Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bum Rush!

This event occured in early 2002
I was on my way home from work during tax season late at night... about 11pm. I stopped at a gas station downtown. Bakersfield does not have a lot of homeless, but we live in the valley where meth was invented. So while we do not have a lot of unkept masses miandering around infront of the local quikee mart, we do have a lot of generally cracked out individual cleaning their mobile homes in the middle of the night, and twitching about to and fro in public spaces.

I pulled up the a very large gassing station downtown... I think it has something like 22 pumps. There were maybe 3 other cars gasing up. This particular station did not take credit cards so I got out of my car with a 20 dollar bill in my hand and made a b-line towards the store where you pay. I had a 20 in my hand a pocket with about $200 in it, and a center console full of shiny change.

I saw the young gentleman as I was pulling up. He was making a request of the patron at the pump accross from me. He looked like he was in his early 20's, clearly was not there to get gas, and was slightly dirty. With a ciggy hanging out of the corner of his mouth he counted the change he just received and stuffed down into his cargo pants. As I was making my way accross the expansive parking lot to pay for my gas with a $20 in my hand the young man approached me.

As he came to within 3 feet of me I recognized him. I knew him but I did not know where I knew him from. I am pretty sure it was high school, but could not really place him. The dialogue that ensued went a little something like this.
Bum: "Hey can you spare some change?"
Richard: "I don't have and change, how much do you need?"
I had a couple singles in my back pocket that I was willing to give him if he seemed nice enough. Then a funny thing happened.... I had the hand with the $20 in it held about stomach level in front of me. He looked down at it then looked up at me, smiled what I can only describe as a slightly evil smug smile.
Bum: "How about $20...", then took a step closer to me, one eye squinting a little bit from the smoke in the corner of his mouth.

I started to chuckle a little bit. I had 5 inches and at least 30 pounds on this guy. Plus I could clearly beat this guy to bloody pulp and break all of his bones if I needed to. I was not scared at all, I was actually very amused by his very weak attempt at intimidation and robbery. That is why I chuckled. I did not laugh in his face, I was still trying to show him a little respect. I don't ever try to treat anyone as less than human. But now I was feeling a little insulted. He didn't even give the robbery an honest try.

I had never really stopped moving forward, and since this exchange occured in the matter of a few seconds I was able to keep my momentum and just slightly turn my body and move past him. I made my way to the store, paid for the gas, and went back to fuel up.

I stood there for about 4 minutes while the nozzle automatically shot about $20 worth of gas into my tank. As I stood their waiting I notice that the kid had moved to a location in the darkness about 20 yards behind the pump I was standing at. He was smoking and I could see the cherry of his cigarette glow every 20 seconds or so. I did not pay any attention to him and started to think about the hurmerous encounter from a few minutes ago.... Did he really think that would work. Who knows what goes on in the minds of meth heads? Really!?

As the pump snapped the automatic lock off, and I reached for the nozzle to replace it and get on my way I heard rapid footsteps. I looked up just as the young man was coming around the gas pump, he threw what I can only describe as one of the weakest strikes I have ever encoutered from an adult . He hit me in right cheek and did no damage. I was shocked of course by this unprovoked attack, and just stood there for about 30 seconds completely stunned while I watched him turn and run away. As he got to the main street and crossed it without looking ,a car skidded to a stop half sideways barely missing the young man.

The 40 something mexican patron accross the lane from me started laughing. I looked at him standing next to SUV half bent over in laughter... I said, "Did you see that?" He repleid between his laughter, "You got punked homes!" I wanted to beat him down right then. What kind of adult acts like that. This was a potentially dangerous situation, any real adult would have recognized that and acted appropriately.

I can only remember thinking that I should have beat the kid down, called the police, jumped in my car and torn off after him. What did I do? I just got back in my car, still very shocked, and as the anger started to set in I drove home. My wife had the nerve to get angry at me for letting him get that close to me. "What if he had a knife or something?"

1 week later I was driving through downtown and saw him walking down the street......

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