On the Occasion of Being Threatened by a Stranger in the Parking Garage at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas

Rainy days in Los Angeles tend to make people drive with a collective fear of 2,000 RPMs, and if my recent experience in the parking garage at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas is any indicator, it also tends to make people more than a little irritable and borderline batshit crazy.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that in this exchange that resulted in a total stranger’s subtle threats and not-so-subtle attacks upon my manhood, I was not totally without fault. On this particular Saturday afternoon, I did have the temerity to sit on a bench in the parking garage of the Arclight Cinemas in order to make several phone calls in search of an aluminum welder who could attend to the broken luggage rack on my scooter following last week’s accident.

And I say “temerity” because my actions were apparently taken as some sort of affront to a gentleman who pulled up on an unnecessarily loud Harley Davidson, and after parking, proceeded to stand next to his bike and stare blankly at me for somewhere between seven and ten minutes.

In the midst of my phone calls, I happened to notice this man who stood motionless and staring at me, and after the third time glancing in his direction and noticing his unbroken stare, I smiled and shook my head, unclear if I was even assessing the situation correctly or whether he just appeared to be staring in my direction. These doubts were soon dispelled, however, when as I looked his way for either a fourth or fifth time, he proceeded to walk toward me and, standing directly in front of and bending over so that we were eye-level as I sat on the bench, he asked, “Do you find anything particularly funny about me?”

80s bullyI cocked my eyebrow in mild disbelief, having only seen this sort of poorly written performance played out in bad 80s movies in which the inquisitor typically wore a letterman jacket and the target of the inquiry wore horn-rimmed glasses and excessive amounts of Kreml Hair Tonic, and I did wonder whether this was some sort of guerilla film stunt. But there was a menacing look in this man’s eyes and an off-putting stench emanating from him that told me that this was no stunt but an unfortunate reality.

I at least was wearing glasses—a pair of black Hugo Boss frames reminiscent of that renewed interest in 60s-style glasses that are probably already out of fashion again—and this particular snaggle-toothed hick who had somehow managed to crawl his way out of whatever fetid backwater is home to his trailer wore a black hoodie and a graying beard instead of a letterman jacket.

Because oh yes, if I neglected to mention earlier, this 80s high school scene was being played out by two men in their mid- to late-thirties.

“No,” I said.

“Are you sure?” he asked, still looking me in the eyes as he bent over.

Baffled and totally perplexed, I responded again, with perhaps an air of indignant sarcasm, “Yeah. I’m actually just sitting here trying to find a welder.”

“You’re sure there’s nothing funny you saw over by me, no reason you keep staring at me and laughing?”

“Yep. And from what I could tell, you’re staring at me. I have no idea what you’re doing, but I’m just sitting here on my phone trying to find an aluminum welder.”

“So long as you’re sure. Because you strike me as a very fragile man.”

It was at this point that I wanted to ask, “Do you mean emotionally or physically?” But my better angels prevailed and perhaps saved me from a black eye that would have been difficult to explain to my new employer, even if it may have earned me the immediate fear and respect of my colleagues.

Following this exchange, the man simply walked back to his Harley and I continued to make my phone calls for another several minutes, the both of us conducting our respective businesses as though nothing had happened.

Because in truth, nothing had happened, except that he was right: I totally had laughed at him, and I’m still laughing at him now. How else to respond to someone who clearly wasn’t loved enough as a child and now spends their Saturdays looking to intimidate middle-aged men in glasses sitting on their phone in Hollywood parking garages?

With respect to my fragility: he possibly put that together by the fact that I rode up on a not-so-intimidating 150 CC scooter that looks like a Vespa. However, I maintain that I’m emotionally less fragile than he may otherwise believe. Something about my four years married to an ex-wife with a clear borderline personality disorder and my penchant for open-mic comedy where punchlines are met with silent indifference must at least be the mark of someone is emotionally steeled against certain kinds of brutality, even if it is also a mark of a certain delusional futility.

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