Friday, February 11, 2011

Subway Chronicles #2: Big, Angry, White Guy Kicks Out Crack Heads

Sitting in the back booth of Subway, I could observe all the comings and goings of the lunch crowd. It wasn’t your typical business crowd. Missing were the women in professional suits and young businessmen in groups of twos and threes. Instead, a mixture of non-profits schleps, city workers in orange vests and homeless junkie types from 1001 Polk, with their EBT cards and Subway vouchers, jammed the doorway, while the staff frantically yelled “Welcome to Subway” at each customer. If you have no history with this Subway, ordering and atmosphere could be overwhelming. I was pretty used to it.

Next to me was a door that led to the kitchen or backstage or whatever Subway hid from the public’s view. Once in a while the door would open, after a prompt in Tagalog was yelled. Mostly, the door was mistaken as a bathroom. For the veterans of establishments in the Tenderloin, we knew there was no such thing as a public bathroom, but every day, while I played Sudoku on my iPhone or incessantly check Craigslist for musical equipment, at least five people would come off the street, bypass the lunch line and move quickly to the door. Some would crab the handle and shake, while others would stop a few feet and turn around, not before stealing napkins, plastic forks and other useless shit on their way out.

Yesterday, 2 crack heads sat in front of me in a booth, out of view of the counter. As I discreetly added numbers to my Sudoku game, preempting the eventual “smash and grab” of my iPhone, I secretly eyed them. I knew they trouble.

Both were in their early 20s, male and female, and appeared to be living on the streets or doing an SRO tour. They were rummaging through their bags, looking for something. I assumed they were taking a break from the streets. He complained that his feet hurt.

In unison, both them crouched over and took quick hits off crack pipes. Without thinking, I quickly rose and yelled at the top of my lungs, “Get the fuck out of here,” with the emphasis on fuck.

When you do these types of things, you have to be prepared for the consequences. Within the second that they inhaled the billowy white smoke through glass pipes, I assessed that I could take them, if it came to violence.

As a guy and predator in these situations, it’s important to know your limitation. My friend Tim, who used to manage The Elbo Room, broke it down like this: “Don’t jump over the bar unless you can win the fight.” And this is a motto that a lot of us guys adopt in confrontation. I jumped over the bar, in this case. However, if they would’ve been large, thuggish looking guys, I would’ve left in an indignant storm, carrying the shame of my inaction. It’s not easy being a guy.

Both crack heads shuffled off in a huff. As I slowly followed them, she said, “Fuck you.” I quickly replied, “Fuck you.” And they were gone.

Unbeknownst to all of us, the restaurant had stopped and was watching us. As I slowly walked out the door, I looked over at the staff and they gave me a look that I interpreted as: “Thank you, big, angry, white guy for kicking out the crack heads.”

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