Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I don't know what makes strangers punch each other.

Yesterday afternoon I staggered over to the taxi stand by Penn Station, dragging the largest suitcase I own. (Today's post might just as easily have been, "I don't know how to pack for six weeks away from home," but I might use that later in the week.)

It was a gorgeous afternoon, and the line moved quickly. At the head of the line, a pink, balding man in his late 40s or early 50s moved to enter a cab.

Words were exchanged, but I didn't hear them. What I heard was the man shout, "Where you going? Where you going? F--- you!" The cab started to pull away; the man kept yelling, "F--- you! F--- you!"

The angry man started to get into the next cab, still shouting, but -- inexplicably -- the first cab stopped, and the driver got out. The angry man walked over to him and chest-bumped him, the way ballplayers do to umpires. The cab driver shoved him, and the angry man punched him in the face.

It was a clumsy punch, the punch of a man who's only seen it done on TV; the cab driver looked more experienced, and punched the angry man in the gut. And there the two of them were, brawling on 8th Avenue in front of all of us in line. The taxi dispatcher did nothing; two other cab drivers eventually got out of their cars and pulled the men apart.

The angry man demanded a police officer, and said he wanted to file assault charges. The taxi dispatcher ignored him. Eventually the man took another cab, and rode away.

Why does this happen? The angry man might have been drinking, but I couldn't tell; the cab driver seemed to be just an ordinary cab driver. It was 4:00 in the afternoon on a beautiful day.

This is something women don't do. I've never thrown a punch, except for one well-remembered day when I punched my brother Ed in the belly -- he was a toddler at the time -- just to see if it would push in like the Pillsbury Doughboy (it did, kind of). It's not on my list of things that would occur to me to do.

And ordinarily I try to stay away from places where people are likely to punch each other, but how would I know to stay off the streets of New York on a Monday afternoon?


Ed Lamb said...

You punched me?! Did I swing back? I probably would now.

As for what makes people fight outside of actual combat and combat sports like boxing, it's been my experience that alcohol is involved 100 percent of the time. Of course, that might because because of all the time I've spent working as a bouncer in bars.

-- Ed

Claire said...

Man, you have all the fun.