Continuation of Clash of Cultures.
I didn’t make any friends among the neighborhood teenage guys. Not that I was actively seeking friends –- I was just working in the neighborhood, almost always inside the small chicken-and-burger joint. Most of them treated me neutral, with no more or less personality than you’d give a self-checkout register nowadays. But a few openly disliked me. And on two occasions, a fight was attempted. (Note: “attempted,” not “started.”)
Now, I was never even in any kind of schoolyard fight, unless you count the bloody rumble on the bus incident. (In my teenage years, I guess I flew under the radar of schoolyard bullies.) So an invitation to fight just wasn’t something I had experience with.
One incident was a straight forward, announced challenge. The challenger’s second approached me at the order window and told me, “There’s a guy out here who wants to fight you.” He pointed to a crowd of maybe a dozen teenagers, boys and girls, who were hanging around in the parking lot.
The Chick-a-burger was a public business with all its seating outside, so a crowd of people was not unusual. There was always a crowd of people around during lunch and dinner time. The crowd with the fight challenger looked no different than any other crowd the restaurant ever had.
“I’m working,” I said. I was dumbfounded that such a challenge would be issued to me, especially when it was obvious that I couldn’t just run outside for anything. I mean, I was working.
The challenger’s second looked at me, “You scared?”
Surprisingly, I really wasn’t scared. “I’m working,” I repeated. I wasn’t scared because there was no chance a fight would actually happen. I mean, I was working.
“Pussy,” the guy called me. Then he left the order window and went back to the crowd of teenagers. What could I do even if I was insane enough to want a fight? I mean, I was working.
I just mentally shrugged my shoulders and took the next person’s order –- you see, I was working. No more happened or was said regarding that incident.
The other incident was less verbal and more mental. I was sweeping the area outside the order and pick-up windows, and a teenage boy came up and stood about six feet away from me. He scowled at me without saying a word. He scowled at me for a full couple of minutes while I continued to sweep and clean up.
His presence and stare unnerved me. It was obviously a challenging glare, intending to get a rise out of me. This time I was scared. There was nothing between me and the challenger, but I continued my work duties. A couple of times I turned my back to him –- tactically dumb, but I was trying to just break the stare.
After a couple more minutes of failing to get a response from me, the challenger left. As he walked away, a crowd of teenagers started laughing. They were laughing as much at him for not getting a response from me, as they were laughing at me for not taking the challenge. I was embarrassed and he looked even more angry.
Having finished my sweeping, I took my broom and went back into the restaurant. No more happened or was said regarding that incident, either.
I should note that in the several months I worked at the Chick-a-burger in the “inner city” of my small town, I never witnessed any violence at all – not even a scuffle like I was challenged with. We once heard some gunshots from somewhere nearby, and those of us working the restaurant on that day noted the sound but didn’t really react –- we were working, you know.
Turned out that a verbal altercation had started in the restaurant parking lot, and ended several minutes later down the street with shots fired. The police questioned us employees, but only one of us even knew there had been an argument outside.
Not exactly the drive-by-shooting-a-day kind of environment that the media and suburban myths portrayed at the time.
Continued: Clash of Cultures – Friending 1