This is the story of a man named Tom Piper. He is so called because I am certain that a pipe has been involved in his life in more ways than one. This is one of the things people need to understand about me before they judge me one way or the other: I give everyone a fair shot before I decide whether or not I will tolerate them in my life. Sometimes, people cross the line sooner than others.
After my set at Fran’s Place, I stayed a little while longer than usual because I wanted to be a good sport and see some of the other comedians who I had not seen perform before. It was a tough crowd and most of us were at various stages in our development, so if nothing else, I felt like supporting some of the others was professional if not at least amiable behavior. But Saturday bus schedules are always ambiguous at best and I didn’t feel like walking all the way back to Salem late at night on a rainy day, so I made my polite exit and left for the bus station.
When I got there the rain finally let up, as it always does when I’m soaked and I’ve finally found adequate shelter and once I verified with the schedule that the bus was coming, I ran into one of the bus shelters. There were three other people there and I was trying to be friendly.
“Wet night, huh?”
The woman sat there and gave me a sidelong glance.
“Are you waiting for a bus?”
“Well, your bus might pull in down there.” She pointed towards the end of the bus stop. There were two other bus shelters located further away, but A: There were no busses anywhere. B: My bus pulls in at the shelter I was standing under. C: It’s a public place and I pointed out that I have a right to be here. This did not sit well with the little lady. “Sir, I have my daughter with me and I am trying to be polite to you I do not want you standing here, blah, blah, blah.”
I should point out that there was another rather large and heavy set guy standing there, but he wasn’t saying anything. The girl was probably about twelve and she was so very clearly embarrassed by this woman’s behavior and I’m convinced there was some chemical assistance involved because later that same evening, before any of the busses arrived she launched into what I can only describe as a tent revival song, complete with “praising Jesus” and clapping. And I just felt sorrier and sorrier for that poor kid who must have to deal with this every second of her life. Well, whatever, I left the shelter and went to stand at the one on the far end.
Only when the rain was completely stopped did I leave to check the schedule again to make sure my bus was definitely coming. That’s when I met Piper. Piper was a big guy who rode a bike. He asked me if I was going to AA. I don’t know why people look at me and think, “He must know where others who are consumed by the drink congregate” but I politely assured him that I was not going to AA. That I would in fact be the worst possible person for AA, because my intro would be “Hi, I’m Nathanielle and I don’t drink nearly enough.”
We got to talking. I told him why I wasn’t standing under the bus shelter and pointed out the woman who was engaged in her “High Praise”.
“Oh yeah, they probably didn’t like you because you’re white,” he said.
“Um, no I don’t think that’s it. I just think she has her personal space and I didn’t want to bother her.”
The guy proceeded to tell me how he was often assaulted by black people because he was white. I offered the alternative that maybe he was often assaulted because he unintentionally provoked people by making assumptions about their race. I was trying to be tactful and polite, because this was obviously a much older gentleman who had been through some stuff. But every now and again he would glance at the bus shelter and repeatedly make some comment a to how being white obviously made him a persecuted man in some areas.
It’s important to make the distinction that I don’t believe this guy was a mean racist. He had racist theories, but we wasn’t “Where’s my cross and bed sheets” racist. Again, I think the problem with this guy was a combination of PTSD and of course recovering from chemical dependency. The PTSD theory comes from some of the stories he later told me about his childhood and finding out that he was a Vietnam Veteran.
The reasons I tolerated him for the most part were as follows:
1: It was late at night in Lynn. While I don’t have any prejudices against the town of Lynn, I was still far from home and a friendly face in a deserted bus stop where I’ve already encountered drug induced hostility is better than being alone.
2: When I found out he was a Veteran, he mentioned that he has a living situation in a building with other Veterans. I thought maybe he had some information that could help my brother, Alex, who is a veteran and is currently in a bit of a rough patch.
So, I rode with him on the bus intending to talk to him more when we reached Salem. When we got into town, I tried to plug him for more information, because he was on his way to Beverly and the bridge is down the road from my place. On the way there we suddenly smelled a very strong cloud of weed vapor. I quickly guessed it was two guys walking behind us and Tom shouted something like, “Smells great”.
I don’t know what was going on in his head at that point. Whether it’s legal in the state of Mass or not, I’d still rather not provoke someone who is doing drugs and probably doesn’t want too much attention being drawn to them. I told him he should just leave them alone and not start anything and he replied,
“Oh, don’t worry, they’re white.”
That’s about the point where I decided I was done trying to be friendly with Tom Piper. So when I got to my place, I politely said my good night and thought that was the end of the story. It was not. The library is open on Sunday afternoons and I was still kind of sweating how poorly my set went the night before. So I thought I’d scour the newspaper for any current news bites that I could write about and turn into fodder for the next open mike, because infusing my comedy with current events always gets me a good laugh or two.
There Tom was, waiting for a computer. As politely as possible, I tried to peel away from him. He got the hint, but on my way out he was sitting outside waiting for his time to get online. And I gave him a few more minutes of my time because he was acting indignant over the fact that I didn’t want to talk to him in the library. Again, just trying to be polite because maybe this was a salvageable relationship.
“What, we’re not friends anymore?” He asked.
“No, it’s not that,” I said. “I just have a lot on my mind and I’m trying to get some things done.”
“Oh, well next time a bunch of black people are chasing you at a bus stop I’ll just wish you good luck.”
“And we’re done,” I walked away, but of course he had to fire his parting shot.
“Well you’re a comedian, right? I was trying to help you write comedy.”
This, faithful reader, is the thing I wish people would consider when they leap to a conclusion about me based on one little post in a blog that they claim they read. Yeah, I’m talking to you Blog Troll. You and the shelter staff and the shrinks that get it into their heads that I am just some horrible and intolerant person who never gives anyone half a chance. This is an example of a guy I gave plenty of chances and he blew them in a matter of hours.