The young man, who looked to be in his early twenties, got off his skate board and came over to where my wife, mother and sister were standing in front of the restaurant. They were waiting for my brother-in-law and me to join them after we parked the car. He approached the women. His two friends stood several feet away.
“Do you have some spare change?” he asked.
Rather than answering his question, my wife asked him some questions of her own. “Why are you begging? You are not too sick to skateboard. Can’t you work?”
His tone changed. He said to my wife, as he skated away, “F_ _k you, you selfish bitch.” Apparently, he believes that he is entitled to expect money from strangers and it made him feel uncomfortable to be asked about his situation.
I was returning from the car parking and close enough to hear what he said to my wife. I guess I didn’t like it much. Or him. I am kinda sweet on my wife, Miss Sugar. I am protective of her. So I walked over to the rude kid and his two companions.
Before I could give it much thought, my left hand suddenly gripped the front of the young gentleman’s shirt and knocked him off his skateboard. It rolled away but he was still within my grip. I am a professional communicator. I communicated to the young man something along the lines that I did not like that kind of language around my wife, sister and aged mother.
Unbeknownst to me, my right hand had instinctively formed a fist and my right elbow had cocked my arm into a position by which that very fist was pulled back and pointing at the young man’s head. Apparently, he recognized the predicament in which he had placed himself.
He turned to his friends for assistance. “Call the police!,” he requested of them. His voice had become less confident than the snotty tone he had used when addressing my wife.
Life can change in an instant. In this particular instant, he seemed to change from feeling entitled to feeling frightened. His friends seemed scared too. Armed only with cell phones, they were not brave. They were not loyal. They did not come to the aid of their imperiled companion. They stood by while an older gentleman (that would be me) was presenting a danger to the young man who insulted my wife and, in their perception, to themselves as well. Smart kids.
Three against one is usually in favor of the side with the larger number of combatants. But strength is not always in numbers. Strength also comes from being on the side of right. The two fellow skateboarders might not have felt it to be the right thing to do to come to the aid of a person who insulted another man’s wife. Plus, I probably looked scary to them.
Jimmy Dean, before he started selling sausage, had a hit song called “Big John.” Some of the lyrics describe “A crashing blow from a huge right hand sent a Louisiana fella to the Promised Land. Big John. Big Bad John. Big John.” I like that song.
What saved these frightened young men from physical harm? It was not the police. There was not time for them to arrive. Rather, it was an eighty-two year old woman who is 5’1″ and weighs 110 lbs. She called my name in a stern voice that is familiar to me from my earliest memories. When she uses my first name and middle name together, she means business. It means stop what you are doing. My mother had previous experience with me bruising my fists in the halcyon days of my youth.
So, obedient to my mother, I dropped my right fist and unloosed the grip of my left hand and gently shoved the foul-mouthed youth towards his stalwart friends. And towards the curb.
The three skateboarders anxiously scooted away, as if in a hurry to be somewhere else. Maybe they heard their mothers calling them too.
Tennessee Ernie Ford had a song called “Sixteen Tons.” I am dating myself again. It goes like this: “If you see me coming, better step aside. A lot of men didn’t and a lot of men died. One fist of iron and the other steel. If the right don’t get ya, then the left one will.” I like that song too. I am a product of my upbringing. My mother should not have let me listen to such songs.
The young skateboarders were perhaps influenced by a recent Clint Eastwood movie, “Gran Torino.” Beware crazy old men.
The photo above depicts the lovely woman I always will protect as well as one of the hands that frightened the ill-mannered youth. My fist looks kinda big from certain angles.
In the movie, An Unfinished Life, Robert Redford’s character was told by a man whom Redford had ordered out of town because the man was stalking a woman he had abused, “You have seen too many Westerns.” Redford replied, “I don’t see how that is to your advantage.”