Greg Rucka, “Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra”
I’ll have to back up in terms of dates for this, all the way back to the same day I saw Hellboy. After the film I raced down to my work, only to find we were slower than the average person who reads this site. I decided that coffee would be a good idea (by the way, I haven’t had any caffeine in three days, and I hate each and every one of you).
There are two places directly across the street from my work that sell coffee, and they both have good coffee. They do not, however, have any idea what a large coffee should look like. I headed around the corner to Starfucks. Their coffee tastes like dirt, but goddamn it, they put an awful lot of dirt in a large.
So I’m walking back, and I hit the crosswalk and wait. The corner by my work has traffic coming from three different directions, all of them are busy, and there are a lot of cops that cruise by the area. I waited for the light. When it was my turn I headed across the street.
I passed the halfway point, just about ten steps away from the curve, when I saw the white station wagon tearing around the corner. You wouldn’t think a station wagon could tear around corners. I wouldn’t think so, anyway. The most you would think they could do would be to lumber around corners. But this guy was taking it at high speed, and the huge tail of the car was headed toward me. I had to take two steps back, holding my coffee away from me as it sloshed out. I watched the driver as he paid no attention to me, then resumed walking, shaking my head in wonder on why people are such assholes.
And then I saw him pull into our parking lot.
I walked past his car and glared as he got out, but it was just like how it was on the street — he was totally oblivious of my presence. I went inside the store.
On Monday, one of the other workers is in charge of anything that comes in from people to sell, so I told her that if a guy with a blue shirt came in right now to sell books, she was not to buy anything, unless he had the goddamn Gutenberg Bible. I looked out our picture windows, and saw the guy jaywalking to the other side of the street. I explained how he had nearly plowed into me at the crosswalk as I watched him. My co-worker agreed that he sounded like an asshole.
The guy crossed the street again, and headed toward our front door. He didn’t have anything to sell. Now that he was inside, and not racing past me as I jumped back to avoid him, I recognized him. He had been in a few times at least, and I took him to be the human equivalent of the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, except with a buzz cut and glasses. But the attitude was the same. Any person who has worked in retail long enough knows this type of customer — impatient, overbearing, and rude.
His name is Matthew Joseph Harrington. I know that, as he wrote a completely fictitious account of what happened in a listing for our store. For a guy who reads so much science fiction, he sure can’t write for shit. And since I’m sure he’s narcissistic enough to constantly Google his own name, let me just say “Hi Matthew! Nobody believes you, and like a random customer commented after your last slew of poorly written lies, you do come off as a blowhard.” But back to the story.I asked my co-worker if I should mention the fact that he almost ran me down. She thought it was a good idea. But was it? After all, it was for something that happened outside while I was not working, and I would be bringing the situation inside the workplace, for something that wasn’t work related. Most places of employment tell you specifically to leave your personal problems at home.
I thought about this for a long time. What would be the purpose for bringing it up? I wasn’t trying to start a fight, and I wasn’t looking for an apology. At that point he brushed past me as I was shelving, nearly knocking over my stack of books cradled in my arms.
That clinched it. As I said, I recognized the guy, and I knew that he always acted like an asshole. So while I wasn’t trying to start a fight or get an apology, this guy obviously walks around thinking his actions are justified, because he acts like this in his car, or in a workplace where the shitworkers are expected to be subservient. He acts like this because he gets away with it. And he does it all the time.
He’s looking on the shelf next to me, expecting me to make room for him to browse. I turn to him instead and say, “You know, I actually had to step back from your car when you took that corner back there a few minutes ago.”
He turns and does a combination of a glare and a scowl at me. He stays silent for a moment and then very slowly and patronizingly, he says, “Oh. That was you.”
Ok, I don’t know what reaction I was expecting, but that certainly wasn’t it.
I match his gaze. “Uh, yeah. That was me. There is such a thing as right-of-way, you know.”
“I know,” he says. “I had it.”
“Uh, no, you didn’t. Pedestrian. Crossing at a crosswalk with the light. Past the median strip. That means you stop.”
“Tell you what,” he says, “why don’t you call a cop and have him explain it to you.”
“Ooooookay...” I said, and walked away.
I went back to the front and told my co-worker what happened. “You think I should take him up on his suggestion about the cops?”
“Sure!” She said. This woman is probably not the best person for me to work with at times. She’s great, but she also eggs me on for things like this. She’s older than me, and elders are supposed to be the voice of reason. I pick up the phone and call the non-emergency police number. After explaining that I wanted clarification on right-of-way laws, I explain the scenario.
“Oh, the pedestrian has the right-of-way. Without a doubt.”
“That’s what I thought!” I said. “Would you mind telling this guy?”
“Put him on!”
I go back to the fantasy section, where he is now browsing with his wife. I
move to hand him the phone.
“This is the officer who is going to explain right-of-way to you,” I say back.
“You had a flashing red hand!” he says, indignantly. “That means you stop!”
The cop can hear the argument over the phone. “That doesn’t matter,” he says loudly.
“The officer is saying that doesn’t matter. But here, let him tell you.”
“I had the right-of-way. You walked into my path.”
“I’m not here to argue,” I said. “Just talk to the officer.”
“I’m not talking to anyone,” he says with a huff and goes back to looking at books.
I thank the officer for his time, and he tells me to call back if I have any problems with the guy. I hang up and start to walk away. The guy turns back to me just as I’m walking away.
“Of course, if you lie to him, he’s going to take your side,” he says in a snooty voice. I spin around.
“You know, I don’t think we really need your business,” I say. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave the store.” (Thank you, Bruce Campbell.)
“Are you the owner?”
“No, but I’d say I have managerial rights.”
“Well I want to talk to the owner,” he says.
I say fine, and call the owner. His phone is busy.
“Try it again,” he says. “Perhaps it will save your job for another day.”
I stare at him for a moment. Slowly I say, “no, I think I’ll just call the police and have them escort you off the premises.” I walk back toward the front room, calling 911. He follows me.
“Yes,” I say when the dispatcher answers, “I am at a place of business and have requested for a patron to leave the store and he refuses to do so.”
The guy, who is about two inches taller than me, stands a foot away from me, a murderous glare on his face. He tries to stare me down. I’m used to this, and stare right back at him. (Side tangent: when I told my boss about this event, he said I should have blown a kiss at him at this point. My workplace is very cool.)
Dispatch is asking for a description, which is easy for me to do, as we’re staring each other down. “He’s about 40 - 45, thinning hair, blue shirt, brown slacks. What’s that? Oh, he’s pretty fat. Is he what? Oh, I don’t know, just a second.” I hold the phone away from my face. “The officer wants to know if you’re on drugs. Are you?”
“Don’t talk to the guy,” the dispatcher says.
Finding that he can’t make me look away, he turns and starts to go toward the back of the store. Along the way he passes a display where books happen to fall down a lot. One does so at this point. I mention to the dispatcher that he is now damaging our stock. The dispatcher tells me that the police will be there shortly. I thank them and hang up.
The guy finally realizes he’s going to lose this fight, and heads out the door. “Oh they’ll be here any second, you don’t have to run yet,” I call after him. He continues walking.
“Don’t forget to tell them about my reputed mob ties,” he says.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“It’s the only think you haven’t lied about,” he says, exiting the store. I start for the door, intending to tell him that I know the mob doesn’t admit pussies, but my co-worker puts a gentle hand on my shoulder, signifying that it has gone far enough. I go back to the counter.
The guy is apparently about to leave when two police cars zip in, blocking his exit. One officer heads toward the store, and the guy moves to walk toward us, which freaks the fuck out of the cops. Remember, this is the force that shot a 35 year-old woman wielding a vegetable peeler. They're a little jumpy. The cops bark at him to stay where he is. I go inside and wait.
Five minutes later, one of the officers comes in. You know cops in this situation aren’t supposed to take sides, but he was obviously exasperated. He asks for a quick summary. I give it to him.
“Yeah,” he says, “We thought it was something like that. He said that you were crossing here at the middle of the road, but that was his second version, so we didn’t take him seriously. I tell the officer that he can tell the guy that he is not barred from the store, but he can’t come in if he’s trying to run over the employees, and he may want to check his attitude.
I thought about the incident for a while after that, wondering if I was justified. And the longer I think about it, the better I feel. There are too many people like this guy in the world, and I see them pull this kinda shit all the time. Just because somebody works in retail doesn’t mean you can walk all over them. There are too many people pretending to be Michael Douglas in Falling Down, but they don’t get shot at the end. I’m sure he feels that he’s been wronged. I’m sure he continues to act like a bastard to anybody who has to wait on him.
But I’m also sure most people who have had to deal with him want to thank me right now.