This secluded spot, this balcony on the second floor over-looking the lower plaza, was one of my favorite late-night hangout spots for many years. WAS.
But now it’s just become a source of grief. I mentioned earlier that I’ve been feeling like I’m under more and more pressure, lately. And I’ve been getting into more and more conflicts with other people — mostly revolving around the issue of people violating my personal space. And now I’m starting to get concerned that I might snap.
So last night I was hanging out at my favorite late-night hang-out spot. What had used to have been a fairly secluded spot. But for the third night in a row somebody approached me, wanting to hang out there beside me as they charged their cellphones on the outlet that I’m using. And I don’t WANT any company. I come up there mostly to write. And I can’t concentrate if somebody is sitting right on top of me, making all sorts of noise, and looking over my shoulder. So the first two nights I got into an angry, potentially-violent confrontations with the people that approached me — they were both nutty asshole street fuck-ups (by the way) — the LAST people I’d want hanging out with me. So I ran them off. They both departed, shouting curses and threats over their shoulders.
But by the third night I’m starting to get weary of the whole routine. If you start turning every afront into a battle-to-the-death it can wear you out. So I tried to reason with the guy that showed up this night (in the hopes that he was a reasonable person) (I figured it was worth a try). He was a young guy, of mixed race. Maybe a light-skinned black guy, or a Latino guy mixed with some other stuff (not that it matters, but I just like to add some details to “put you in the room” — as we writers are fond of saying).
“Can I charge my cellphone on that outlet,” he said, holding up his cellphone.
“N-no,” I said. “I-I don’t want any company. I just want to be by myself. Th-there are plenty of other outlets you can use down there on the lower plaza.”
(I notice my voice is cracking and wavering and in a higher pitch than usual. A definite sign of stress. Like I said I’m on edge and high-strung from all the previous confrontations I’ve been having lately. And here we go again.)
“None of the outlets down there work,” he said.
“No there are some outlets down there that work,” I said.
“No there isn’t,” he said.
“Yes there IS!!” I said.
(here we go)
I decided to go the extra mile to avoid a conflict. So I stood up and pointed down at the lower plaza. “See that bench down there? There’s an outlet right by it that works. And right beyond that, in the patio of the Bears Lair there are several MORE outlets that WORK!!”
(I know where every outdoor outlet on the Berkeley campus is)
“I-I understand,” he said. And now I notice that his voice is starting to crack, and he’s getting nervous. And he’s backing off slightly, with his palms up. Like he can tell by the slightly hysterical tone of my voice that I very well might be a crazy person who very well might be on the verge of cracking up (which I very well might be, ha ha).
But like I said, I’m willing to go the extra mile to avoid a conflict, so add: “Try them. And if they don’t work you can come back up here and use this one.”
“Oh. OK,” he said.
And he turned and left. Never to return. Thankfully.
Well, I haven’t cracked up yet (though the night is young). I’m doing the best I can, folks.
So now it’s the fourth night in a row. And I’m hanging out at my favorite hangout spot. By myself. When this asshole shows up. This ornery old homeless guy. And guess what? He wants to sit right next to me, too, so that he can charge his cellphone on the outlet I’m using. He doesn’t even say anything to me, just walks right at me, holding his cellphone in his hand.
I helpfully explain to him:
“THERE ARE A HALF DOZEN OTHER OUTLETS RIGHT DOWN THERE THAT YOU CAN USE!!”
They don’t work,” he says.
“THEY DO WORK!!” I says.
“They don’t work,” he says.
“THEY DO WORK!!” I says. “IN FACT I’M GONNA GO DOWN THERE RIGHT NOW AND USE THEM MYSELF JUST SO I CAN GET AWAY FROM YOU!!”
I quickly unplug my cellphone and pack up and move down to the lower plaza. And plug my cellphone into the outlet down there. And guess what? IT WORKS.
I admit my mental state is a little sketchy these days. But half the people I run into these days seem even more crazy and stupid then me.