18 March, 2008

Armchair Psychoanalyst Powers, Activate!

SCENE: Annaham stands at the bus stop at 10:30 AM, wearing a t-shirt, jeans, sneakers and a pair of retro sunglasses. Two nearly indistinguishable, white teenage boys with "stylish" asymmetrical haircuts and braces pull up to the curb in a silver BMW. One of them motions for Annaham to take off her headphones.

TEENAGE DRIVER [TO ANNAHAM]: Excuse me, we just heard on the radio that...escaped slaves from the mental hospital are running around town. And they're, like, killing people with stupid sunglasses!

The BOYS break into a series of high-pitched, irritating giggles that can only be described as Beavis and Butthead-meet-Pikachu. This continues for about a minute.

ANNAHAM is confused, and gives her trademark "you are irritating, stupid children, and you are also full of shit" look.

THE DRIVER of the vehicle gives ANNAHAM the middle finger. THE BOYS speed off, laughing.


This happened to me this morning.

Thanks for the entirely unnecessary middle school flashback, privileged teenage white boys! Did your parents refuse to pay for the repairs on your car after you drunkenly crashed it at the senior prom, and so you feel that you should--nay, must--take your antisocial whims out on complete strangers? Is your arguably newly formed "masculinity" so threatened by a short woman in retro sunglasses that you must make a joke to her about homicide? Tell me, o privileged teenage children, so that I may be better informed about the unfortunate and oh-so-hard lives that you lead. Obviously, you feel so superior to me that you feel entitled to make a joke about my death, even though you do not know me, and I do not know you.

I am playing the world's tiniest violin for you both.

[Sidenote: I'm reading Battle Royale right now, and the idea grows more and more appealing by the day.]

1 comment:

Steve-o, aka "Ignatius J. Reilly" said...

Dear Annaham,

It sounds like this incident really hurt, so much so that you wanted to dissipate the pain a bit by sharing it here. It should have hurt. Let's not dance around what happened: they disrespected you, picked you out on the street, vulnerable and alone, as someone unlikely or unable to strike back at them. Would they have done the same thing to some 6-foot tall gangsta? Hardly.

But that being said, something you should understand is that picking you out was a random act, and doesn't really reflect anything about you. You were simply there. Someone else at the bus stop, they do the same thing, maybe not talking about sunglasses but they would find something else. If you ever watch these MSNBC crime shows, where they interview murderer and rapists, something that comes across again and again was that the victim was selected almost completely randomly, at a whim, and in many cases these narcissistic perps don't even remember what the victim looked like.

Once, while biking on the streets of Berkeley, a car full of teens came up behind me, and one of them leaned out to try to hit me with an aluminum baseball bat. Missed. Same cackling laughter you heard. They speed off and flipped me off.

A little ways further up the road, I come up upon someone they didn't miss. They hit her square of the back of the head. Shattered bike helmet. Blood everywhere. Teeth broken on the ground where she fell off the bike onto her face.

Now, what was the difference? Neither of us saw it coming. Why was I missed and she was not? Completely random. The driver swerved one way or the other, and that was that.

This kind of crime isn't personal. You and I were just randomly placed in the path of these monsters. And it's taken me a while to come to grips with the fact of this randomness, and that there is little I can do about it. If you're out in public, you are vulnerable. Many incidents similar to what happened to you have happened to me over the years; in fact, some of the worst experiences I've ever had have been on buses. Whenever I can avoid public transport, I avoid it.

One thing I can tell you: it happens a lot less as you get older. This is small compensation for the problem of aging, but you can look forward to this kind of thing happening less frequently in the years to come.

In fact, I think their selection of victim is very much age dependent. It used to me I would walk down a street and get these looks from the hoods my same age, checking me out. Now, I walk down and I feel invisible. The difference is in the eyes...they always look at you before they attack. They're not looking at me now.

Another thing to consider: Don't take your headphones off in the future.

Have you ever been to or met someone from Manhattan? Ask them how they deal with the scams that come at them on every corner, on every street, day and night. They don't engage with people on the street. Don't make eye contact. Don't take off their headphones. If someone gestures for you to do so, just flip them off. In fact, I think the bird is a good response to _anyone_ who approaches you on the street for _anything_. Fuck 'em. In fact, if they try to say something to you, cup your hand behind your ear and point to your headphones to let them know you aren't going to listen.

Another thing to think about is a response. When I was younger and was out and about, I would continuously think of good comebacks. When I passed someone on the street, I would look behind me to make sure they weren't turning on me. Think about how you're going to respond. Plan what to say.

Now with these guys, a thing to say might have been: "Oh, then I guess it's lucky for you that he's not going around killing fucktards like you guys. Your lucky day, eh?"

Have a few of these good comebacks ready and on the tip of your tongue whenever you're not at home. I find it very useful.

Something else, Anna, that might not be up your ally is to respond to this kind of taunt with immediate physical violence. In high school and junior high there were a number of cases when someone made a crack to me and found that before the smile left their lips, their nose was broken and bleeding. Don't say anything. Don't threaten. Just hit, fast and hard, right in their face. Again, this kind of response isn't for everyone--but let me tell you, they won't expect it or be prepared for it. :) And there are few feelings in the world quite as satisfying as popping some prick right in the mouth.

I wish I could do something to help you stop thinking about this incident. But in a relatively short time, this too will pass. :) Steve