They’re usually sensical and mellow and you can kind of mess with them a little bit and not worry about them getting too mad. I waved him sorry and thanks but then the guy beeped a lot and tailgated me and well, I tapped my brakes a little bit. The guy gets really mad–insano mad– and goes in front of me and stops and blocks two lanes of road completely after a few starts and stops. Then he gets out and starts yelling GET OUT OF THE CAR and runs up to my driver side door. All I had in the car was a smartphone and a wooden sword.

There are all these cabs around us wondering what the hell is going on. The guy was about 6 foot, 220 pounds, grey sweatshirt and baseball cap turned around. Not the snappiest dresser but bigger than me by a lot. Pretty nice mercedez benz, black, led headlights, grey leather interior. I’m thinking, whoa, guy, you have a lot of expensive things to lose if you hurt me! Maybe you should get back into your car and turn your limp biscuit back on! Just as he was coming up to my window, I flicked the lock switch on my car. Sometimes I forget which way is lock and which way is unlock. But I managed to get it locked on the first try.

Two seconds pass–a long two seconds–and as he gets in range he tries to open the door, which made me giggle a little bit. I waved, which made him even more mad. So he got violent.

I still have his skin on my window from where he punched it. (Pretty hard, but not hard enough to break it. Almost, though.) and he kicked a big dent in my truck, which is a $2000 dollar, rusty, 1994 toyota 4runner, so who cares. But the whole thing shook. My friend, riding shotgun, just kept looking down at his phone.

I am still smiling. It probably was a little bit of surprise and nervous laughter, but also, I was feeling defiant. I didn’t want to show the big guy that I was a little worried after I did the mental calculations on his mass, rage, fitness, reach and my desire to not really get into anything that would keep me from walking my dogs in an hour.

Then, I remembered in my back seat I had one of those oak training swords from when I was doing a little iaido, which is japanese drawing of the sword from sitting positions. It’s a funny coincidence that I put it in my car after a raccoon pestered my dogs one night after a long night walk last week. Haven’t touched that thing for years.

It’s the same kind of wooden sword that Musashi, the famous japanese swordsman, used to duel on an island against his greatest adversary, who was wielding steel. Musashi crushed in his opponents skull, even without a sharp weapon. I thought about the heavy boken/sword, and the story, and measured the distance from the car door. In situations like this, I’m usually not most afraid of what the other person will do, which I am not responsible for. I’m usually more afraid of what mistakes I might make. Thankfully, I tend to think about Danny Glover when I am about to do something stupid.
You know, Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon. He always says to Mel Gibson, right before they do something risky or blow something up or jump off a building on a pier into the water, “RIGGS. I’m too old for this shit.” He says it knowingly and wisely and he seems really scared because Danny Glover is a good actor and a good foil, and it’s my favorite old guy lamentations in any movie. Then the danger is over and that trademark lethal weapon saxophone riff comes on and I can exhale. So great.
So, then I thought about ramming his car, while he was not in it.

Danny Glover quickly put the kibosh on that bad idea and as a LAPD officer, he reminded me that this was a punishable offense. I was still smiling. But trying not to provoke him that much. Trying so hard. About 5 seconds have passed since he first struck my car, btw.

Then I remembered my camera phone! And I remembered he had a face and a license plate I could photograph. But I was honestly too scared to do that. Far more scared than I would have been to do anything else, even though it was the only legal course of action.

I had at least another 10 seconds to take a photo. But I didn’t. It seemed like the worst possible idea, worse than the sword or the ramming with the truck. I know that doesn’t make any sense. Even Danny Glover would agree. The big scary man got back in his car and I drove away. He took a left on Embarcadero and I took a right. I hit the highway and didn’t look back. Not that often, anyhow. All I saw were headlights of cheaper cars and the yellow glow of street lamps running out and away from my rearview window.

The rest of the night I kept asking myself one question: Why didn’t I take the photo? It took me awhile, but I think I understand.

See, the camera phone was the most powerful weapon in the car.

With it, I could have captured his description and matched him to a facebook profile online. I could have caught him in illegal acts of battery and damage to my personal property. I could have captured his illegal driving and his car’s identification. I could have made him a meme, #angrybrodriverdude or #angryonepercent. I could have figured out who his mom was and emailed her and said, “Did you know your son is a really disturbed man? tsk, tsk, maybe he needs some hugs from mommy?”

But it wasn’t so much that I was worried about his online reputation or the legal repercussions to his actions. I just thought that the man would have recognized the camera phone as being capable of doing all these things to him, and that it would have provoked him further. It was a real threat, one that would have lasting effect on his reputation and his personal and work lives, far beyond the bruises or the broken bones a heavy wooden sword could have inflicted. And I was worried that as soon as I took his photo, flash or not (but probably flash on just to piss him off) he would stop at nothing to get that phone and smash it or steal it so I would not be able to identify him and post his photos online and perhaps sue him so that I’d end up owning his very nice german car but needing some stitches and plastic surgery.

I never realized how scary it is to raise a phone up to someone who has a weapon. Because a phone is a different kind of weapon that will provide justice, but not before you get your ass peppersprayed in Davis or teeth kicked in or your head parked on a stake in Mexico. The internet can’t protect you from physical violence at a given moment. It can avenge you, but it can’t protect us at those very critical moments in meat space when we realize trouble is not worth the trouble and we just want to get home in one piece.

Maybe I should have taken those photos. This post would have been a lot more interesting, visually. Maybe I could have dialed 911 and held it up to the glass, laughing hysterically. That would have been the best thing, probably. It’s always easy to come up with clever retorts in the face of adversity, afterwards.

Either way, my car has another big dent in it now. Dents in trucks aren’t so bad, though. They can be photoshopped or repaired.

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