Skip to main content

sophmore_kev_smallWhen I was a sophomore in high school I lifted a 6-pack of beer from my father’s grocery store and went to a party. Yes, I stole from my own father, but having inherited a gene for guilt, I punished myself by choosing Old Style, which, in my circle of friends, was referred to as “dog pile.” In any case (no pun intended) the party was at a friend’s house and, of course, his parents were away. We’ll never know if it was the presence of too many cars in the driveway, or the volume of “Frampton Comes Alive” that prompted a neighbor to call the police. The knock on the front door sent most of us flying out the sliding glass doors before one of the responding officers made it around back. I ran a few houses down, stopped between a house and garage, and hid behind a propped-up wheelbarrow.  It was warm and windows were open. Perhaps he heard my panting - the man who came to the side door, walked out and called, “Who’s there?” My fore mentioned Irish-Catholic, guilt-prone heritage, caused me to stand up and reveal myself in the semi-darkness.  Very long seconds passed as we squinted at one another not saying a word. Then I turned and ran like hell.  At fifteen I felt lucky to be alive - at fifty I am realizing that isn’t an exaggeration.

For part of my 30’s I rented an upper flat, across from a public school. It was a rainy evening and I was stepping out to let our terrier do his business when I was almost run over by an African-American man running down the sidewalk. It would have been somewhat unusual to see a black man in the neighborhood at any time, but running in the dark and rain? I admit I was afraid on several different levels as he quickly sidestepped me to avoid our colliding. In that split second I blurted out, “Are you O.K.?” Perhaps sensing he should explain, he slowed to a backwards jog and said he’d been cleaning at the school late and was afraid he’d miss the last bus at the stop three blocks away.  I said, “Get in,” motioning to the baby blue Dodge Omni sitting in the driveway. My dog rode on his lap as we made small talk. He’d been working at the school for 6 months, had two little girls, and a wife in nursing school where I taught. He waited in the shelter only moments before I saw his bus arrive in my rear view mirror.

No one was hurt in either instance. Just people’s worlds crashing together in unexpected ways. No one meant to do harm, and no harm was done. But what if the older gentlemen had decided to bring a gun into his gangway and misread who I was, or what I was up to - at age 15 all red-faced from embarrassment, pimples and a can of bad beer in my belly? What if I carried a gun when walking my dog? Would I have chosen something other than “Are you OK,” to look tougher, to be tougher? Nobody knows. Sometimes there isn’t time to decide, and then again, maybe some people make up their minds long before about what they would do, or what they are going to do? Maybe they almost hope for, even pursue, the opportunity to inflict harm, and make themselves feel tougher, or more important while teaching others lessons?

Shouldn’t the law guard against our worst instincts, and not promote them, or plant ideas about vigilante bravado that might be tragically acted upon during flashing seconds of confusion and chaos?

I know, I know. Old Style and a baby-blue Dodge Omni? At least I’m alive and I haven’t killed anybody.

Originally posted to mulvennk on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 05:06 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive and Community Spotlight.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Click here for the mobile view of the site