Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Was He Black?"

For those of you who don't know, I went to New York City last week to attend the Milton Friedman Prize award dinner. It--the dinner-- was a good time.

Afterward, a few of us younger folk went out on the town, determined to show New Yorkers how we Beltway kids do it up -- and 'do it up' we did.

After we shut the bars down, we wandered around the streets of New York looking for something to eat. I grew weary of waiting on those less-sober members of our group lagging behind and ducked into McDonald's. Apparently, when my friends caught up to me and were denied access to the Mickey D's bathroom, they took off without me. No big deal -- in the age of cell phones, I could catch up when my breakfast burritos were ready.

Well, there was one individual in the place rather upset with the service. He began berating a young woman behind the counter, walked away momentarily, and then came back for another chance at deriding her. With a style I can best describe as "Oh no you di'int" (with obligatory effeminate head swivel, minus the snapping fingers), he said to her:

"You know what, you are a terrible employer."

Far be it from me to let someone show such disrespect for a service worker repeatedly, but then with such an abuse of the language? Yeah. I had to say something:

"The word is employee."

He didn't take that very well.

So, in his diminutive angry way, he follows me outside threatening to do all sorts of harm to me and going on about his origins from "the ghetto." (Personal note: If someone is in your face telling you their personal history about what qualifies them to pummel you, and especially if it doesn't sound very convincing, chances are they are full of it.) I was less than impressed with the performance, but was still in my tux and not looking for trouble. I just walked away, eating my food and drinking my orange juice.

He runs after me around the corner and then starts on about "you white people," which of course, I also couldn't let slide. I take a sip from my oj and say "Actually, my father is black--but whatever." His response was to inform me that he wasn't really interested in that little bit of information, in admittedly more graphic and direct terms. I keep walking.

The next thing I know, he hurls his drink at my head. I don't see it coming, it stunned me, and temporarily blinded me in my right eye. The nerves were working, but all I could see were indistinct shapes and I could feel my eye swelling immediately. It tore open the skin beneath my eyebrow and I started bleeding everywhere.

I was, for the first time, legitimately frightened because I was, for all intents and purposes, incapacitated for self-defense. All he had to do was come at me from my right side and he could have torn me up.

But for all his tough talk about being from the 'hood', the blood coming from my head seems to have been enough for him and he got the hell out of there. (People where I come from would have then hit me with a fist to knock me down to the ground, kicked me repeatedly and taken my wallet. I've never claimed to be a hard ass, I've just met enough of them in my time. But I digress.)

After a terse but calm phone call, my friends find me with the help of a man I'll call "Tyrone," who apparently works in urban pharmaceutical sales. (He was in the area when my friends freaked out upon hearing my phone call. My friends were not in the market for his wares.)

Somebody called the police, I went back to McDonald's and tried to clean myself up. One of the men at McDonald's--I'm guessing an off-the-clock employee--asked me something I thought strange: "Was he black?" I said yeah, and rattled off a description: light-skinned, early 20s, kinda chubby, and about 5'9", at best. The man was visibly disappointed, but not surprised.

The NYPD shows up in pretty short order, treat me with nothing but respect and are very cool-- to me. I give them the same description I gave to the random McDonald's guy. They ask if I could be any more specific, and I really couldn't.

Then an officer says they have someone out front and asks me to ID him. They wanted me to look at him through the window of the restaurant, which had a glare from the lights inside and I was down one eye, at that particular moment, so I was tentative about making any kind of identification for court. But as soon as I could make out the body, I knew it was not even close to what I said.

They were talking to Tyrone.

Tyrone is easily in his 30s, if not 40s, around 6'4", skinny as a rail, and black as midnight. Other than the race identifier, they couldn't have been more off. It seems that Tyrone has had some run-ins with New York's finest in the past, and the police were none-too-happy to see him. I can't make a judgment on whether or not Tyrone is a good guy, but he helped my friends -- thereby helping me--and for that I am grateful to him.

I am also grateful to the NYPD for their prompt arrival and professionalism when they dealt with me. The EMTs in the ambulance were quite cool, as were the staff members at Roosevelt Hospital who stitched me up. I also hope that the guy in the Emergency Room with me is ok-- the man was working himself so hard that after passing out and vomiting at work, he wanted to complete his shift instead of going to the hospital.

So, after a ridiculously short stay in the ER, I go back to my (paternal) uncle's place to pass out on the couch. A couple hours later, I wake up and let him know what happened so he doesn't freak out when he passes me sleeping in the living room with a bloody swollen eye.

He was very upset that my weekend in New York started off this way and asked me "Was he black?"

My uncle was visibly disappointed, but not surprised.


Alex N said...

What a night. At least the assailant wasn't from your old neighborhood.

L said...

OK, that literally cracked me up... but stitches make you look cool right? :)