You would think after getting shot at on the 405 freeway back in the mid-1990’s (for flipping somebody off) that It wouldn’t happen again, or more importantly just chill out on the road in general, I’d be Zen-like.
Nope, wait. Before I get into the next “the second time I got shot at” story, that occurred on the 10 freeway, I’ll elaborate. It’s a “hot as fish grease” day, August 1994. I’m making my way over the Sepulveda pass to The West Side. I had just left my Mother’s condominium in Van Nuys. As I was leaving she stated, “well, should be a breeze at this hour, but you never know.”
I’m in a Jeep Wrangler ‘soft top’ no air conditioning, the top is up. Traffic is moving at about 7 miles an hour in fits and starts. I’m light-headed and nauseous from the amount of exhaust I’m breathing via the windless baking heat. I feel like I’m in a Glad sandwich bag or a rolling greenhouse. The Jeep seats are plastic, the top is canvas and the windows are plastic.
In my haste to ‘get on the road’ I neglected to zip off the back and side windows, and although the front is zipped down I’m not getting any relief. This is not ‘a breeze.’ I started going into deep morbid reflection about the Jeep purchase. The main thought was; a year and a half later and $12,000 in payments to go I felt like a sucker, an absolute dupe, a patsy. Glendale Jeep got me good. They saw me coming.
I sat for 7 hours bargaining and negotiating for this ‘utility’ vehicle that already had three recalls. I maxed out three credit cards as a down payment for this rolling memory of constant financial remorse. It haunted me frequently. As all this was turning in my head like sneakers in a dryer, a Toyota Celica cuts into ‘my’ lane and I stop short, almost hitting the left rear quarter panel. The bumper of his car has a plethora of 12 step bumper stickers, “easy does it, clean and crazy, let go and let god, one day at a time, my other car is up my nose,’ and of course the car has no license plate.
I honk, he immediately puts his left finger out the window and shakes it. That’s always a strong move, you cut me off, then flip me off. You do it with real authority, with a shake like you would a fist, but with ‘the bird.’ I had been listening to Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” my self-pity quickly turned to homicidal rage. I turned off the music, ‘Fuck you piece of shit!’ I yelled.
His tinted windows were all rolled up, he was sitting in the cool composed comfort of air conditioning, looking for someone else to impede on. I pulled into the right lane and got up next to him. I was quickly making hand gestures for him to roll down his window. He rolled down his window, he was wearing a suit and tie, I imagined he sold cars or worked in telemarketing sales. “Hey asshole, don’t fucking cut me off, then you flip me off like it’s my fault, you piece of shit, and what’s up with all those stupid bumper stickers?” We sat and made eye contact for a moment. “So what are you going to do?” He asked blankly. Fuck this guy. “Pull over ‘Mr. clean and crazy’ and I’ll give you a beatin’ you won’t forget.”
He put the car in park and slowly reached over to the glove box, my intuition quickly told me he had a piece. He pulled it out, it looked similar to the .380 I had at home, which I wished I had now. I quickly zipped up my jeep window, huh?
I saw him pull back the slide and jack around with his left hand. Then he lay against the passenger seat. Expressionless, he leveled the gun right at my face. Quickly, I sat back in my seat as hard as I could. Am I going to die? Here? Now? I heard the .380’s report and immediately smelled the cordite. I had been shot at before but had never been at this much of a disadvantage. Visual assessment. I wasn’t shot! I saw a small bullet hole in the plastic jeep window and was strangely grateful that I had zipped it up.
Cars were honking and there was a 5 or 6 car gap in front of him, so I quickly cut over and floored it, I went into the emergency lane and drove like, well, like I had just been shot at. I looked in my rearview, he wasn’t pursuing and I got off at Sunset and headed west. I pulled over. I balled my fists and pounded on the steering wheel and went into a Tourette like rage, “You motherfucker! You column of human waste, scumbag, dope fiend, alcoholic piece of shit!” I finally stopped. Most of those insults were truly things I also felt about myself at one time or another. I took a breath. I chilled.
I thought about the fact that I had nowhere to rush to, I had no job, and I had almost got myself killed over a patch of road. I continued to drive like an asshole even with the bullet hole through the plastic window. I’m hard-headed, I’m a little insane. I don’t learn lessons from these experiences and then just act right. There is no need to tell the other story. I’ve mellowed out a little, except for following a guy to Starbuck’s and beating him down. That felt justified. So, I’m on the Glendale freeway going north. In fast-moving traffic, a grey Mercedes-Benz gets in front of me and slams on the brakes. My old dog Roscoe flies against the dashboard with a loud yelp. I’m enraged and mystified all at once. Did I do something to this guy? Did I cut him off earlier? He’s laughing and holding his middle finger out the window, his arm accompanied by a horrible silvery green, cable-knit sweater. His license reads BADAZMB. The freeway divides. I’m going west, he’s going east, but I can also see he’s signaling to getting off at the next exit.
I know the exit. There is a Starbuck’s, Noah’s Bagels some other little retail stores and a theater. I get off the next exit and double back. I have a strong feeling he is at (or going) to Starbuck’s. I drive and park my car in a shaded corner and slowly slink around the parking lot. I see his car BADAZMB. I walk up to it look around, nobody is watching. I key the fuck out of it, both sides all the way across, “This is for disturbing my dog Roscoe.” I turn to go back to my car, I can’t. I turn around and walk to the Starbuck’s, I go in. Steely Dan’s ‘Babylon Sister’ is playing. I look around, I see him and his bad sweater in the corner. He is on his computer. Maybe he is writing about me? I look around again, no cops but a lot of people of all ages. I walk up to him. Stand over him on his right side. He looks at me, he has NO IDEA WHO I AM.
He Just did all that bullshit and has no clue. “Can I help you?” I look out the window and point to his car. “Is that your Mercedes?” He looks out the window. “Yes. Why what’s up… Just then I grab him with my left, hold him down in his chair as I pummel him with my right fist. Five quick shots to the right side of his cheek/chin area. At the same time I’m saying, “YOU MOTHERFUCKER, THIS WILL TEACH YOU TO STOP SHORT IN FRONT OF SOMEONE ON THE FREEWAY FOR NO REASON!” He’s screaming, ‘I’m sorry! I’m SORRY!’ Very quickly people start leaving the store. “We’re calling the cops,” I hear a voice yell at me, So I turn and say ‘Alright I’m leaving.’ I walk out. Now I’m paranoid, was all that on camera? Am I gonna go to jail? For days after I feel horrible, scared, and have an emotional hangover that reminds me of how quickly violent I can turn. Since then I’ve learned to seriously pause or pull over when I feel it surfacing. It takes serious vigilance. This is a reminder. I will lose my freedom if I let some shit stain rock my game.