Confessions a 20th century ne'er do well: Drinking, fighting, stealing and other things one generally ought not do

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A close fight call in college, and a tale of stupid people asking questions

My freshman year, I went to Brandeis University. At some point early in the first semester, I hooked up with a nice young lady basically kissing her for a little while. She lived on my floor, and we had met again at some campus event, and returned to the dorm room. Weeks later, I was in a crowded apartment which was part of a party taking place at the on campus apartments across the street from the main campus. Out of nowhere, some large gentleman pushes through the crowd, followed by a smaller guy who was saying, “That’s him.” The big guy grabs me by the neck and pulls me outside while the smaller guy says “You hooked up with so-and-so, and now I’m going to kick your ass.”

There were four of them. They brought me a little away from the party. I remember trying to stand up straight while this guy held me by the neck. I don’t remember the dialog, but when this guy let go of me there was some sort of accusations of ungentlemanly behavior on my part. The shorter guy accused me of forcing myself on her.
“But all we did was kiss,” I protested.
“She says you FORCED her to kiss you,” he insisted.
“She says I forced her…. to kiss me?” I answered, hoping that my implicit accusation of idiocy would be correctly interpreted by his friends as a reason to back off, and not (also correctly) be interpreted as further reason to kick my ass.
For some reason, I don’t like to back down when threatened. It’s always a gut reaction, without reasoning behind it, but if I had to justify it, I’d say that most people don’t want to go to jail or be criminals. And that people who aren’t afraid to cross the line don’t need provocation – in other words, if someone is pathologically violent, they’re liable to be that way no matter what.
A bully gets more mileage out of having someone who is afraid of him than actually fighting. His posturing gives him what he wants without his having to turn criminal. A group of guys like this gets more kicks of watching someone scurry to run than having someone who they’re going to have to deal with every time they cross paths, whether they find it easier to fight or not. And there is the law thing. I don’t know how well this works outside of a school setting where disciplinary action can be taken.
I happen to guess that the back story was that this young lady’s paramour saw her leave the party with me that night and demanded to know what happened. I suspect he had reason to assume that more than kissing went on, based on her own habits (nothing in my habits at the time suggested anything other than kissing ever goes on!). I also remember that after kissing for a while, she asked if my mouth was getting tired, which in retrospect, I think might have been a message that I should have progressed by then. In my innocence, it hadn’t crossed my mind that that option was on the table with this person I barely knew. Seeing his violent and controlling streak, I think her excuse under the gun was to tell him that I forced her. Maybe she wanted him to see us leaving together. Who knows? Women do things.
I also think that upon meeting and interacting with me, the group of fellows he chose to socialize with may have realized the preposterousness of her story. I was trying to stand up for myself, but I certainly never come across as tough and aggressive, especially when I’m shaking in my sneakers. In 1991, I was still thin and noticeably muscular, but I still don’t think I amounted to the kind of person that justified bringing out the possee to deal with – remember in my previous entry, someone managed to break my foot during a routine wrestling drill.
I remember the big guy rolling his eyes and punching his fist into his palm, making some kind of threat to keep away from her. I made some response that they couldn’t tell me who to keep away from, and she lives on my floor. (I had every intention to keep away from her, but not to tell these guys it’s because of them).
Then they let me go with a warning. I think I went back to the party and downed a few – it was early in my drinking career – and that was enough to send me wandering through campus, inserting myself into groups of people and telling them the story. It was still early in the year, so everyone was getting to know each other, and I really didn’t know anyone too well.
My roommate later told me that that guy was from Medford, which he said is a ‘tough neighborhood’. I confronted him in class the next week and in a rather supplicant manner told him I don’t want any more trouble. He kind of dismissed it, but I knew it was over. I’m not sure gathering the gang to attack me made him look in the best light – he may have had some huge stud in his mind based on his jealousy.

A short related story. We used to hang out with this guy brad. I couldn’t stand the guy, but he was in love with one of the other guys we hung out with, and he had a car, so he inserted himself into our activities by making them possible. So we drove over to Tufts (which is in Medford, hence the relatedness of the story) and Brad rolls down the window and asks some guy, “Are the girls here hot?” I always half cringed and half laughed when he did stupid shit like that. Cringed because he had no intention of being funny – he though that was a real question.

Myself, I ask stupid questions of strangers all the time, but mostly for my amusement, kind of a reality show thing without the TV. Like the time after a show when I asked some guy in a pizza place in Hoboken, “Do you ever wake up in the morning and think ‘I don’t wanna go to work!’ [with a whine]?” (after my song of the same name) And he responded calmly. “No. I like my job.” Which made me laugh.

So I half laughed because I find it kind of funny to ask people moronic questions. So this guy answers. “Yeah! And they’re easy as shit!”
We all laughed, but what was really funny was how anxious Brad was to find a party to go to, based on this guy’s answer. I realized the answer was designed to match the question.

Brad had a habit of saying stupid things to people when we went to other colleges. Once, we were on the Harvard campus, he asked a student whether this was a good school. The thing about him is that he had no clue that this could possibly be funny if you’re self effacing – if you’re asking the question is part of the joke. But his intention was to make Harvard students feel insecure. The joke was just dumb. And that is a lot coming from me, because I’m a master of asking dumb questions – but it is an art and must be used sparingly and this guy was an embarrassment. I used to sometimes ask people if they knew how to count to four. But that question throws my motives into question – which is part of the art of asking absurd questions. Brad’s motive was always clear, and embarrassing.
Another funny part of this was another guy who Brad spoke to, implying he was a student at Harvard.
“Oh yeah? Then what did you think of president Rutabeger’s speech?”, challenging his claim. As though the rest of the world actually sees hubris in claiming to go to Harvard when you don’t.
Only at Harvard would someone react with such mocking at someone claiming to be a student there – Brad’s (and I swear, that’s really his name) stupid question somehow got trumped by an even stupider answer!


Blogger T.A.B. said...

Those Brad guys always piss me off too.

1:38 PM, July 11, 2008

Blogger NJWT said...

I like 'em better when they don't tell anyone who they really are.

8:29 PM, July 11, 2008

Blogger Walt said...

You were clearly very advanced for you age, and should have been running with the big dogs. That would have helped you a lot I think. Sometimes I would have mercy on you pups, and teach you guys how to work the gin mills and disco joints. I really was hot chick bate back then. I think having been in the military for three years, had a lot to do with it. We would hit the local bars, most being next to campus, they were all full pretty girls eager to have fun. I would lure them in, with a wink, and a smile. Sometimes, one or two of you young dudes would get lucky, and pick one off.

1:44 PM, July 12, 2008

Blogger AddledWriter said...

I think the pizza guy was probably insulted. He probably thought you were being a smartass and insulting his job. But you probably didn't mean it that way.

As for the, I'm glad they just let the whole thing go in the end. Surprised, too, but glad.

What a rough way to start off college.

7:45 PM, July 13, 2008

Blogger NJWT said...

It was a customer, not a guy who worked there.

6:55 AM, July 14, 2008


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