Never Underestimate the Power of Standing Around
There was a fight, or at least almost a fight, on the corner below my window last night. I heard some yelling, and looked down to see seven or eight young hispanic guys, some in aprons, squared off against three young black guys. The hispanic guys had the numeric superiority, but the aprons made me think they were local, so I was rooting for them during the shouting phase. But then thinks got scarier. One kid was swinging a chain, a la “West Side Story” and “The Cross and the Switchblade”, another picked up and threw the metal trash can on the corner, and when one of the black kids popped their trunk and started rooting around in there, I was starting to get worried about stray gunshots.
Then, five cop cars pulled up suddenly, and the cops immediately got out and separated everyone into groups. The cops were also young — maybe late twenties, maybe early thirties — and they were mostly from the Chinatown precinct around the corner. I was impressed by the cops’ method for handling the situation. Once the groups were separated, everyone stood around for a really long time, not doing much of anything. Which cooled tempers admirably. The neighborhood kids that had been gathering on the periphery wandered off, the shouting stopped, and the whole danger level plummeted. The cops made a perfunctory look in the trunk of the car, but I think their main goal was to achieve total standing-around quietude. Which they did. Only after everyone was good and bored did they handcuff the black kids, put them in cruisers, and drive away. After they left, everyone wandered away slowly.
Incidentally, that’s the second time in a week that someone has picked up and thrown the trash can on the corner as an expository device. Last time, it was a drunk woman from Spring Lounge. I blame Hollywood.