Yesterday afternoon, as I walked across a pedestrian crossing on Brooklyn’s 4th Avenue, I found a large SUV, turning right, barreling down at me; he braked hard, even as I yelled out “I’ve got the ‘Walk’ sign, dude!” He yelled back, “We both got the light!” I yelled back, “I’ve got right of way!” He yelled back, ‘Fuck off!’ I yelled back, “Go fuck yourself!” Clearly, this was a fruitful and productive exchange of views on how to best negotiate street crossings. As I turned on the sidewalk, I noticed he’d pulled over to the side of the street, and was waiting for me to walk by his car. The driver was not alone; he had a belligerent female companion in the passenger seat who had also been screaming obscenities at me. I continued walking on the sidewalk, past the parked car on my left, keeping my eyes straight, walking on to my gym class. As I did so, I could hear their jeering; clearly, I had not risen to the challenge. My bravado was bigger than my bite; I had ‘backed down.’
Fair enough; I did. I smarted for a while afterwards, but it was the correct decision. I was outnumbered; even if I could have engaged in the undignified business of throwing punches or grappling with a belligerent stranger–who looked to be roughly my size, but about ten years younger–on a city sidewalk, I would have left myself open to being clocked upside the head with some hard object by my opponent’s companion. I could have, for instance, taken a bottle to the head or something similar. Given my protagonists’ visible demeanor, this sort of ‘participation’ in the fight was not unlikely at all. Street fights are always dirty; this one would have been no different. Given the emotions on display just earlier, this would have been a dirty business through and through. No one would have intervened; no one intervenes in street fights in New York City. Or anywhere else for that matter. I did not want the police involved; I did not want to suffer physical injury, a high price to pay for trying to remind a driver that he did not have right of way on a pedestrian crossing when the light turns green. Quite possibly, because the parameters of such fights are so poorly defined, I could have suffered an injury disproportionate to the original provocation. For as long as I’ve lived in Brooklyn, I’ve been haunted by the memory of the bodega store owner who tried to stop a teenager from shoplifting and was stabbed with a screwdriver in the head; the resultant injury caused permanent brain damage.
Quite simply, there was no upside to my responding to this provocation, to continuing this conflict. I swallowed hard, fuming, and walked on straight to my gym, where I worked out and flattered myself by performing a reasonably hard gymnastic move several times during my workout. Then, sweaty and satisfied, I returned home in time to say goodnight to my daughter before she went to bed. Her father hadn’t been ‘manly’ enough earlier; but this was good enough for me.
6 thoughts on “On ‘Backing Down’ From A ‘Streetfight’”
A friend of mine was stabbed over a desirable seat at a bar.
You never know. That’s why you should go into any fight intending to kill your opponent in the most efficient manner available. It is the only reasonable strategy.
It puts things in the proper perspective, too.
What will you do not to be a guy who kills over a barstool?
I agree; I just didn’t have my flamethrower around. I’d have incinerated his SUV otherwise.
Sorry to hear about your friend; that’s terrible.
Thanks. Flank wound. He was fine.
Somehow, I think you wouldn’t have, if you had your flamethrower…
At least you went that far. I would have stopped when I saw a rushing SUV and waited for next cycle.
Thank you for sharing Samir. Backed out of a similar situation a month or so ago, when confronted by an SUV (why do the idiots always drive SUVs?) driver here in chaotic Bangalore. He was a foot taller and a couple of feet wider than me, so it was an easy decision. 🙂 But reading about your experience helped rationalize that encounter.
(Just rediscovered your blog, I used to follow it avidly a couple of years ago. Was travelling for a bit and wasn’t online much last year. Since the link to your blog was maintained on a work computer, forgot about it when I returned and switched jobs. Am glad I found it again!)
I’m so glad this resonated; I think it is far more common than people imagine. I’m glad too, that you have rediscovered the blog; thank you for reading, and welcome back!