First, I love my dentist. She’s warm, funny, scrupulous and she keeps telling me I’m doing fine when I’m doing nothing except lying there with my mouth open while she is doing her brilliant work.
I need to clear that up right now because the violence had nothing to do with her. But it did have to do with two of my visits to her office for tooth work, as you will see.
So many people who live outside New York seem to be constantly worried, against all evidence, that we here are in a panic amid a crisis of lethal violence. There’s a lot of focus on the subways where outsiders envisage crimes are occurring every minute of every day and night.
“You don’t take the subways, do you?” That’s their tremulous question.
“Of course I do,” we all say. “That’s how we get around.”
Consequently, whenever I’m getting around, I look for acts of violence which I can report. I feel bad that everyone out there is suffering irrational terror on our behalf and want to feed them a factual tidbit or two, just to satisfy their cravings.
I walked from the subway to her office, a matter of maybe six blocks. On the block before hers, I passed three construction-type guys, big guys with neon vests, standing next to a one-story building which used to be a Duane Reade. As I proceeded east, I saw that heavy work was being done in the street, maybe waterpipe repairs or some such. There was a trench and heavy machinery and more neon-vested guys working in the trench.
As I reached the corner, a woman suddenly appeared and began running full speed down the street toward the working guys. As she passed me, she began screaming, “Get the fuck out of my house, fucking get away from my house!!!!” over and over. Naturally, I turned to watch her. Still screaming, she stopped where the working guys were and continued yelling at them.
Then came the violence, as she attacked the largest of the men — he was at least twice her size — pummeling his chest as she screamed. He didn’t hit back.
Now, thing is, there was nothing like a residence where these men were standing. What house was she talking about? She could have been a madwoman.
Today, I went downtown again to my dentist’s to finish off the teeny cavity work. Before I was summoned to her chair, I decided to visit the toilet. I entered; I exited fairly quickly; a waterbug was on the wall.
I went to the administrative assistant. “Waterbug,” I said. Everyone looked the way we all look when we confront these massive remnants of dinosaur days: horrified.
The young AA jumped up, said she’d deal with it, and ran into the back to get some spray. In the spirit of battle support, I accompanied her back to the toilet. She opened the door, peered in. “It’s not there,” she said. And then performed an act of courage that is way beyond my capacity: she banged the can onto the counter to see if she could scare him into making a new appearance.
She succeeded. After taking a few breaths, she spritzed into the toilet at the thing, which responded by dropping to the floor, racing out of the bathroom and running into fast circles on the rug, maybe at us.
One thing we do when we see waterbugs is shriek. It’s an involuntary part of the process of dealing with them. We shrieked and the delightful young lady carrying the spray can began to do a sort of circle dance of her own, hopping and moving around pretty much counterclockwise to the bug’s race.
I lost control. “Step on it! Step on it!” I shrieked.
And she did. Splat. Bug flattened.
There it was, you who are not New Yorkers. Violence in the city.