We live lives of small unanswered injustices.
You come home from the supermarket and notice that you were overcharged a dollar and a half for the tomatoes. It’s not right, you know, but you also know it’s not worth the trouble of going back to the store to get your money back. So you forget about it.
Or you are looking over the monthly bank statement and see you have been charged an “administrative fee” of ten dollars because your balance dipped below the minimum of $1,500 for one lousy day during the month. “Bastards” you mutter to yourself and consider changing banks. But then you think of the hassle that would be and you forget about it.
Or you are driving down a tight one-way street in your city and you pause to allow a car attempting to pull out from the curb to get in front of you. You didn’t have to stop, but it seemed the neighborly thing to do. Then the car proceeds at a snail’s pace - at half the speed you’d been driving - and he makes the light at the end of the block while you do not. While serving your thirty-second sentence at the red light, you envision the perpetrator’s car engulfed in flames as you pass by on the avenue. But there is no burning car, the fantasy dissolves, and you forget about it.
And so it goes. It gets to the point that we just accept as a fact of life that this is the way it is. “Shit happens” has been adopted unwittingly as our collective philosophy. We wait patiently for the next glob of it to hit us in the nose and barely flinch when it does.
At a little before ten o’clock in the evening of January 12th of this year, a Sunday, I picked up a passenger at the corner of 36th Street and 10th Avenue whose destination was 56th, a straight run up the avenue. My fare was a middle-aged fellow of no special description, and other than the hellos and his telling me where he wanted to go, we didn’t seem to have much to say to each other. So I just drove up 10th Avenue at my normal speed, thirty miles per hour, without much regard to him or to the environment.
But then, as I approached 49th Street, it happened: a sudden outrageous menace appeared from out of nowhere in the middle of the avenue, arms waving, eyes crazed, and marching unevenly toward me. It was a twenty-something guy, maybe six feet tall, 180 pounds, and obviously completely out of his mind.
As a veteran driver, I knew immediately what the situation was here. This guy had been watching football games in a bar the entire day, was utterly intoxicated, and now he wanted to go home, or somewhere, and wasn’t able to get a cab. He couldn’t imagine why cabs weren’t stopping for him - what’s wrong with all these fuckin’ cabs? - so he was taking the offensive. Instead of waving at the yellow metal boxes from the side of the road and hoping one of them would pick him up, he was going right out there onto 10th Avenue to grab one with his bare hands.
Instinctively I hit the brakes and slowed to about ten miles per hour, the idea being to navigate around the guy without running him over. But as I moved gently to the left and approached him, I could see that he had me in his cross-hairs and was zeroing in for an attack. His right arm flew wildly around and came crashing into my side-view mirror, bending it backward.
Startled, I pulled more to the left, passed him, and then paused for a moment in the middle of the road, almost at a standstill.
“Damn!” I screamed out.
“Jesus!” my passenger chimed in, “what an idiot!”
I looked at my mirror. It was bent back on its hinges, not broken, so no real harm had been done. I looked at the jerk who was now just a bit behind me. He was still on his feet, still in marauder mode, and looking for the next cab coming up the avenue.
I decided it was just another incident from the theater of the absurd and was about to step on the pedal and continue on up the avenue when an amazing thing happened. No, not “an amazing thing” - a miracle! Something on the left side, over near the curb, caught my eye.
Yes, a cop was stepping out of his patrol car onto the street, his face contorted with anger. He’d seen what had just happened and was moving out into the avenue toward the guy.
I was ecstatic. “Look at that! A cop is going after the guy! Oh my God, this never happens!" I squealed to my passenger, who turned out to be an out-of-town fellow and perhaps did not fully appreciate the wonderfulness of the moment.
“This never happens!” I squealed again for emphasis, and smiled triumphantly. I began accelerating and looked back again at the arm-waving lunatic, only to see that my dream-come-true had gotten even better: he was trying to run away from the cop! And a second cop, looking as enraged as the first one, had emerged from the cruiser and was joining in the chase.
“Oh my God,” I laughed ecstatically, “do you see this? He’s trying to run away from the cops! Oh, this is fantastic!” I felt no embarrassmet at expressing myself with such delight at the the sight of a human being being pursued by two angry men armed with pistols. It was just too perfect.
My passenger looked at me with an expression on his face that seemed to say, “Oh, so this is the New York City I’ve heard so much about.”
But “Wow!” was all he said, through a smile of his own.
I stepped on the gas. Of course, there was no hope for the guy. He had no chance of outrunning the cops and would very likely be spending the night in jail and eventually doing some community service (hopefully cleaning taxis).
After dropping off my passenger, who by then had seemed almost as elated as I had been at having witnessed such an event, I decided to circle back to 49th Street to see what was now going on. And not to my surprise there were about a half-dozen police cars in the intersection, lights all ablaze.
It was the cherry on the cake I’d been hoping to see. No doubt the Side-View Mirror Marauder was now in the custody of a small regiment of quite unfriendly officers of the law.
I drove on in search of my next passenger, but while doing so I had a few minutes to reflect. Now, I am not particularly a Believer, but I must say the only logical explanation here can be that this was from God. Yes, God, that fellow up in the sky with the sardonic sense of humor who has been ignoring all these minor and sometimes major transgressions against me for all these years without any thought of meting out even a semblance, I mean just a little token would be nice, of a some justice. It was as if Big Guy was throwing me a bone, at last.
Hey, thanks God.
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