I was on my way one recent afternoon to return a movie to my local DVD rental spot when a fine spray of saliva was directed at my back by a visibly upset passerby. We were in a square lined with art galleries, design showrooms and my favorite espresso joint, so this encounter wasn't a private one. I walked on and so did he, while he expressed an unending flow of warm sentiments to the effect that the world would be better off without honkies like me, that I should go back to England, and that in the meantime he was going to walk me home.
Although I'm of British-Euro origin, I'm short and dark and have never really thought of myself as a honkie, Great Britain is not my spiritual home, and the dubious pleasure of being accompanied by a vociferous and bigoted escort is not what I yearn for in life. I veered off to go into a bakery, lost my one-man entourage,and then I began to feel annoyed.
That's life in the big city, but Seattle needs a little more big city life before it can comfortably take refuge in that particular cliche. Crazies abound in Manhattan, but they're encountered when you're on your way to one of the great museums of the world or to see ballet that can change the way that you look at bodies and motion for the rest of your days--not when you're returning an uninspired Bollywood flick to a small video shop.
And just why is street discourse so fraught with emotional spillover in America's cities, and why is it considered a routine fact of life? Is it a hangover from our rugged frontier origins, or collateral damage from capitalism gone wrong, or are we just a nation of graceless louts?
I'm leaving soon for a city where people may gossip about me on the streets of my neighborhood, but I'll never fear for life and limb while I'm out running routine errands. And I'm more than happy to become a resident of a country where manners and self-control are values of high priority. Until my departure, I fervently hope that I don't encounter the Screaming Spitter again, because I'm a woman who is mad as hell and armed--I now carry a sharp, two-tined serving fork.