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"Don't Mess With The Best"
For Jason, because he always thought this story was funny.
The city is a strange place at four in the morning. Once bustling streets are completely clear and even the bums have gone off somewhere to sleep. It’s even worse on a weekday night. Once in a while, on a Saturday, you’ll hear a couple of wild women whooping it up down the street. But on a Monday, the city seems completely still. No traffic, no pedestrians. It’s kind of nice to have the city to yourself like that. Even if it’s only for a few minutes.
I had just left an after hours bar in Old City, after a night of furious drinking and a show. The show had been in one of the city’s larger venues, a place where the sound was loud but not terribly clear. The drink prices were terrible and even though I knew a couple of the people working that night, I’d still had to pay to get into the show and for the booze. I chased a few dodgy shots with warm beer out of a plastic cup for a bit, waiting for the band to start. I’d run into several people I knew, but no one I was really willing to hang around all night with. Sometimes that just how it was at a show. Sometimes, you just wanted it to be you and the music.
Which, I could tell, was going to be difficult tonight. People were really streaming in and the place was filling up quick. The air started to get humid and swampy, in spite of the chilly temperatures outside. Smoke and voices started to fill the room. And that’s when the music started…. Aw ye… Wait. Good god. They sound like shit.
I tried moving around the venue, but there were too many people packed in too tight. It didn’t matter where I ended up, the sound was trash. Once again, someone’s road techs hadn’t taken the advice of the in house sound guys and we had another “Show That Could Have Been Great”. I finally wandered upstairs, hoping that the sound might be better, but knowing that it wouldn’t be.
The sound upstairs was actually worse. There was a back bar that wasn’t too crowded though, so I sat and had a couple of more drinks while I waited on the sound guy to get his shit together. Besides, the rhythm section was fantastic tonight. Too bad that’s all I could hear. Three songs later, I finally decided I’d had enough and bid the bartenders a fond farewell and left by the back staircase. I popped out the back door and into the alleyway.
I decided that beating someone at pool would cheer me up, but since I’m a crap pool player, I figured my chances weren’t good. I ended up in a little place not far from the venue and ran into some people I hadn’t seen in a few years. We drank and talked and smoked cigarettes until the place closed up. Then we went to an after hours and did it all over again.
And now I was headed for a nearby hotel with a well populated cabstand. It’s nearly impossible to catch a cab in Old City on a Friday night. It’s completely impossible at four a.m. on a Monday. So I was headed for the stand, hoping to find a couple to shuffle my happy ass home. And, as I was crossing over Market, it hit me. No, not a taxi. My full bladder.
It suddenly occurred to me that I’d been drinking shots almost all night and only a handful of beers to chase them with. And I need to pee. Now. But Old City isn’t exactly forthcoming with the public restrooms and I dreaded the thought that I have to urinate in public. It’s not like I hadn’t done it before. But every single time I did, I hated myself for being that guy. The one who pisses all over the sidewalk for someone else to tromp through. The drunk guy, who at four in the morning is faced with the possibility of wetting himself because he was too stupid to go before he left the bar. You know, that guy. So, even though I dreaded it, I bellied up to the nearest wall, unzipped and let fly. Almost immediately after I heard the first splash, I felt two hard pieces of metal pressed against the back of my neck. “Boy,” drawled the voice behind me, “You just got busted.”
The first thoughts that went through my mind were not very clear. I couldn’t tell if I was being mugged by Roscoe P. Coltrane or if I had somehow incurred the wrath of another southern sheriff. I knew there was a taser in the back of my neck, because after a while, you just get used to these things. What I didn’t know was who was on the other end of it. “You gonna turn around real slow now,” he continued. “And you’re gonna put that thing back in your pants and hand me your identification.” It seemed to be an odd thing for a mugger to say, so I replied with the first though that came into my head. “Can I… um, finish first ?”
“Might as well,” he said. So I finished, zipped myself up and told him I was turning around. “Don’t try anything funny,” he said, “or I’ll have to go for my primary weapon.” I turned around slowly to discover a paunchy Park Ranger, one hand holding his taser an inch from my face and the other on the flap of his holster. “I honestly can’t think of anything funny right now,” I told him. I told him I was just going for my wallet in my back pocket and asked to take that damn thing away from my face. He didn’t seem terribly amused, but moved the taser down to about chest level.
I pulled out my wallet and handed him my driver’s license. He took a step or two to the right and once he was under a streetlight, he started to examine it closely. I assured him it was the real deal but he gave me a look for being snarky and gestured with the taser in my general direction. After checking it for a few minutes and asking me where I lived, he pulled his walkie talkie from his belt and radioed for back up. “Is that really necessary ?” I asked. “Who knows ?” he said. “You look like a runner to me. And I just busted you pissing all over Independence Hall. Do you know what that means to a veteran like me ?” “You were in the Civil War ?” I asked. “Don't mess with the best, boy. Maybe I just want him to hold you down while I kick your ass,” he said and he fixed me with a look.
I tried to assure him that it wasn’t my intent to piss on a piece of history. The only thing that had been going thought my mind was that I had had an overwhelming urge to pee and that Independence Hall was right there. I tried to make him laugh a bit and figured maybe I could talk my way out of the ticket. I figured that if he was going to take me in, he would have slapped the cuffs on me already, so a ticket was more than likely. The other Ranger appeared almost immediately and held his taser on me while Southern Sheriff wrote me up. His sense of humor was even worse, so I just gave up on trying to talk my way out of the ticket and lit a cigarette. Twenty minutes later and it was all over. My bladder was empty, I owed the city $160 and I was free to go. I shoved the ticket into my back pocket and headed towards the hotel.
thefinn dwells in his subterranean lair hidden deep in South Philadelphia. He and his wife are raising the worlds first Uber Baby and have three cats.