Photo by Flickr user Geezaweezer.
I recently got into what has to be the least aggressive fight in the history of New York City.
Anyone who lives in NYC will tell you that getting into a confrontation on a city street is a complete nightmare 100 percent of the time. People in this town are conditioned to getting where they want to go and staying out of one another’s way. Anyone who stops to slow down and fight is someone who is truly down for trouble. Fights in New York are rarely small. They’re more akin to a lunatic grabbing you by the shoulders and shouting “Kill yourself!” and you’re like “Hey man, I’m just trying to go to the bagel store!” while a crowd gathers to watch.
A few years back I was screamed at by a junkie on the F train who told me to “look out the window like you’re supposed to before I kill you.” This was completely unprompted, and also didn’t make sense—there is no rule that a rider of the subway is supposed to look out the window. When I was in my early 20s, I was walking by myself underneath some construction scaffolding on a summer night when a deranged man entered from the other side and crouched in a boxing stance. He walked towards me and lunged and I had to hop the scaffolding and walk in the middle of the street. When I did so, he threw his hands above his head victoriously, shouting, “Yeah! YEAH!” I have also been the crazy one; I was once walking on Eighth Ave with my friend Chad Carter when a bunch of fratty dudes walked past us. One bumped me with his shoulder, and his friends laughed. I happened to have a manriki chain on me—a length of metal with weights on both ends usually only seen in video games like Double Dragon and River City Ransom—and I unfurled it and grinned at them. They quickly walked away.
I do not like confrontations in New York City.
That being said, the fight I got in about a month ago is a fight I’d get in every day of my life if I could. I’ve been complimented and walked away feeling worse about myself than I did after this fight.
I was driving south on Ninth Ave, and I had a whole row of green lights. So I had some momentum built up. Everything was smooth sailing, until I realized that a car a few blocks ahead of me was sitting at a green light, not moving. Cars whizzed past the offending vehicle on both sides. Because of the amount of traffic, my only option was to come up behind the guy, hit the brakes, and lean on the horn a little bit. When I did, the car lurched into motion and went on its way.
That should have been the sum total of our interactions.
Instead, when I eventually hit a red light, the car pulled up next to me. A guy was driving. There were two women in the car with him. He motioned for me to roll down my window, which I did. When there were no windows between us, I couldn’t just see that he was furious—I could feel it in the air.
“Hey man,” he seethed, leaning towards me to make sure I could see the rage in his eyes, “You in a big rush or something?”
I was beyond confused.
“No,” I said. “I wasn’t honking at you to be aggressive. I was honking at you because you were creating a dangerous situation.”
His eyes widened. It seemed that this comment only fueled his fire. He shouted, “What do you mean by THAT?”
“Well,” I said. “This one seems pretty self-explanatory.”
He stared me down, waiting for me to continue.
“You were completely stopped at a green light in Midtown Manhattan,” I said. His stare intensified. “I didn’t want to hit you. Look man, sitting still at a green light is one of the only things that it’s completely accepted, you’re going to get honked at for that.”
He breathed in deep, then the dam broke.
“Well we were talking,” he hissed at me, “and I hadn’t noticed the light turned green.”
“It actually sounds to me like we might be right on the same page,” I told him. “Like, you didn’t know the light was green. I was under the impression that maybe you didn’t know the light had turned green. So I used a sound-producing device with the intent of letting you know the light was now green. And you moved on, signifying that the sound-producing device had its intended effect.”
His brow furrowed; he was considering my point. I continued.
“I can see that you’re still really mad at me,” I said, “but if you think about it, we actually kind of came together and had a moment.”
The logic of the situation was finally starting to sink in for the guy.
“You know what?” he asked. “I’m calming down. I think we’re good.”
He was ready to move on. But for some reason, I got all emo and extended the fight.
“Actually,” I said, “we’re not good. Because now you’ve hurt my feelings.”
“How did I hurt your feelings?”
“Well,” I said, “I see that you’ve got Connecticut plates. You’re in from out of town, and it’s a lovely night for a drive in New York City with these two ladies. And now you’ve put me in this position where I’m the guy who ruined your night, and that doesn’t feel good. You’ve made me out in your mind to be the cliché, impatient, bully New Yorker who’s only concern is getting where he has to go, when in reality, all I’m worried about is all of our safety.”
He nodded. “You’re right, man,” he said. “I’m being an idiot. We’re cool.”
I nodded back. Then the light turned green. I hit my gas. He leaned over before I could go anywhere.
“One more thing,” he shouted.
I was expecting him to pull that dickhead move, where he’d shout a final insult and peel out before I could respond, effectively winning the argument with a nasty parting blow. So I was bracing myself for him to yell something like “You look like a less successful Ron Howard” or “Gingers are visually unappealing people” or something like that.
“What’s up?” I said, distrust all over my tone.
He motioned with his thumb towards the woman in the back seat.
“My mother-in-law thinks you’re cute,” he said.
Then he hit the gas and got out of there.
Previously by Chris Gethard – Why I Quit Drinking