professional theatre goer manner I could muster looked at her and asked her “would you please not do that here? it’s extremely distracting during the performance.”

    To which she responded: “No one’s bothering you bitch!”

    I don’t support violence at all – but it’s moments like this I really wish I could say “Would you like to take this outside? Cause I’m pretty sure I can beat the crap out of you.”

    In the great state of Texas, there is a defense to murder charges known as the He Needed Killin’ Defense. I am fairly certain that any jury would have acquitted you under the She Needed Slappin’ corollary.

  6. [F]oxymoron says:

    Outside of a boxing ring or MMA cage, two grown men fighting is ludicrous… but it sounds like this … ahem… profoundly astute lawyer deserved every agonizing attempt to breath he suffered.

    I feel pangs of stupid for my behavior – unnecessary provocations in a world where people get shot over slights in traffic is profoundly unwise – but I don’t feel any guilt.

  7. Lisa says:

    Holy cow. I wish I’d seen this. And I’m glad the cop saw the guy swing first.

    You and I both, dear.

  8. Average Jane says:

    Gotta be honest… I have a secret fantasy to get in a fight. I think it should be noted that I really just want to punch someone. The whole being punched thing isn’t as appealing. Needless to say, you’re my hero for today.

    While it is a bit of a stretch to call that encounter a full-on fight, I am not eager to repeat the experience.

  9. Matt says:

    Really, he should’ve considered the sage advice you provided. Who knows whose staffer was on that bus with him, listening to him smack-talk the very lawmakers he purports to influence.

    The only sad thing about this whole experience is that Lennox Lawyer likely learned nothing at all.

    I’ve never been in politics, but even I know more than a couple of people who could have id’d him and burned him for the indiscretions.

  10. Kevin says:

    There are very few people who’ve punched a lawyer and walked Scott free. Congrats. And, as a former resident of the Republic of Texas, that jagoff definitely falls into the category of “he needed a good shot to the throat.”

    Strong work my friend, keep fighting (so to speak) the battle for civility.

    Sadly, I would be willing to bet dollars to donoughts that he took no lessons from the experience.

  11. zipcode says:

    Was it necessary for you to write “the power to strip freedom” not to sound bitchy but you both are lucky you didn’t charged with criss cross assault.

    Sounds like you got a good police officer.

    I agree – that was one good cop. I am sorry that you took offense to that line – none was intended – but it is always easily found if one goes looking for it.

  12. IMGoph says:

    bravo, sir. way to strike a blow for decency!

    thank you, but I assure you that I attempt to limit my crusades against rudeness to verbal measures.

  13. T says:

    Well done,

  14. Kate says:

    I’m on fairly good terms with the CVSers near my apartment — & I really bet that most of them are smart enough not to throw public punches. That guy fails. But getting punched in the face on the streets of D.C.? Hey, makes for a great story!

    I need to live in your neighborhood.

  15. My DC Ex was a mortgage broker with a JD. He even practiced law for a stretch but became so sour about the industry, he set out for greener pastures. I always loved listening to his clients spout on about who they were:

    “I’m an attorney,” the borrower would say.

    “Uh-huh, me too. So does that mean you will or you won’t be getting me the tax docs I need?”

    One more thing – I have a sneaky suspicion the guy who hit you sorts punched like a girl. Would be oh so fitting!

    At the time I wrote the post, it seemed too gratuitous to mention such things. I will neither confirm nor deny, however.

  16. Yeah, people should learn that you need to be careful about who you’re messing with. A few weeks ago some douchebag in a bar called me an asshole for wearing a russian hammer and sickle shirt (I’m a libertarian, so I was wearing it ironically, but that still didn’t make it okay). I think he thought he was safe because he was with 2 friends. I dorpped the f-bomb and told him to step outside. Luckilly for him his friend apologized and it was squashed before it started. My GF “didn’t appreciate my alpha male bullshit”, but I didn’t start it. I don’t care if he’s there with 50 guys and I’ll end up in the hospital, if you call me an asshole, you’re getting a fist in your face. that’s how it works. Good for you for putting that guy in his place.

  17. Velvet says:

    See, call me crazy but I don’t really agree with butting in to someone else’s life. My biggest complaint about this city is that people feel the need to interfere in things that are none of their business. And helpful advice or not, what that guy was saying on his phone really was, none of your business.

  18. […] went against my usual find-away-to-confront-discomfort tendencies but my response wasn’t calculated… just the instinctual reaction of a […]

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