This is us now?
Enjoying some sunshine for a change from the grey blanket we’ve been under for the most of the past couple of months. Minding my own business. Feeling pretty doggone good. Out with the dogs for our mid-day constitutional in our South Fargo, N.D., neighborhood.
All of a sudden a pickup screeches to a halt on the street parallel to the sidewalk we’re on, or screeches as much as is possible on the black ice that doubles for pavement in our winters.
Door flies open and a man jumps out.
He’s about 5-foot-4 to 5-foot-6 with straight white hair combed straight down on his forehead. Caucasian. Glasses. Wiry. Looks to go about 150-160 pounds. Wearing a light colored jacket. I don’t register all of this at first, though. I just see, out of the corner of my left eye, a white flash rush out and start stalking toward the back of the truck.
The white blur starts shouting and pointing.
I turn toward the man and see a white vehicle, a sedan or SUV of some kind, stopped about 15 yards behind the pickup. A man unfolds out of the front seat, stands up. He’s tall, maybe 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5. Thin. Black. Young. Maybe 17, maybe 20. Hard to tell. His right hand is on the door, the left is out, palm up in a “what-did-I-do” gesture.
Mr. Wiry’s pointing and screaming that the kid’s been following “too goddamn close!” All the while advancing menacingly on the white vehicle. Looks like he’s gonna take a swing.
No, I thought. Just no.
“Hey, back off!” I shout.
The kid turns his head toward me, a confused, are-you-kidding-me look on his face. “But I didn’t – ”
“Not you,” I shout, pointing at the man with the white hair. “Him!”
The man turns on me, the most disbelieving, shocked look on his face. Stopped in his tracks not two paces from the kid.
“What is your problem?” I ask, enunciating every word.
Now I have all his attention.
“He was following me too goddamn close!” the guy screams, pointing back at the kid. Half a beat. His face reforms into a determined scowl. This is none of my blankety-blank business! he shouts. Lots of other colorful words woven in.
I glance down, shake my head. Unbelievable.
He starts turning back toward the kid. “Get back in your truck!” I yell. He turns more fully now, takes a couple of steps toward me, still shouting.
“Just get back in your fucking truck, man,” I say. “Drive away.” I motion to his pickup. I notice a person, a woman I think, hunkered down in the passenger seat. Wiry’s stream continues… None of my fucking business, etc., etc., etc…. just get the hell out of here…. BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!!
By this time my dogs are out in front of me, about seven feet down the driveway I’m standing on, my Lab pulling taut the double leashes. Mr. Wiry backtracks half a step, looks at me, then at my Lab, back at me. Still shouting. I tell him again, just get back in your truck and drive away. He stops shouting. Glares at me.
Right about then a white vehicle drives through my field of vision, behind Wiry and past the pickup. Good. Kid’s gone.
“Whatchya gonna do now?” I ask. “Gonna come hit me?”
I’m a little over 6 feet, run about 230 (yeah, I could lose a few pounds). I know I’m at least 15 years younger than this guy. Not that I would ever engage, and I know you should never underestimate a potential adversary, but… let’s just say I’m not too worried about it.
He takes half a step toward me, raising his right fist. My Lab goes berserk. Wiry stops, viscous glare on his face.
“Look,” I say, more calmly now. I could feel the adrenaline slowing. “Just get back in your truck and go.”
Wiry thinks for a second. “I’m not fucking going anywhere until you do.”
Jaysus. Whatever, dude.
“Fine,” I say, pulling the dogs back up the driveway and onto the sidewalk. I turn them south again and start walking. Occurs to me that if the guy has a gun in his pickup, he might be just pissed off enough to shoot me in the back.
We keep walking. I don’t look back.
About 15 seconds later, here comes the pickup, slowly, about 10 miles per hour. I look over. There’s Mr. Wiry, glaring at me. The passenger is hunched down so I can barely see her. Poor woman. Probably mortified.
“Oooohhhh, I’m scared,” I think, and keep walking.
Wiry turns left at the next intersection. As I walk through it, I watch the pickup pull up to the red light on the corner of South University Drive between Sanford and the Taco Shop.
Maybe the kid WAS following too close. No idea. Wasn’t paying attention before both vehicles were stopped.
I think about it, walking along, head down. No longer noticing the happy sunshine….
But even if he was, what the hell? That’s no reason to jump out of a vehicle, verbally assault someone and threaten, through actions and posture, that a physical assault might not be far behind.
And then there’s this – Was Wiry’s anger racially motivated? He’s white, the kid’s black. Would he have gone off like that if the driver he saw in his rearview had been white, too? Or is he just a jackass to everyone who crosses his path, literally or figuratively, black or white?
You never know.
Maybe so, maybe no, but given the circumstances, the anti-immigrant sentiment that’s been floating around this community for the past few years and the condition of our nation’s race relations overall, one can’t help but think it.
Poor kid. He’d looked terrified.
While Wiry was screaming at me I took a closer look at both him and his vehicle. Registered the make and color. Noted the single cab. Got the plate number.
Twenty-five minutes later, back home, I called the Fargo Police and told the dispatcher the whole story. I didn’t expect them to do anything about it, even if they could, but figured it was probably best to get something officially documented. Wiry was seriously pissed about my unwelcome intervention. I was wearing a jacket with my company logo on it. Maybe he got a good look. Maybe he’d look me up.
You never know.
An officer called me back later, said he was going to look up the license plate, see if the owner matched the description I’d given. If so, maybe get in touch with him.
I’d walked away.
This kind of thing happens every day across the United States. I know this. I also know the outcomes are often much, much worse. But good grief. This is what we’ve come to? This is the new normal? This is us now?
But not right now…
’Cause right now I’m sitting here, sipping coffee, shaking my head once in a while. Patting my Lab’s head. Enjoying the bright sunshine out the window for a change.
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