Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
April 26, 2009
I am not a zombie
Category: Serious … Travels

If you live in or around Laurel -- especially if you spend a lot of time walking around the city -- you've probably noticed this crazy guy wearing a black jacket over a white t-shirt, baggy black jeans over black boots, and an oversized pair of headphones. Sometimes his dress varies slightly -- I think he's worn tan boots on occasion, and sometimes the jeans are navy blue rather than black -- but he's always wearing the headphones. And he's always yelling something that borders on gibberish, which is why I don't think he's entirely sane. He appears in various places in the city, but can most frequently be found on the sidewalk outside of Hooters and Red Sky.

Sometimes he is dancing.

When I first encountered the crazy dude years ago, I assumed that he was shouting along with whatever music was playing in his ears. This may in fact be the case -- provided that he's listening to angry, violent shouting along the lines of Three Six Mafia -- but I've seen him enough times to seriously question that theory. However hateful and violent the lyrics of Three Six Mafia may seem, they do generally retain rhyme and/or a modicum of reason. The crazy dude's shouting lacks both. I've similarly dispensed with the consideration that he's talking to someone via an unseen cell phone -- people do have some nonsensical conversations, but random and frequently hostile shouting to this extent would likely cause the other party to hang up.

Despite all of this this, I've never really been worried about the guy -- though something should probably be done about a guy standing around and shouting about assaulting and murdering people (even if he doesn't appear to be speaking about a particular target) -- and I've passed by him for years without incident. I didn't assume things would be any different when I spotted him at the intersection of Cherry Lane and Route 1, where I typically cross before turning left en route to the Laurel Lakes Shopping Center. He was standing with his legs bent and his knees together, hopping up and down furiously as if riding an invisible pogo stick, and -- per usual -- hollering some unintelligible violent shit. As he was standing closer to the side crossing, whereas I wanted to continue moving forward, I simply walked past him so that I could stand closer to the road I intended to cross.

I'm not sure what he said first, but I'm absolutely certain that he was speaking to me -- so, naturally, I turned and said, "Hm?"

"Don't run," he barked. "DON'T YOU FUCKING RUN."

Running hadn't occurred to me, though I was rather unnerved when he strafed over to me -- placing us shoulder to shoulder, with me in his peripheral vision -- and sneered, "DON'T TOUCH IT. I DARE YOU TO TOUCH IT."

I thought about asking him what the slag he was talking about. I had initially thought he was going to attempt to rob me -- hence the directive not to run -- but he never produced a weapon or asked for money and instead dared me to touch some unspecified thing, with the clear implication that he would respond violently if I did. I now think that he might have been talking about the button to cross the street, since he might have believed that my doing so would impede his efforts to cross in the perpendicular direction. But since I was standing nowhere near the button and he is clearly fucking crazy, I ultimately have no idea what he meant.

Instead of asking him for an explanation, I stood still, said nothing, and avoided making eye contact. In addition to reminding me of the advised method for reacting to hostile drivers (I started a driver's education course last week), I noted similarities to this approach and recommended ways of avoiding conflict with certain wild animals. He stood glowering sidelong at me for a minute, then walked back to his corner.

And then he returned.

"I FUCKING DARE YOU TO TOUCH IT! ZOMBIE! FUCKING ZOMBIE! DARE YOU TO TOUCH THAT SHIT!" Now he was facing me, shrieking threats at full volume two feet from my ear, his arms spread wide in a bring-it-the-fuck-on-you-goddamned-zombie gesture. I kept my eyes on the road and remained still.

Finally -- with an unmistakable attitude of triumph -- he turned, crossed Cherry Lane, and went on his batshit crazy way.

I'm still a bit angry about the situation, just as I'm still sort of angry about the asshats that occasionally yell insults at me when I'm minding my own business and the bastard who threw a Slurpee at me last year. I hate that people can do this kind of crap to me -- to anyone -- and get away with it. I think I hate that they are allowed to live. And while I can't generally do anything about these people -- these acts are usually committed by individuals in their cars, who drive past so quickly that I'm not even entirely sure which vehicle contained the culprits -- I could reasonably have stopped that crazy fucker if I'd responded quickly.

My hand was in my pocket -- he wouldn't have expected me to whip out a pen and stab him repeatedly in the throat. Or kick him hard in the shin and shove him headlong into the busy street. I considered these and other options -- because when nutjobs start threatening you and calling you a freaking zombie out of nowhere, it makes sense to expect that you might have to defend yourself at some point... and with hostile and unpredictable people on the street, you may have to resort to extreme measures -- but ultimately decided to stand there and do my best to avoid escalating the conflict. Of course, this was probably the recommended, smart, even mature thing to do. And yet I still feel a little weak and inadequate for doing it.

Had I responded in kind and ended up injuring the guy, I probably wouldn't have been proud of my actions. It would have been clear that I could have handled the situation better -- namely by doing what I actually did -- and I would have understood that. At the same time, I don't think I would have felt bad about confronting a hostile presence on the streets, and I would have been satisfied with the knowledge that he would hopefully never accost and threaten another pedestrian again.

My path of travel soon became parallel to that of the crazy guy, so I was able to keep him in view as I headed towards Laurel Lakes. At one point, as he approached another individual, he clearly threw open his arms and caused the other guy to jump back a bit. I was out of earshot, but I imagine that threatening words were spoken as well.

Had I been a real zombie and responded by eating that guy's brain, I might have been able to prevent him from harassing anyone else (at least while he lived). But I am not a zombie.

-posted by Wes | 8:55 pm | Comments (8)
  • jenny says:

    and there you have it, wes. one very workable reason to embrace the forthcoming zombie apocalypse.

    (crazy story, dude. and eerily familiar---i find it pretty terrible that interacting with my uncle's wife's family offers me the same cocktail of wrath/frustration that your interacting with a genuinely insane person on the street gives you...)

  • stefmax says:

    I would of Hulk-smashed that cock-fuck into the street. Not making eye contact really helped out the situation. I do it all the time with my brothers dogs so they don't jump up on me and bother me.

  • Albert says:

    what in the world is this guy? you encounter a lot of freaky people...

  • Skeletoncrew says:

    I don't think there is a particularly good solution to that sort of situation. I encountered a homeless man behaving similarly one night while driving home from school. It was at a stoplight so I couldn't just speed past. I just looked straight ahead and fortunately the worst he did was throw some wadded up paper on my car. I was afraid he'd try to smash the window though.

  • mickelodeon says:

    I think you did the right thing, too, especially because his behavior was so effin' effed up (now *that's* a mighty fine description!). It's happened to me more than once, but never to that extent and I have to remember Kirsty MacColl's lyrics from "Walking Down Madison:" "When you get to the corner don't look at those freaks/Keep your head down low and stay quick on your feet, oh yeah." I hope you're feeling better about it now. *big Venuthain hugggth* 🙂

  • Ro says:

    Ugh, I understand how you feel. Once I was coming out of a subway car and the crowd was thick with people. Everyone was moving slowly I was practically being squished well apparently I wasn't moving fast enough for this on particular woman and she pushed me. I was near the yellow line... fortunately I did not lose my balance otherwise I would have been toast (the train was getting ready to go).

    My natural reaction was to swear at her but I would have preferred to stomp on her foot or something.

    You did the right thing by not provoking that guy.

  • Becky says:

    I don't think you're a zombie either, Wes. But, I don't think you should take crazy personally. I got off a bus downtown once and some crazy homeless lady started screaming at me that I'm a bitch, slut and a c-word. And then I've heard from others that they've seen her do it before.

  • DrNightmare says:

    I think it's weird that when you start talking crazy back at them, they get weirded out themselves. I like in Hollywood, crazy capital of the world, and whenever some crazy guy starts talking shit, I throw shit right back at him! If he calls me a fucking zombie, I chase him and try to bite his head and eat his brains.

    Of course, you've got to be ready in case he decides that he isn't going to let you out-crazy him xD

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