Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On Bullshit

It had been a few days since I returned to the scene of the crime, the crime where I kicked out 2 crack heads from Subway. In my eyes, it was pretty simple: crack heads sit down, take out glass pipes, inhale, I yell “Get the fuck out,” they leave and follow close behind. This was the story I’ve told 10 plus times since the incident. In my story, I’m the hero, the person that did what everybody wanted to do. However, is it the truth? Most people in Subway only heard the incident, not seeing the crack smoking. As far as they knew, a big, white guy kicked out 2 black kids while eating lunch. This easily could’ve been the story that the patrons and sandwich makers told.

Like all stories, there’s an element of bullshit that goes with telling it. My old boss Gene used to say, “There’s his side, her side and the truth.” But Gene would scare the shit out of volunteers by telling them that if they gave the wrong product to a client the client would die. I used to love watching him give orientations. Also, he once tried to beat the shit out of somebody at 44 McAllister, but by the time he removed his rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings, the situation had defused. When I called him on his shit, he was fond of saying, “Fuck you, Gregory!”

If you’re me, there’s a large element of bullshit with everything I do. My friend Tim is amazed when people believe me and even more amazed when people tell me secrets. In my defense, I always tell the secret givers that I can’t guarantee I won’t blab. Most ponder this and tell me anyway.

So, I have a vivid fantasy life and alter ego that I tap into when telling stories. What’s the harm? For example: I was on the 14 Mission sitting behind a man with dreads. They hung over the seat and swayed with the motion of the bus. As I watched them move back and forth, they lulled me out of my bus existence and into a dream/fantasy state. Not really, but I started to daydream, letting down my bus guard.

As my stop approached, my hand raised. Instead pulling the bus cord, my hand moved toward his dreads. I really wanted pull one of them like a 5 o’clock whistle, but I didn’t. I stopped, knowing this wouldn’t be a good thing. My hand kept moving upward and pulled the cord, like it was supposed to.

When I think about this story, I think about pulling his dreads. That’s the only thing I think about. Eventually, as the story evolves and I find ways to work it into conversation, I will eventually pull the dreads. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will, trust me.

As I entered Subway - 3 days after the crack smoking incident - I was a little apprehensive. One of three scenarios ran through my head:

1. I would be vilified and kicked out immediately.
2. I would be anointed king of Subway and they would retire my booth in the back
3. I would get my sandwich and nobody would say a thing.

Of course, it was number three. I was relieved but a little drama would’ve been nice. However, there was already drama happening. Standing next to a 4 person booth, a gangly, speeded out, young man with dirty, oily, blond hair was rifling through his pockets and attempting to zip his jacket while wandering aimlessly around the counter area. And he stunk like shit. Everybody was eyeing him and as the clerk made my sandwich, she nervously glanced at him over my shoulder, hoping he’d quietly leave. No chance.

I took up residence in the back 2-person booth and dug into Sudoku, looking away every now and then to observe the scene. As I ate, he continued to zip his jacket. When the teeth caught, he’d zip it up halfway, then unzip it, take it off, put it back on and start all over. Next to him was a Lucite chessboard (odd) resting on a fold-up stool; the obligatory skateboard was nearby. His lunch table was strewn with various shreds of paper that had come from his pockets and the wrapping from a Subway sandwich lay open, covering a quarter of table. I have no idea how he ordered a sandwich.

Even though the employees didn’t mention the incident from the other day, I decided to lie low – a cooling off period, if you will. As much as I wanted to shut him down, I knew it wasn’t the time. It was too soon.

Playing Sudoku was pointless, I couldn’t concentrate. He was making everybody uncomfortable and it was obvious the Subway employees were not going to stop him. I decided to act. But before getting up, I ran over a few scenarios in my head. Yelling at him to “get the fuck out” was dangerous and stupid. I knew that, so I silently roll played a few civil ways to deal with the problem:

1. The Buddy-Up: Walking up to him, I would play on his paranoia and his need for friendship: “Dude,” whispering into his ear, “They called the cops. You better get out of here. I’ll try to distract them, but I can’t guarantee anything. Do you have any warrants?”

Given his state, it probably would’ve taken him a half hour to gather his crap before leaving.

2. The Undercover Cop: Like the Buddy-Up, I would saunter over, except I would be staring at him in the eyes. I’d lean in and say, “Ok, buddy. Your time is up. Pack your shit and get out of here.” I would allude to being on the force.

3. The Social Worker: Like the other two, I would quietly approach, but my stance would be friendly. I’d smile and talk in soft tones: “Hey, my friend, how are you? You’re making some people uncomfortable. Why don’t we go outside and talk. You’re safe, don’t worry.”

I preferred the undercover cop. In the end, I chose to do nothing. It killed me to sit there and watch, but I was maturing. At the age of 47, I was mellowing. I didn’t have to throw the junkie out, nor did I need to help the blind person across the street. I just needed to stay put.


  1. ...compassion is the vice of kings.

  2. Mmm, god bless Gene, his rings, bracelets, earrings and plant-derived oil-based scents.