Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Week in Skirmishes..

Monday, 9:45 a.m. A random bumper lies forlorn on 16th St. near the Methodist Church and P. It looks like it's waiting to be picked up. By Wednesday evening, it will be stripped of its license plate, but still sit on the sidewalk as if it means to stay.

Tuesday, 9:30 a.m. A cop is directing traffic at 18th and Connecticut Sts. The World Bank and the IMF are meeting, so there are a lot of police blockades in place. People in D.C. are used to being interrupted by blockades and motorcades the way people in N.Y. are used to being interrupted by production assistants on film productions.

All the pedestrians on the corner are waiting through the "walk" sign for the cop to give us the go-ahead when a lone bicyclist emerges and crosses Connecticut, ignoring the cop, who yells at him to stop. Whether out of cluelessness or hubris, the man on the bicycle has made a grave error in judgment, but he does not know it yet. He vaguely smiles as he passes the cop, which could indicate anything from "Fuck you, cop" to "Whoops, sorry, it's too late for me to turn around" to "I am autistic and do not react appropriately in certain situations." He is a vision of pale: pale skin, white shirt, khakis. Helmet and glasses. Extra weight around the middle. Not threatening.

The cop, who is also pudgy, breaks into a sprint after the cyclist passes him. The cyclist has no idea what's about to hit him. As the cop catches up, he brings the full force of his weight, via his front forearm, into the cyclist and knocks him off the bike and onto the cement just as he's nearing the other side of the street. The cop immediately cuffs him behind his back and makes him kneel on the sidewalk. The guy obeys, looking both sheepish and shaken. All of us on the sidewalk are appalled.

I'd expected the cop to yell at the guy, or maybe pull him over by the wrist and give him a ticket -- not slam him to the pavement, cuff him and call the wagon. "I have one in custody," the cop radios his cohorts, as an older lady asks the cyclist if he is OK. He nods, but he's not OK. He kneels in shame. It's clear from all of the bystanders' expressions that we're in disbelief at what just happened, but no one knows what to make of it. As I walk away, two cop cars are roaring up to the corner, and the poor nerdy cyclist looks as if he might cry. Meanwhile, traffic has backed up without anyone to direct it. The traffic cop has become distracted by his big arrest.

Wednesday, 3:00 p.m. The CVS on Connecticut and L Sts. does not yet have self-service checkout, and it's hard to revisit this period in our history once you have experienced the self-service. A sizable line is forming at the cash register, but one woman has decided that she is going to jump the line by decreeing that there is a second line. The cashier does not accept the rogue customer's decision, and a battle ensues.

"There's no sign or anything saying 'form one line' or anything like that," the customer argues. "If they want to stand over there, they can," she says, referring to the silent majority of customers who have agreed that one line for all registers makes the most sense. "I'm getting behind this woman right here. I'm starting this line right here."

The cashier is inaudible from where I stand, but apparently is unmoved. The queue-breaker gets more agitated. "I am a paralegal. I know my rights," she declares. "I want to see the manager." Apparently she is talking to the manager, or the manager is unavailable. "Well is there a complaint form I can fill out? I want to file a complaint."

At this point, the rest of us in the consensus line start laughing. The cashier keeps calling people up, ignoring the line interloper while she talks about filing a complaint and leaving money for her candy without it being scanned, a proposal that the cashier refuses.

The paralegal is STILL arguing when I leave the store. In other words, she could have been through the line in the time she took to argue about it. And remarkably, no one on the CVS side decided this bird was not worth the trouble and let her pay out of turn just to get rid of her.

These aspects of human nature are why today we still have problems in the Middle East.

1 comment :

Marcel said...

I noticed that bumper has Virginia tags. Do they think their bad driving will go unchallenged after they cross the bridge?