Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Representative From Costco is Visiting Today

Within 5 seconds of exiting the car, I felt something hit my left shoulder. Something big and heavy, I thought. I looked up and noticed him standing next to me, looking crazy. He was black, 5’ 10’, black cap, disheveled, high and mentally ill. This is how I described him to the BART police dispatcher. The dispatcher asked me to clarify the style of cap; if he was drunk and how I knew he was mentally ill. In order, I told her it was a baseball hat; he didn’t smell of alcohol and that I work worked with lots of mentally ill people. She didn’t question my credentials.

His eyes had that yellow glow of somebody who had a prolonged relationship with crack. He was sweaty and waiting for me to reply. They’re always waiting for a response. It helps justifying violence. Like an idiot, I gave it to him.

“What the fuck, dude.” This was a very white response.

I continued walking, taking out my keys and putting them in between my clinched right fist. I had done a quick check of his ability to kill me and deduced I could take him. I calmed and continued to the ticket machine, violent visions filling my thoughts. He followed, his yellow eyes egging me on. I pulled out my phone, my iPhone. Not a smart move.

“Dude, get the fuck out of here or I’m calling the police.” Once again, I included dude.

“I don’t care, call Allah. I’ll kill you,” As violent as this sounds, his demeanor remained the same – the yellow eyes looking at me while we moved forward. I should’ve known that the threat of police never worked. Last time I used this tactic, the response was: “I don’t care, I’m not afraid of going back to the penitentiary.” Don’t mess with anyone who calls prison the penitentiary.

As we entered the courtyard of BART, he derailed from my path, heading east to International Blvd. The influx of people defused the situation. I continued on, keeping a close eye on him as I walked with the commuters.

Bypassing the ticket machines, I went straight to the station agent and reported the incident. While explaining what happened to the attendant, I looked toward the turnstiles and the Director of Human Resources at my work was smiling at me, shaking her head. She had witnessed the incident. Her look was one of pity and amusement. I motioned her away. This was a woman who hears all the petty and nasty shit at work, she didn’t need to get involved in my problems.

The attendant handed me a phone and I gave the dispatcher the particulars. An officer appeared and talked to me in hush tones. Before we walked the courtyard, looking for the perp, I established my credentials: “I work in the Tenderloin, so I’m pretty used to this.” He didn’t respond. This was becoming more about me than the incident. He took my name and number and sent me on my way. I was a little embarrassed that I reported such a petty crime, but I justified it by thinking I was doing a public service. Once again, it was about me.

On the train to work, I sank into the dirty, blue bench seat and revisited the incident. Indian software engineers and office workers slept, their heads moving in rhythm of the train. As innocuous as the incident was, it was embarrassing and somewhat tested my manhood. I did right by ignoring the situation, but my heart was telling me to hit him, hit him hard. I believed that hitting him would alleviate the built up anger that followed me the past 2 years. The anger of being in the TL, seeing junkies, johns, prostitutes, druggies, scumbags, scammers, holey rollers, do-gooders, entitled white people and pathetic hotel desk clerks every day; and listening to staff tell me about botched suicide attempts.
But most of all I was sick of seeing poverty, crime and drugs. My optimism was gone, and unhappiness and bad endings was omnipresent. Everybody appeared to be doing poorly; nobody thriving.
By taking my anger out on some miscreant, I believed I would reset. It was a dangerous narrative and I knew it.

As I sat down at my desk, an all-call came across the phone system: “A representative from Costco is here today to talk about membership. He’ll be at the entrance of the lunchroom. Please stop by and say hi.”

Like a slap in the face, the poor salesman from Costco inadvertently added perspective to my morning and the last 2 years. I went upstairs and looked at the salesman. I still wanted to pummel some scumbag, but for now I was glad I wasn’t behind a foldup desk talking about the advantages of a Costco membership.

1 comment:

  1. Nice, Greg. You possess an effortless (sounding) narrative voice, an everyman, just left of center, self-effacing, and likable. Always a pleasure...

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