I really am getting so sick of this. Why must it be out here that every half assed, wannabe extortionist thinks I am worth taking a shot at to steal some money? Alright, alright, I understand that I am “The American” and all and that the people are very poor and these times in which we live are not the most morally cohesive; but really: How many times do I have to fight off the same bullshit?
I don’t know if I ever finished that story about the drunk sleeping in the corridor or not and at the moment I am sorry I didn’t because I got the same crap today up in the village. Here’s what happened.
Remember that drunken fool Misha, the guy with the golden chain saw who helped me to clear away my fallen pair tree? Well, I was using the neighbor’s phone today and Nina, my neighbor, told me that Misha had been telling everyone that I had bought cheap gasoline for his chainsaw and now the thing was not working well. You like this?
Now, first of all, I know I wrote about that experience of having to work with this mush-mouth several weeks ago. At that time, in his drunken haze, he had no problem insulting me, calling me unpleasant names and generally carrying on as if I was the town whipping post which, I am not really convinced that I am. However, I am not so lost that I am not aware that being “The American” does come with its share of baggage and of course, a lot of this baggage has more to do with not having even Belarus type money to work with. But regardless of that, I know that this is something, that there is going to be that barrier, as well as a language problems and differences in experience and so forth. But regardless of any of this I do not see where I am a fool by any definition of the word, nor do I understand why I should ever accept that role. I mean, I thought I gave as good as got during all that while still staying focused on the job at hand. But I am digressing.
When I heard from Nina what had been said, I became, as I hope you will understand, rather angry. I mean don’t even ask why the guy would say something like that because obviously this is all about money, right? And looking back, I am sure I should have seen it coming. I mean, all that bullshit about how that crappy chainsaw had cost $350. He was obviously overvaluing the thing in the hope that something should go wrong with it so he could blame it on me, right?
So, I was in Nina’s house to use her phone and she had asked me when I am going to remove what is left of the tree from the area outside my fence. She told me that if I leave it there too long I will receive a fine from the state. I told her that I understood all of that but that removing the tree to the forest was supposed to have been Misha’s job. We had an agreement that he was to haul the garbage out with his horse and cart. He was supposed to have done it about ten days ago. I could see that hadn’t done it yet but I was sure that he would. And this was when she told me that he had been going around town telling people that I had bought cheap gas instead of the 92 octane he had requested. And, of course, this was when I got mad.
Well, I marched over to Misha’s house and walked up to his front door. I could see him through the window and so I know that he saw that it was me. I could see him pace once or twice before coming to the door. Apparently he was thinking in this moment pretty hard. Finally he opened the door.
“We have a problem.” I said to him. He mumbles something a bit half heartedly that he agreed that we did and that it was about that cheap gas I had bought. I think by his hesitancy that he knew that he was talking shit. I say that I think this because I am not really sure. Did he know what he was doing when he was running his mouth? Or in a broader sense, is his need for the love and acceptance of this community so great that he has lost his mind trying to get it? I mean, perhaps in his mind he thought he was free to put this little chunk of crap on me because I am “The American” here and therefore on the “Less-than-socially-acceptable” list. And so perhaps, having been given by G-d the chance not to be the town drunk for a second (His social escalation directly proportional to my decline) he thought this was a great chance to both be a real guy for a change and maybe swipe a dollar or two. In your dreams bitch!
But in any case, after his mumble he turned as if he wanted to go back into the house and, well, I really wanted to have this conversation right at this very minute…
But, before I get into the action sequence here, I would like to say a few words about that Polish experience and about local public perceptions about yelling. During my court trial in Poland, a lot was mentioned about the fact that I was yelling at Zaremba during our confrontation. At the time, I didn’t really think anything of it because as far as I know, there is no law against raising one’s voice in the states, and I would be shocked to learn that there are such laws out in these parts either. However that said, I will have to say that remaining calm and speaking to each other quietly is the social norm here. And, it is probably the single most respected trait in the land. In fact, it is so much a part of life that people don’t really even yell at soccer matches, which without a doubt is one of my least favorite social affectations.
But after Zaremba purposely drove his car into me and then used it to pin me to a city bus, I felt in my American soul that it was time to tell him off. And in that moment I had no desire to limit myself to phony, imitation intellectual discourse. Now we can argue this all day, but the fact still remains is that I felt strongly that I had been wronged and I was flaming angry about it. The guy who did the wronging was right there in front of me and I not only desired to express to him my anger over his actions, I also wanted him to hear, feel, taste, touch and smell my anger. And moreover, I wanted with all of my heart that he should R-E-M-E-M-B-E-R the incident, that it was wrong and that it turned out really badly for him. And most importantly, that it should be forever from this day forth an imperative in his mind that he should never attempt such a thing ever again.
I think that they call this imprinting. Imprinting on someone’s consciousness an idea is like receiving a tattoo: It hurts and it is permanent. And this is what I was trying to do with Zaremba. I mean, here was a guy who obviously felt he had some sort of a G-d given right to attack bicyclists. I wanted to make an adjustment, plain and simple. Behavioral modification and all for the better of the public trust. Bicycles, that is.
And so this is what I did. I did not break up his car with my bare hands, nor did I break his teeth or do any other sort of extensive material damage to him or his property as he spent a year lying to the court saying I had. I did hit him though. Yes I did. I was angry and I hit him. And to this day, I have no guilt whatsoever that I did. In fact, as my actions today would show, I still believe that I have the right to address any would be character assassins, assailants and potential blackmailers in exactly the same sort of fashion. And yea, concerning the volume of said effort; I am going to go about it full volume. I want to be heard, to be understood and in cases like this, in order to make a lasting point, I also want to be felt. These are not delicate people, they are criminals, losers, weeds, miscreants, and I am not ashamed of my dislike for the breed. Don’t like that last statement. Sorry.
This said, I will now go into the action part.
When Misha tried to walk back into the house I grabbed his shirt and threw him back out into the yard. This was a shock but he didn’t fight back. And I went full blast from word one:
“You have been going around town telling people that I bought you cheap gasoline?”
“You don’t understand…” I shoved him back.
“Did you say this or not? Yes or no?”
“I am trying to tell you…” I shoved him again.
“Yes or no?”
“Shut up.” I made the mistake of saying this in English but he wasn’t really paying attention.
“You don’t understand…” I shoved him again and told him to be quiet in Russian. I actually had to tell him twice, the second time with another shove before he actually shut his mouth. I think this is the first time he has actually ever listened for as long as I have ever known him. And this is ironic because as I have said, he has a horrible case of mush-mouth and is basically unintelligible most of the time. But be that as it may, I finally did have his attention.
“Good. Now you listen to me. Number one: I paid over 25,000 rubles to have that tree removed from the street. I paid you twice what you asked for, I gave you five times the vodka you wanted, I paid for two busses to go into town to get that gasoline and I had to walk four kilometers to get it. I bought you six times the amount of gas you needed for my job and bought exactly the gas you asked for. And, I did all of this quickly and in a friendly manner. Do you understand this?”
“Yes, you were right…”
“Number two: You were drunk when you came to work, you insulted me while we were working and you still have not picked up the garbage as of this moment. Do you understand this?”
“Good. If you ever insult me again, if you accuse me of lying to anyone in this town, I will take with my hands what teeth are remaining from your head, do you understand this?”
“I was drunk when I said it…”
‘Who in the fuck do you think you are? I treated you like a friend, didn’t I?”
“And you think you are going to screw me out of money for that piece of shit saw? You asshole.”
“I am a drunk.”
“Number four: If you go to work drunk and break your tools, this is your deal, get me?”
“Yes, you are right…”
“I know I am right, motherfucker, and you are a drunken fool.”
“You are right.”
“Give me an apology.”
“Do we understand each other?”
“Good. I want that shit cleaned up today. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I am sorry, I will do it today.”
“Yes you will do it today. Because if I receive a fine from having my shit on the street after all I have done to get it cleared away, you will pay that fine and you will also pay me an extra fine for all of my time, is that clear?”
“Today…” And with this I left.
I had to catch the midday bus so I do not know if he actually completed the job or not. I will know for sure this week. I saw him in a car while I was waiting for the bus though. And when he saw my face, I could see a jolt of… I don’t know how to describe it, but there was some obvious excitement to his seeing me. I guess I made the impression.
So I was standing there at the bus stop and a woman reached into one of my bags and took out an apple. She obviously didn’t like it. “Why did you keep this apple?” I could see that the one she had picked out was half bad and one side was already brown and fermenting. She made a motion as if she was going to throw it on the road.
“Don’t do that!” I said and she stopped. Where do people get off putting their hands in other people’s apple bags.
“But it’s bad.” She said. “Why did you pick it up?”
“We have a juicer. We can cut away the bad part and use the rest. It has value to us so please, just put it back.”
“But that is so much work… and the worms.”
“You have to clean them anyway, to take out the seeds and such. Don’t worry about it. We like to drink a lot of juice…” She put the apple back and then her face turned serious.
“Why were you yelling at Misha today? Everybody heard you yelling. Why did you have to do that? We all heard you. Why couldn’t you just talk to him normally?”
“Why did I yell at him or why did I yell?” She just looked at me as if I was being fresh. “Ok. I’ll tell you why. One: He insulted me and called me a liar around town. Two: He did this because somewhere in his vodka addled head, he thought he could steal some money from me. Three: He is a drunk and a fool and I do not like it when idiots try and play with me. And four, and this is the most important, I wanted everybody to hear that I was yelling at him. I saw you looking at me when I was doing it. I wanted you to be able to hear what I was saying as well. I was talking to everyone, get it?”
“Understood.” She said, turning her back to me and walking to the bus stop bench to sit down.
They really don’t like yelling here. I guess it offends their sense of what they think of as high class. I guess when I yelled it meant that I was behaving badly. Life is so hard here. Perhaps I did need to be informed about this social indiscretion. I will attempt to be better in the future.
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