John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Tough Guys

“Wassup esse, Juan Brown?”
I’ve wondered what it would feel like to hear that sentence said to me by one of my friends, assuming he was a Hispanic tough guy who was from the streets of East LA.
And I admit, there’s a good chance I’ll never hear it since I don’t live in East LA.
But I can be dangerous. I really can be.
Not like Ving Rhames “going medieval” dangerous….but dangerous in my own way…. I don’t carry a gun or anything like that, for example. But I do keep pepper spray in my glove compartment that my mother bought me years ago. And I still have it. And could conceivably use it under the right circumstances.
We all have a dark side–and a breaking point— that could cause us to break the law to make a point because it was the right thing to do and it was up to us to do it.
That’s right, Friendo.
A personal example came up today when I was pushed to the limits of exasperation and decided to take the law into my own hands. I was at a convenience station filing up my car with unleaded and went inside to get my usual, a small coffee with lots of cream and sugar and a cinnamon roll.  I took my place in line behind a large and tough looking man who seemed a lot hungrier and frankly more dangerous than me. So there were two of us. Together. The woman with the cashier was asking for directions and buying lottery tickets. And was taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r (a really, really long time) to complete her purchase.
My friend in front of me looked at me twice and rolled his eyes in frustration. He was confused and frustrated. But I wasn’t. I knew what to do. I waited until the lady at the cash register caught my eye and I slowly raised the cinnamon roll to my mouth and took a small bite of it. Before I had paid for it! Sending the message, “We’re in a hurry back here and we’re not fooling around.”
And then I took a second bite. She wasn’t looking the second time. I just had been surprised at how fresh and delicious the cinnamon roll was the first bite. But I wasn’t finished toying with her yet. We continued to wait and this time I lifted my cup and took a slow pull off my small coffee as if to say, “I have about ….umm….I’m…please hurry. Please. I’m…I really hate lines.”
Another minute past and the sales lady looked at me once more, and I went a place I didn’t think I was capable. I took a large symbolic bite that left less than half the cinnamon roll.
And I didn’t flinch.
I was feeling that any second I might hear the words, “Wassup esse, Juan Brown.”
But instead the sales clerk smiled at someone behind me and I turned to see who. It was two police officers sitting at a table drinking coffee. I swallowed hard. I had really gone too far this time and was going to have to apologize once it was my turn to pay. “One small coffee and a cinnamon roll” I cheerfully chirped. “Haha….the cinnamon roll started off a lot bigger. I’m sorry. I was so hungry”
She never even looked me in the eye. I nodded as I walked by the police officers and breathed a sigh of relief nothing more happened. And I even threw away my pepper spray once I got to my car.


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