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This is a question Desperate Times

Stranded in a hotel in an African war zone with no internet access for two weeks, I was forced to resort to desperate measures. Possessing only my passport and the clothes I stood up in; and the warning "You can catch it shaking hands with a vicar out there" ringing in my ears, I had to draw my own porn in order to preserve my sanity.

Alas, it all came out looking like Coronation Street's Audrey Roberts, but, as they say, any port in a storm.

What have you done in times of great desperation?

(, Thu 15 Nov 2007, 10:10)
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Desperation can make you inhumanly fast, it seems.
After I stopped being a dishwasher I took an even more desperate job- I worked for a seafood wholesaler. This place was a long low brick building where trucks would come filled with fish, and a long line of people (typically illegal immigrants) stood with fillet knives and cleaned fish all day. As the fish are generally not considerate enough to grow to a standard size, there was one guy whose job was to stand there all day weighing fillets and trimming chunks off the end so they could be sold to restaurants. This meant that there were these two to three ounce scraps of fresh fish sitting there- so there was also a fish fry carry-out in the front of the place, which is where I worked.

This was in a particularly nasty part of Rochester in the 1980s- in fact, I found out years later that while I was there a man named Arthur Shawcross was patrolling my neighborhood, picking up whores and killing them, then doing things to the corpses. (Google for him if you feel that you simply have to know.) But as I was a pleasant enough guy working in one of the very few places where people could easily get food of fairly decent quality at a very low price, I quickly made friends with the local characters. (Hell, I probably served Shawcross more than once.) One of these locals was a very muscular black guy about my own age named Jason who also happened to be the leader of the local gang. I didn’t know that at first- to me he was just another hungry person to be fed- and he took a liking to me for some reason. We got along very well indeed, and I would often stop to talk to him if I saw him on the street.

As I didn’t have a bank account- my income and my expenses were pretty well balanced- I used to walk to the nearest bank every Friday and cash my check. (I suspect that the tellers shuddered whenever I walked in, as I’m sure that my paycheck smelled of my workplace- god knows I certainly retained the smell myself.) I would then walk home with my pay in the left front pocket of my jeans.

One Friday as I was walking home a couple of kids, probably 13 or 14 years old, stepped out in front of me. The one on the left had a hunting knife and demanded my money.

Bear in mind that at this point I was living paycheck to paycheck and living in a really horrid little hole of an apartment with a roommate. To lose my week’s pay would have been disastrous, and it would be especially galling to lose it to two little punks.

My left arm whipped up and caught the kid’s forearm and the knife went flying, and I folded over my fingers on my right hand and did a Bruce Lee style jab as hard as I could in his throat. I jumped to my right as the other kid started to react and slammed the edge of my hand across his larynx as well, then jumped over them as they lay gagging and legged it home.

Late the following day Jason stopped by to get some fish, and he had an odd expression on his face. “Yo, ya hear the news?”

“No, what’s up?”

“Coupla kids got the shit knocked out of ‘em yesterday. They’re in the hospital with broken windpipes.” He was watching me closely as he said this.

“Huh. Sounds like maybe they messed with someone they shouldn’t have.” I said it casually, but with full eye contact.

Jason was a very smart and shrewd guy. He knew what I wasn’t saying, and nodded. “They’re part of my gang.”

“Guess you’d better make sure they know who’s who around here. Next time they might not be that lucky.”

He nodded again and smiled slightly. “Yeah… see ya around.”

I never had any troubles with anyone in that neighborhood again. Not so much because I was so feckin’ hard, mind you, but because Jason didn’t want me to be bothered.

Sometimes it’s good to be nice to random people on the street.

EDIT: I should add here that while facing a pair of young wannabe thugs with a hunting knife, I wasn't feeling like Bruce Lee- I was pretty fucking scared. Had it not been for the fact that all the money I had in the world was in the pocket of my jeans I probably wouldn't have even tried it. But panic and adrenaline can make even a slow clumsy oaf like myself move like lightning...
(, Fri 16 Nov 2007, 21:54, 4 replies)
This story
Makes me feel warm and happy inside. Three cheers for the Resident Vigilante Loon!

Have a click.
(, Sat 17 Nov 2007, 14:17, closed)
^- That.
Have another click.
(, Sat 17 Nov 2007, 18:10, closed)
Arthur shawcross
jesus i read about him a few years ago.....scary
(, Tue 20 Nov 2007, 14:15, closed)
Yeah. Scary fucker.
As I say, looking at his picture I'm pretty sure he was one of my regulars at that shop.

Thinking back on it now, I must have really been insane to live there. I was there for about a year, and during that time I heard about a half dozen shootings and stabbings within a two block radius of my apartment. It was a very poor area, with a wide mix of ethnicities- there were Irish/Italian Catholic families, a lot of Latinos, some blacks, and a fair percentage of Koreans and Vietnamese. All of us were poor, and there were some characters in the area that we all knew to give a wide berth.

We were so fucking poor that even in the depths of winter we never turned the thermostat above its minimum- 50F, as I recall- because we couldn't afford the heating oil. I lived on fried fish, Stouffer's french bread pizzas, Genesee Cream Ale and an odd assortment of things that I could sometimes afford.

I haven't been back to that neighborhood in about 20 years.
(, Tue 20 Nov 2007, 17:35, closed)

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