How I Almost Whacked a Woman with my Laptop

I almost got into a fight.
Not an argument.  A real fight, a fight with physical violence.  
Well, to be fair, perhaps fight isn’t the best word—I cannot be certain whether the woman would have fought back, her belligerent attitude notwithstanding.  Maybe I should say, I almost attacked someone.  

             I am astonished.  I never would have guessed that I had it in me (in ordinary life, I mean).  Oh, sure, the thought of assaulting someone has popped into my head from time to time—when UPS is torturing me over package delivery, perhaps, or the school administration has no record of paperwork I submitted both physically and electronically just the day before—but I have never, ever come close to acting on it.  I am a very restrained individual, I am never impulsive, and I do not display strong emotions in public. 

I was walking down Lexington Avenue around 3 PM.  I’d met with a student at Hunter College, so I was carrying a laptop case in my hand.  The street was only mildly congested—plenty of people on the sidewalk, as is always the case in this city, but there was plenty of room for people to walk around each other.  It was a clear sunny day.
So I’m walking along, not paying attention to anything in particular, and this woman comes out of nowhere and steps immediately in front of me, cutting me off and physically brushing against me in the process.  I had to stop short to avoid running into her.  She was wearing navy blue slacks with fashionable tapered legs and a pristine white blouse and her blonde hair looked blow-dried and very styled, like a lady news anchor.  She had heavy gold jewelry.
She had her cell phone to her ear and she looked over her shoulder at me, tossing her blonde hair back.  She said—sneered, actually—“Don’t you EVER step in front of me like that again!” 
            Then she turned her back to me and continued her telephone conversation. 
            My innocent confusion changed, as if by alchemy, into white-hot rage.  I realized that I was holding my laptop case in my hand, and I decided that I should swing it and bop her a good one right upside the head.  I pictured her cell phone flying out of her manicured hand and breaking on the pavement.  This image filled me with dark glee. 
            Because what set me off wasn’t the fact that she’d picked a fight with me for no reason that I was aware of (judging from her words, perhaps I’d cut in front of her a block or two back, though I had no recollection of doing this and if I did, it was completely accidental).  What infuriated me was that she picked a fight with me and couldn’t be bothered to get off her damn cell phone while she was doing it.  It wasn’t her aggression, or even the fact that she didn’t give me her undivided attention whilst antagonizing me (which is insulting in its own way).  What really got to me was her attitude that she could pick a fight and not worry about any repercussions.  No risk whatever!  
             I thought, as I hefted the laptop case to assess its potential use as a cudgel, that this would actually be for the woman’s own benefit. Therapeutic! A character-building experience.  Perhaps it would even facilitate a character arc, as we used to say in my English Lit seminars.  In the future, she would think twice about being nasty to random people.  Besides the fact that it’s just bad manners to be mean, you can never really know who you’re fucking with.  I, for instance, have a lot of experience with violence (albeit the consensual variety).  I study it and engage in it recreationally and professionally from time to time.  Garden-variety pain does not surprise or intimidate me, but I realize that I am an anomaly in this regard, and that the woman I was about to knock upside the head would likely have a very different perspective.   
            If you do this, you WILL be arrested, I thought.  Booked, bail, etc.  Fine.  Acceptable. Then another thought flashed through my head—her clothes looked expensive and the woman looked rich.  Rich people have lawyers.  What if she sues?  I asked myself. 
            So what if she does?  What does she think she’s going to get from me, a food stamp? 
            (I jest, I jest—I am not on food stamps, but I have no assets worth litigating for.) 
            The woman unwittingly saved herself from attack via laptop when she suddenly turned and entered a restaurant. 
            My rage passed in a flash, like water poured over an ember. Literally that fast.

            Now the only thing I feel when remembering the incident is honest surprise…at myself!  The incident itself was trivial, not even worth recounting.  The quickness and intensity of my anger is what has stayed with me.   
            I have extrapolated a small lesson from my own reaction:  it is naïve to assume that I know what I am capable of.  

          (post script: Honestly–to me, this is a real head-scratcher.  That happy rush towards violence, I mean.  Is that the way men feel, and why they get into fights with each other so much?   Are lots of people in jail who are usually rational and mellow, just like me, and who felt exactly what I felt in that moment and followed through on it?  I am confused.)  


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