New York can be a confusing place for a recent transplant. You don’t want to look like a tourist, ripe for the picking for the thousands of nogoodniks, ruffians, and roustabouts. So you concoct this faux-bravado that should, if successful, make you appear invincible to a week-long vacation in the ICU. You walk with a purpose, defiant against those that want to stop and stare at pigeons –“Yes, that one’s black. Amazing. Now get your Tommy Bahama shirt out of my way.” You hide behind sunglasses, mean mug like someone just told you the Cheesy Gordita Crunch has been permanently discontinued, and you certainly don’t openly wave about your gaggle of Apple products. You are local, and just like your close friends, The Wu Tang Clan, you are not to be fucked* with.
But you also don’t want this facade to turn a tame interaction into the perfect shitstorm. You want to be prepared for anything, but this can lead to something the French like to call, “le wacky situation.” An example would be, say, thinking somebody is attempting to rob you, so you react as any tough-as-nails New Yorker would: with violence. Only this person isn’t trying to rough you up. You have done something stupid. You have egg on your face. You look ridiculous. You may soon have a court date.
This was me last week. Only I decided to boost, Jamba Juice style, my wacky situation by almost physically assaulting a member of the NYPD.
I have never been in a fight. I’ve never so much as slapped a bully for getting saucy on the playground. So if I had received my very first felony for accosting a cop, the Irony Police would have been on my ass for giving them too much paperwork. This surely would have sent me spiraling toward a life of breaking into Paint Your Own Pottery stores to huff fresh acrylics. I do not deal with Job-esque trials very well. This was a close call.
I was returning from one of my usual late nights at a Starbucks near Times Square (streaming episodes of Becker on Netflix, of course), heading toward the 42nd Street subway stop. I had my headphones on — another tactic used to look unapproachable in the city — so I was not living in the land of the hearing-abled. When I reached the end of the stairs leading toward the platform, I felt a hand pushing me from behind, trying to lead me around a corner. Given that I couldn’t hear a thing, I just assumed that I was about to be shanked to bits in the darkened catacombs of the New York underground. So I pushed the hand away from my back, and spun around ready to wildly destroy a man’s holy of holies with my fists. Luckily, I wasn’t high on fresh kiln fumes and I had my wits about me, so I immediately recognized the man in blue with the shiny piece of metal attached to his chest. I shouted out, “OH, MY GOD, I COULDN’T HEAR YOU!” and waited for the warm embrace of electricity to overtake my body.
Presented immediately to my left, the very direction I was being guided, was a table for bag checks. And sitting behind the table was another cop, trying not to laugh in my face. The officer behind me just shook his head and said, “Random bag check, sir,” and walked away. I continued to apologize to the laughing man, who politely said, “Maybe don’t play your music so loud. Have a nice night,” and sent me on my way to Fresh Change of Pants Island.
Is there a moral to this story? Perhaps it is to not automatically assume that everyone in New York City wants to shatter your inner goodness. Possibly. But I’m going to go with the ever popular “Rock and Roll is the work of the devil and should be destroyed through prayer.” If I hadn’t been listening to that filth at such a dastardly volume, I never would have found myself in such a quandary. Now I’m off to watch The Food Network to count how many times someone says the word “loins.” EVERYONE KNOWS THAT PORK LOINS ARE THE CREATION OF THE GAY CHEF AGENDA!**
* Sorry, mom. For Mother’s Day this weekend, I vow to hold my curs-ed tongue.
** For the record, I’m on board with this agenda. Have you seen Brian Boitano’s show? Dude can cook!