Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Encroaching Man

My fake internet friend David Parr just related an encounter with a random street crazy and it got me to thinking about similar interactions in my own life.

I was waiting for a bus, some years ago, in the dead of winter. It was bitter cold and the ice on the sidewalk had crystallized several times over into Mother Nature's Twister game of death. I sat on the cold steel bench, my butt cheeks frozen into twin, rounded sno-cones. I sat alone, smoking, waiting for the bus.

Another man showed up. He was fairly well-dressed, not like a street bum, but had pop bottle eyeglasses ensconsed in thick, black plastic frames that gave off the aura of well-educated geek. But he started muttering to himself and that changed everything.

Understand I mutter to myself as a matter of routine. But when I do it I am usually singing songs from 70's TV children's programming, talking in funny voices to amuse myself or pretending I'm a ventriloquist. This guy was having a cut and clear argument with at least three other people, all of whom piped up to make their voices known.

He didn't take a seat on the bench, but rather paced back and forth on the icy sidewalk, resulting in several amusing near-pratfalls. He kept up the self-chatter and I kept watching him.

"Oh really?" he would shout.
"Yes, really!" he would shout in another voice.
"You're both crazy if you ask me!" a third voice would proclaim.

I was fricking fascinated. I kept wondering which one it was who would eventually slip and bust their nose. Somehow he kept upright and continued his ranting.

A third (or fifth, depending) person joined us at the bus stop. He too, did not sit in the enclosure but stood outside, watching. This was just an average, beefy Joe Normal who stood there and watched the show for a minute.

I was treated to this wonderful exchange:

Muttering man suddenly whirled about, screaming, and hurled his fury upon the interloper.


Joe Normal, looking confused but wanting to stand his ground, said "I'm not encroaching upon you; I'm just standing here!"

The bus came and the two gave each other very nervous looks until one of them got off first.

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