When you live in Phoenix, don’t have a gym membership, and still have a desire to remain physically active in the summer, there are certain concessions you have to make in regard to exercise. I typically do my exercising at night, opting to run through the often sketchy, and sometimes scary, streets instead of facing the prospect of an hour in blazing sun and 112 degree heat. In my outings, I’ve been heckled my strippers and hooligans, nearly hit by cars, confronted by unleashed dogs, and, in one particularly memorable incident, chased down the street by a homeless man in a skirt.
In order to give myself the illusion of safety, I carry a Kubotan whenever I head out of the house. It is a four inch metal implement with a tapered, but blunt, tip and two thinner prongs. It is light and fits nicely in my hand. In the event I am attacked en route, I can use the tool to gouge out eyes, permanently damage joints, and break bones so that I can get away safely. I have never had to use the Kubotan (which was a gift from a friend after hearing about my altercation with a pit bull one fateful evening) and hope to never have to. Primarily because I’m not sure if I could.
Getting jumped by strangers in a dark urban environment is pretty well engrained as a worst fear in our national consciousness. When we walk by ourselves after dark and suddenly get spooked, we’re immediately on the lookout for people in the shadows or pounding footsteps. The people we pass on the sidewalk, out of nowhere, become potential rapists and murderers instead of people, like us, who are just trying to get where they’re going.
At work a few days ago, it came to my attention that there was an accident in the intersection in front of our building. Looking from the vantage point of the high rise, it appeared that the accident involved at least one light rail train. Traffic was backed up in four directions, and there was speculation in the cube farm that a pedestrian had been hit by the train. Curious, I started frantically googling the details of the accident. I could find nothing related to what was happening outside (which I later learned involved a driver trying to race past the train in order to make a turn- profoundly stupid idea), every search I performed brought this video as the top result:
So I watched it. What you see here is an incident on the light rail that just happens to be along my typical running route. Two men attack a third man in the train car, backing him into a corner as they pound away. The occupants of the train spread apart and let this occur- until a nerdy vigilante with a samurai sword intervenes. As soon as the light glints off of his unsheathed weapon, the assailants flee. The day is saved and all is well.
The video went viral, of course: Kick Ass comes to Phoenix. Here we have this Dungeons-and-Dragons-looking geek chasing away a couple of criminals. He is later interviewed by the news and explains the five-step plan he’d made (because that’s just how he does things) for disemboweling the thugs if they had not run away. Immediately, speculation starts to fly about how the whole thing is a hoax, with martial arts experts debunking his stance and pose. He is either a fake or a hero, but nothing in between.
I must have watched this video thirty times. If the fellow being attacked is an actor, he deserves an Oscar. Kick Ass? I have no idea. He looked more like Jack Ass on the news, with his obsession over Japanese culture and inflation of his own personal mythos. He could very well be a liar. Or he could be telling the truth. I have no idea.
Let’s assume for a moment that it is true. If you visit YouTube, you can find any number of public fistfights that people have recorded with cell phones and uploaded to the Internet. These videos have thousands of views. My problem is with the camera man. The news is bad enough. If I watched that garbage, I’d probably be scared walking into my own front yard. But, as it is, I take my chances in the streets because I have some kind of inherent trust that my fellow citizens do not mean me any harm. And, what’s more, would come to my aid if I found myself in trouble.
This video does two things: it shows that I am correct and someone might very well step in and help me if I was being attacked, and it shows that a whole lot of people probably wouldn’t. To make things worse, there is a good chance that someone would not only watch me be assaulted, but also film my assault for public consumption.
This is your moment of Zen.