The perennial search for an asshole-free zone

 

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Sometimes I find people very easy to hate.

So it’s 8 o’clock and I’m hanging out at one of my favorite late-night hangout spots on the Berkeley campus — this little niche of space away from everything. And I’m sipping on my beer and listening to music on headphones and working on some stuff on the internet.

When this person is suddenly standing in front of me. He’s some nut. One of my “fellow street people.” And he starts babbling at me. But I can’t understand a word he’s saying (did I mention he’s a nut??). But from his gestures I can tell he wants to plug his cellphone into the outlet that I am using.

“NO!!” I said forcibly. “I don’t want any company. I just want to be alone. There are plenty of other outlets right down there on the plaza that you can use.”

But does this dirtclod respect my wishes and respect my space?? HELL NO. He pulls out his cellphone and some chords and starts doing various inexplicable gestures (so as usual I’m contemplating that age-old question: ” Is he a nut?? Or is he on drugs?? Or is he just an asshole?? Or some strange combination of the three??”).

I stand up and glare at him. Give him the ole Ace Backwords Death Stare. Hoping I can scare him off with my chest-pumped-out Cowardly Lion routine. But he’s completely oblivious. Continues to fumble around with his cellphone and a bottle of something in his hand. I imagine in my mind how satisfying it would be to just punch him in the head right now with all my force, and watch his useless bulk bouncing around on the concrete. But, alas, there are laws against that.  Plus, he’s just as big as me and probably 30 years younger. So maybe he could take me. Plus I’m getting too old for this shit anyways. And punching people in the head — as satisfying as that might be in the moment — can sometimes turn out to be counter-productive (so I’m gaining a modicum of wisdom and maturity in my old age).

So instead I quickly pack up my stuff, give him one last death glare, and then stomp off.

But that’s what it’s like in Berkeley EVERYWHERE nowadays. EVERY square inch of space is being contested by SOMEBODY!!

Now I’m actually hanging out at a better spot. My eternal motto is: “It’s a big world. And the point is to occupy a part of it that doesn’t include the asshole.” THE END

One more reason why I make a point to avoid eye contact in public

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Another wonderful day at the Berkeley Library. The guy sitting down at the cubicle directly in front of me, two words out of his mouth and I got him pegged as the Just Out Of The Joint type. White guy about 30 with a tight, black ponytail, long-boned, chest and arms covered with tattoos showing through his sleeveless t-shirt. Plops down his huge frame backpack and immediately gets into it with this old guy sitting at the cubicle next to him.

“What you doin’ staring at me, boy?? Is this some kind of faggot shit. You got no right to look me over like that just because I’m wearing a tracking device!!”

The old guy looks back at him, completely perplexed. Like: How did I get myself into THIS? There I was just minding my own business . . .

Now the guy is glaring at the old guy with daggers. “You look at me one more time and I’ll take you outside and cut you up. You thinking I’m playing? You don’t know me. I’ll cut you up. You wanna go outside?”

The old guy stands up and backs off, you can tell he’s pissed that this complete asshole is going off on him in public for no reason, but you can tell he also doesn’t want to escalate the situation.

Then three library employees, including a burly black security guard, are hovering over him, trying to calm the guy down..

“Are you telling me I gotta leave??” he says. “I wasn’t doing nothing. You just heard the second part when I was going off on that white cracker. But you didn’t see the first part when he kept staring at me and my tracking device. . . No I’m not leaving until I talk to my parole officer. I gotta check in with my parolee whenever I get into a confrontation.”

He takes out his cellphone, calls his parole officer and tells him the same basic story he told the security guards. I can faintly hear the parole officer’s voice squawking on the other end in an official tone, no doubt offering sage, sensible advice that translates in the real world as: “Don’t cause any more trouble, you stupid fucking asshole.”

“OK, I talked to my parolee and now I’ll leave,” says the guy. He hoists his big frame backpack on his back, and another big pack on his chest, and the security guards escort him down the stairs and out of the building.

I think he had been in the library for less than a few minutes before he got into his confrontation . . . Guys like that, you wonder how they make it to the end of the day.

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