Saturday, June 11, 2011

I See Dead People (maybe)

It's raining which was supposed to be my motivation to go downstairs and do laundry but I decided this morning to lay in bed and watch movies because, well, I CAN.  So I took the list of Netflix instant play recommendations from my friend Chris and started with Mary & Max (which I give two thumbs up).  Mary is a quirkly, lonely little girl living in Australia who becomes pen pals with Max, a lonely older man with Asperger's Syndrome living in New York City.  In one of his letters to Mary, Max writes "People often confuse me but I try not to let them worry me." I thought that was a very fitting description of how most people react to the crazies they run into on a daily basis here which leads me to the story that happened to me yesterday morning which was definitely bloggin' material.

This would never happen.  I would have broken rank, taken a picture with my
camera phone, and sold the rights to Doc Oc for $10 million. 
I was walking to the subway on my way to work when I stopped at the corner of St. Mark's Place and 2nd Ave. waiting for the light to change.  I was listening to a voicemail when all of a sudden this guy was standing in front of my face staring at me.  Honestly, I usually take a page out of Max's book and let the crazies confuse me but not worry me.  You have to laugh them off.  Once when I was interning in New York a couple of years ago, I was passing this homeless man who I would always see in the same spot around 23rd St. and Sixth Ave.  He had a sign asking for money or food, and I decided to give him the peanut butter sandwich I had packed with me for lunch that day.  When I set my little brown paper lunch bag down next to him, he asked, "What is that?"  I told him it was a sandwich, at which point he started yelling at me to take it back.  Completely confuzzled, I didn't know what to do.. I couldn't take the sandwich back because anyone passing by was going to think I was taking food from a homeless person and if New Yorkers are as morally upright as they appear in that scene in Spiderman 2 ("We won't tell nobody, Spidey."  Barf), I would have been tarred and feathered like a post-Revolution Tory on the spot.  So instead I just ran away while the homeless guy yelled "YOU'RE GETTING ANTS ON MY BLANKET! YOU'RE GETTING ANTS ON MY BLANKET!"

Anyway, back to the corner of St. Mark's and 2nd.  So as I said, I normally ignore the crazies but this one was by far the most disturbing encounter I've had (and bear in mind this is at 8:30 on a Friday morning).  This guy was probably in his 40s and kind of reminded me of a skinnier version of the guy in Elf who works in the mailroom and gives Buddy the "syrup" for his coffee.  Now, I'm not trying to be dramatic but I have reason to believe he had escaped from a mental hospital and my reasons are threefold:
1)  He was wearing an all-white get-up
2)  He was wearing a hospital wristband
and.. wait for it...
3) His head was covered in blood.  Yes... blood.  And there was dried blood down his arm as well. Bet you didn't see that one coming.

What? Is there something on my face?
I stood there completely still and avoided eye contact until he threw his hands up in the air and walked away.  He then stood in front of me, also waiting for the light to change, which is when I saw the open wounds on the back of his head, and then when that goddamn red hand turned to my favorite little walking pedestrian (yes, I sacrificed symmetry there to avoid sounding racist) he just continued walking and then turned the corner (thank God) as I kept walking straight.

The first thing that crossed my mind was that maybe I could see dead people.. Like I was Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, and he needed me to help him bring justice to the doctors who performed experiments on his brain in the mental institution..  In which case this was definitely a missed opportunity.  Once I had decided that this was unlikely (but not impossible), I started thinking about how much cooler this story would have been if I had actually interacted with him.  Like if he had gotten into a fight with the guard at the mental hospital and killed him and then after I turned him into the police I could have been a witness in the trial.  But if I'd actually talked to him maybe he would have gone crazy and spit on me or punched me in the face or something.  In which case I'd still wind up with a cooler story but the experience as a whole would be decidedly less favorable to my physical well-being.

So the moral of the story is that while people confuse me, I try not to let them worry me... unless they have experienced blunt force trauma to the head and have that "I-once-stabbed-a-drifter-for-his-shopping-cart" look in their eye.  In which case it is best to worry.  And fake a phone call.

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