The Lesson of Metcalf—

September 30, 2012

“I don’t want to need a machine to poop!”

That’s a classic line from the live action version of the Tick. It refers to a character who decided to quit his day job to become a hero, fighting crime, who ended up needed a machine to aid him in his digestive process. Sadly, it sort of describes my day.

Last week, sitting in the park, I got into a scuffle with a squirrel over my oatmeal raisin cookie, which left my finger with a nice cut across it, and the rest of me with a need to do an internet search concerning the likelihood of acquiring rabies from said squirrel. With the intent of not letting a bad squirrel incident prevent me from enjoying the pleasant weather, nor the park, today we journeyed back to Dupont Circle to try again. We got our cookies, then my wife and I sat at the same bench as the previous week; finding a spot that was near a pretty young girl, wearing a head scarf, who was reading a book. I assume she was Muslim because of the scarf, but I have no way of knowing for sure. She had on a stylish outfit, with open toed heels, bright blue nail polish, with pastel jeans. We sat, eating our cookies, but I kept a watch out for squirrels who had a look of aggression in their eyes, all while protecting my cookies (sounds a bit wrong doesn’t it?). I should have been watching the other people in the park, because the rodents were the least of my problems.

After a few minutes, some guy, with no upper front teeth, stumbled up, stood in front of the young girl I mentioned, and started speaking to her. He didn’t appear homeless as his clothes weren’t overly tattered, and we couldn’t “smell him” (sorry, but it’s a stereotype for a reason). At first I thought he was asking for money, usually the homeless in Dupont will make the rounds in the Circle, going form person to person, just asking for change. We noticed his dialogue didn’t include that request, but rather focused on her clothes, and that she was reading; so I thought he was just hitting on her. Then suddenly he said in a really aggressive tone, “Oh you’re ignoring me, well I see your scarf… you need to move to another country!” Before I knew what was happening, or could process the fact that he was starting down the road of verbally assaulting this girl, my wife blurted out “Really?! Really? You’re going to…”

I don’t really know what the end of her sentence was, all I know is that the guy’s attention turned from the girl reading the book, to my wife with the statement of “Mind your own f—ing business!” We were sitting in the north west end of the Circle, that’s good, because the only place to go then was where the conversation went… south. Immediately it became a shouting match between my wife and this man. I say man, guy, whatever, because I refuse to use the word “gentleman”, as there was nothing that would indicate that about him.

I told him to back off and leave my wife alone, and he told me to mind my own “f—ing” business, then began to spout off about how he “worked for the government, “I’m a government employee”, then that he was a veteran, that he was going to kick my ass, and that he “kicked people’s asses like (mine) in the army.”. All this while I kept telling him to “Back off. Let it go. Go sit down, and leave it.” But, I admit with a fair peppering of “F— off”, that was thrown in for good measure.  

The only person that I can say, without a doubt, who benefited from this scenario, was the girl reading the book. I noticed out of the corner of my eye, as this all started to play out, she quietly shut her book, got up, and sneaked away. Smart girl.

Finally the guy said he would “kill” me if I didn’t mind my own business, which he seemed very adamant about, despite not minding his own by berating a girl who was doing nothing more than reading a book, alone, in the park. I repeated his statement for clarification, “You’re gonna kill me? Seriously?”, more in disbelief of his stupidity  to make such a threat in public. 

“Yea, mother f—er!”, he replied.

“We’ll see what the cops have to say about that”, I retorted, and pulled out my phone. Usually people aren’t stupid enough to stick around and wait for the cops, unless they’re drunk. He was, but you pick which one.

“Go ahead, I want them here!”, he shouted, and then he sat on the bench for a few minutes. After a bit, he got up to begin walking thru the Circle, talking to random people along the way.

What surprises me is how long the cops took to get there. Granted the girl at the 9-1-1 call center asked me if I felt I was in danger, to which I said “Not really“; it’s hard to answer that with a serious face, so I suppose that’s why the officers casually rolled up later with no sense of urgency. What was going thru my mind wasn’t him hurting me, so much as how many different ways I could hurt him. I don’t mean that to sound like I consider myself a bad-ass or anything. My wife and I take Krav Maga, but when pressed I will admit “I take it, I didn’t say I was good at it.” But from the wide-open shot to his crotch due to his “bad ass” stance (remember no crotch, no Krav Maga!), to his lack of balance that indicating he was intoxicated, I felt fairly confident I could, at least, hold my own. Honestly, what really kept floating thru my mind the most was, “Oh crap, if I punch this guy, it’ll end up with me in the back of a cop car, being booked at the local police station, legal fees, and the always inconvenient court date… again”. (For those of you who know me, you’ll remember my previous experience with getting arrested for trying to act the hero— also in Dupont Circle) Because of all that, I never stood up from the bench, and purposefully avoided words that implied a threat on my part.

The police were very pleasant, asking me what happened, but the funny bits are when he talked to the other guy to get his version of the story. I thought it rather telling that the second police officer had to repeatedly tell the guy to back off, sit, and calm down. According to the first officer that we were speaking with, the guy’s version of what happened included  “I was sitting talking to a girl, when he threatened to kick my ass”, which I refuted by pointing out that he was standing- not sitting, and that I specifically never said anything about fighting with him because I knew better. In the end the cop informed us if we wanted press charges we could, but also what the consequences would be, with all the trouble involved. He asked what I wanted, and I said only for him to leave people alone. I also said that I didn’t know what else to do other than to engage him while he was harassing the girl, because I didn’t know what he was going to do to her, but once it had turned aggressive we felt obligated to get involved. Then I mentioned I was sorry to get him out there for this, and the cop said “That’s what we’re here for- besides I was just filling our reports at the time.”. I was surprised when he said that “Unfortunately they tell us to avoid the park, that it’s really the park police who are supposed to handle things here.”, but he said that “If there’s a crime going on we should be able to doing something”. Good point. We shook hands, and he said “You can go if you want, we’re gonna run a warrant check on him”.

So what does all this mean? Should I give up my life of fighting crime? Should I keep my mouth shut when I see men harassing women in the park?

No. Apparently it means I can’t sit on the benches in the north west corner of Dupont Circle; but I’m still keeping my eyes on the damn squirrels.

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