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Sloth in the City
Why Vice is Good for Self-defense
© 2012 James LaFond
Last night, 10/24/12, between 10:29 and 10:48 PM, I shared a city bus stop with two incompetent breeders. The female was the dominant partner. She was about 5’6” and 270 pounds, dressed to dance, and dance she did—in the gutter. Her consort was a dumpy, less plump version of herself, minus the huge breasts and mass of artificial hair. He attended her heap of luggage and pined for her attention with pine needles plucked from the overhanging tree behind them, brushing her twenty inch arms like a twelve-year-old with a crush on his best friend’s older sister.
This unfortunately mated pair had, by the hopeful looks they cast my way, been at the stop for some time. She asked me if I came for the bus. I nodded, "yes." If they had been behaving decently I might have informed them that they would never be picked up. There were three reasons for this: they were at the head of the stop, just where the bus begins to bank, 20 yards from the boarding area, they were behind a big white working van and hence all but invisible, and, in case they were hoping to be rescued by a kindly bus operator, the bus driver that handles this route at this time likes his chocolate short and petite, not overstuffed.
The bus I did not want rumbled by, and did not stop for them due to the aforementioned reasons. They were upset, in a nice ignorant way, and acted in a bemused fashion. The female said to me, “Were you waiting for that bus?”
I nodded, "No."
I then began considering whether I should educate these apparent mass transit novices in the ways of the road. I wrestled with my conscience as the girl smiled plaintively at me. Then she began to dance again, and her consort threw their empty Mountain Dew bottle in the gutter beneath her prancing—booted—feet like she was some gypsy queen smashing liquor bottles under her heels. Thanks to their sloth, I felt better about not helping them out.
Moments later, we saw the next bus coming our way and they cheered. She even stepped out from behind the van and flagged down the bus. The bus grew nearer and then banked into the loading zone [indicated by a 20 yard concrete slab] to pick me up. Behind the bus on the sidewalk they struggled with their luggage and screamed about suing the MTA as he pulled off. I sat down to read the Koran next to this evangelical African Christian chick who is forever reading her Bible while everyone else listened to their earphone devices.
I have pointed the folks above out to you, not because I disliked them. They were likable in their own empty way, and meant me no ill will, indeed tried to befriend me. I pointed them out to you because they, in their sloth, are harmless to me, and, at the same time, easy pickings for whichever type of predator might have been out looking for someone to victimize. When you are on the menu it is nice to be placed next to something softer, tastier, with a higher caloric content, that is so much easier to chew…
An Insult to Animals
This morning I bypassed my first stop, even though I was tired, because I did not want to share any part of my early morning hours with ‘Mister Suave’, the name I have given to the young Latino man who I share the bus stop with in front of the Chinese eatery. Mister Suave dresses like a dandy, chain smokes, and spits constantly. He also insists on boarding first and inevitably causes the rest of us to wait as he extracts his bunched up cologne-soaked bills from beneath the band of his silk underwear. This morning I eschewed the suave life. After all, the air is cleaner on the way to the next stop.
Upon arrival at the first stop on the next line, a mile down the road, I was confronted by a huddled mass of humanity at the stop. This stop is a major transfer point and is therefore awash in litter. The landscape is literally a moonscape of soda bottles, cigarette wrappers and candy bar wrappers. I normally—and I’m not the only one—stand across the lot or even across the street until the bus comes to avoid the noxious ever-billowing cloud of mentholated cigarette smoke that engulfs this tiny, ruined corner of the world.
This morning, I stood particularly far away, as a 60-year-old white man, who I know to be a fast-food worker, managed to smoke his death-stick, pick his nose, spit, and blow his nose freeform into the air, all in perfect syncopation. This man is the B. B. King of bodily effusion. This is such a normal bus stop occupation, that even the pretty ladies in their suits and dresses, headed to work at hospitals and universities, did not even step aside as he flung his nasal excrement to and fro. In fact, three other patrons were spitting. Mind you, none of these folks were eating sunflower seeds major-league-baseball style or chewing tobacco. People in Baltimore just spit a lot because…they spit a lot. Standing in the gutter mere feet away a young man wolfed down a candy bar, sucking the chocolate from his fingers. Behind the ladies more men smoked and spit…
Why do I mention these slothful creatures in a column dedicated to urban survival and self-defense?
The reason is, I have found, through decades of experience, that practitioners of sloth are easily discouraged and defeated. The dedicated survivalist or self-defense practitioner looks at every gathering of humans as a lineup of potential adversaries, just as the predator views those same vapid souls as a menu of available prey. It seems antisocial—and I suppose is. However, the mental discipline it takes to look briefly at every person you encounter and size them up like a corner-man sizing up his fighter’s opponents, imparts the ability to assess your options on the cuff on those rare occasions when those who share your habitat decide to threaten or attack you. It also takes you off the menu.
That last point is clutch. There were 15 people at this stop. Three of us stood off. There was me. There was also a really big man who did not want to blow his smoke in other people’s faces—even though they were already being engulfed—and came to sit downwind from me. That man is someone who demonstrates courtesy at every level of his decision making, and a person I would aid. He is also not going to beg money from me or mug me.
Then there was the other guy, the short muscular guy who paced a lot, stayed behind the stop, and sized everyone up. He is dangerous. He might just be an antisocial survivor like me. Or he might be deciding who he is going to ‘bank’ when they cut through the parking garage on the other side of town where this bus is headed. He spared me a few glances, perhaps making the same assessment of me as I had of him. The point is, when you size-up those around you habitually it makes you aware, and, to those who size-up others for good or ill, it broadcasts your awareness, taking you off the prey menu. And that is just the ancillary affect of your awareness.
Oral Sloth
What about the slothful?
Certainly there will arise from among their degenerate ranks, a violent person, a criminal. Perhaps he is just a panhandler that gets out of hand. Perhaps Mister Noxious Nose Nugget, having spewed all of his 60-year-old mucus at your lunch-spot kitchen, finally gets fired, gets drunk, and heads back this way, on your bus—next to you. Perhaps he breaks nasal on you?
Perhaps Mister Suave, on one fine morning, misjudges the wind, and spits on you. Perhaps you decide to let the pregnant woman board the bus ahead of Mister Suave, and he has a problem with that, and directs his Suavity at you?
This brings us back to the practical nature of sizing up every man and youth as a potential adversary. This is not limited to imagining a physical kinetic ending to your adversarial relationship. All such encounters are best kept sub-physical. Mister Noxious Nose Nugget could have a heart attack brought on simply by the strain of punching you. Mister Suave wears five hundred dollars worth of clothes. You do not want, after pleading mutual combat before the judge, to be called upon to pay for his scuffed Rockport loafers.
Whether it be a physical combat, an adversarial conversation, a rational negotiation, or an exchange of visual cues and body language, you have appraised your adversary for what he is, a creature of sloth. As such his lack of discipline defines him.
He spits because he has no patience, no discipline, no self control. He is therefore easily influenced.
He smokes because he cannot handle stress, even the slightest stress. Furthermore, smoking has compromised his ability to handle stress once agitated, as his cardiovascular system is degraded. I have worked most of my life side-by-side with smokers, and have dated women who smoke. I have never met a smoker who can handle what I would consider moderate stress without ‘cracking up’. Forget high stress. Just getting into an argument will push most of these people to the brink of aerobic and anaerobic failure.
I once survived a boxing session at the hands of a hyper-aggressive sparring partner, who was a smoker—not even a heavy smoker—without landing a punch. I threw plenty but he was a lot better than I. After a hundred or so unanswered punches, before I had even begun to bleed, he was coughing up brown goo on my shoes. Before taking up smoking this man had been a champion athlete. If you are a tough man, no cigarette smoker can put you away with his empty hands.
Whether your encounter with a slothful denizen of our social underbelly stays verbal or goes physical, his sloth holds the key to your survival. Don’t persecute the smokers. Let them proliferate. And then, when the Zombie Apocalypse comes, they will straggle and fall behind to be eaten alive, while you flee into the sunset on your healthy hindquarters, you disciplined little ape.
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