Midsummer Night's Melee

Now that I've had a week to digest it, I've decided to record the events of last Friday night that resulted in damage to my Ford Explorer. It's a long story, but I've repeated verbally so many times this week that I thought a written record would be helpful.  And, yes, it's so long that I broke it up into sections to make it easier to read. INTRODUCTION

As a preface, I should note that I didn't sleep well last week. I think it was the heat. I tend not to get the most out of my sleep during the summer (I sleep best in cold weather). Combine my bad sleep with a loud bang at 3am and I immediately woke up.

It sounded like a large dumpster hitting the pavement. I was aggravated that Rumpke would drop off a dumpster in the middle of the night, but I then heard a motor burning up. That's when I realized there was something more here. For safety's sake, I grabbed my collapsible metal baton and headed out toward the street. Still half-asleep, I could only tell that there had been an accident and my African-American neighbor from up the street was yelling at a guy in a wrecked car.

SIDE NOTE: I established the guy's race because it will come into play later. It reminds me, however, of how bothersome the identification of race in a story can be when it's trivial information. Many times I'll hear people say, "So this black guy came by. . . " when the guy's race had no bearing on the story whatsoever. If you're in the habit of doing this in your stories, it's about time that you stop.


So, anyway, my neighbor was yelling at the driver in the car who was very, very drunk . . . and also black (reference the previous note and stick with me here). So drunk was this driver that he had clipped the median with his car and crashed into my car. Two other neighbors were out there (their race is unimportant to the story) and told me that the driver had rammed my car and was trying to escape. Unfortunately for the drunk driver, his front tire was shredded and he wasn't going anywhere. Still, that didn't deter my neighbor from opening the car door and yelling at him. The drunk driver kept hitting the gas, but all it did was drive his bare rim into the road.

I immediately tried to defuse the situation by identifying myself as a pastor. I know this sounds silly, but there's still some respect for pastors out there. At least, I figured, that might keep anyone from getting too crazy.

I called the police, but it was a busy night; there was the Jazz festival downtown, in addition to a sold-out Reds game which we had attended earlier. As the police were nowhere to be found, I told the drunk driver that he should step out of the car. He was incoherent and not paying attention to me.


Then, a dude came running up the hill. He yelled out, "That's my cousin! He dropped me off down at the corner. I told him not to drive!" After yelling at his drunk driver cousin, he came over to me to talk.

"Is this your car he hit?"

Yes, I responded.

"It's O.K., he has insurance."

I was reassured. But then he told me something else.

"Well, I have a couple of felonies on me, so I'm going to get out of here before the cops come."

Brilliant. I can't blame him, really. And since he wasn't in the car at the time of the accident, I told him to have a good night and refocused on the scene.


You see, at this time I realized that my neighbor, the one who happened to be black, was also drunk. He kept going back to his house and coming back to the accident scene to talk. He, however, was making more sense than the drunk driver who, at this point, was sitting down on my front steps. So my neighbors continued to survey the scene, talking and wondering how the cops hadn't arrived in twenty minutes.

At this point, the drunk driver was on his feet, claiming that he wasn't actually driving the car. This made my drunk neighbor angry, causing him to start cussing at the driver. In the midst of some adult language, to which I wasn't particularly paying attention, something caught my ear.

It was the N-word.

The drunk driver (who was black) called my drunk neighbor (also black) this slur.

This is when I started to pay attention to the conversation, specifically as my drunk neighbor said, "I dare you to say that to my face again."


At this point I moved towards them as the drunk driver, yet again, dropped the N-bomb. I had grabbed my neighbor's left arm but he used his right arm to deliver a fore-arm shiver.

The drunk driver, standing on the curb, was knocked back, lost his footing, and landed with his head to the pavement.

I grabbed my drunk neighbor, telling him he couldn't do that (despite the fact that he just did). My neighbor has a good house, nice car, great job— a lot to lose for an assault to a drunk driver. My neighbor yelled at me, telling him that he'd hit me too if I called him the N-word. Duly noted, but irrelevant, I told my neighbor to get out of there.

It was then that I turned to look down at the drunk driver. He was lying in the road and blood began to pool up under his head. He was totally still, so I feared that he might actually be dead. I stood over him and saw that he was breathing—always a good sign. I felt a little better.

Still, since he had been drinking and knocked unconscious, he urinated himself as I stood over him.

But at least he was alive.

And still, no police.


I failed to mention that all this took place on a busy night on our street. People were returning from the jazz festival. And (invoking race again) since the festival attracts mostly African-Americans, and there is a high density of African Americans in my neighborhood, it was a constant flow. As I stood over the drunk driver, pools of blood and urine underneath him, the cars driving by slowed down to watch. People asked if he was OK and I could only answer that we called the ambulance (something my sober neighbors did after the confrontation).

Then, as I stood over the drunk driver, a car full of four black young men stopped beside us. They said nothing but just stared. I'm thinking that they were wondering what this white dude was doing hovering over a knocked out black man. I (somewhat confidently) yelled out, "Don't worry. He's breathing. We called the ambulance," and looked back. They continued to stare, and then drove off.

I was glad they did.


Still not hearing sirens, I ran inside to tell Kelly to grab a towel for the guy; I didn't want him to lie bleeding in the street. By the time I came back out to the street, the police had finally showed up.

Twenty-five minutes later, mind you.

The first office on the scene was assessing the situation and could tell that there was an altercation after the accident. He asked me what happened and I had to tell him the truth; no matter how much I like my neighbor, I wasn't going to ignore the fact that he had assaulted the dude. Upon hearing the story, the officer said, "Well, I'm not even going to worry about the assault."

Alright, then.

In the same vein, another officer came up to me and asked, "did you punch that guy for hitting your car?"

"No ma'am," I responded.

"Well I would have," she said.

And now I know.


So my car will finally go into the shop next week. The damage almost totalled it. I still haven't heard whether or not the drunk driver had insurance.

I've told this story a few times during the last week. Some people have viewed it as yet further proof that city life is crazy. And I can't really refute that.

But this is my neighborhood. This is where I live. And regardless of the craziness here, I absolutely love it. And I'm going to continue to love it despite all the imperfections it displays.

It's a broken world. I'm just doing my little part to fix it. And I can't do that unless I live in it.