I’ve held off posting this for a few weeks in the hope that I can gain a sense of objectivity and divorce myself from this story’s perceived absurdity. I will try to present it in a fashion that is void of any bias, just stating facts.
A few days ago, I was late for an appointment near Union Station and an acquaintance (subsequently referred to as The Courier) kindly provided me with a ride. After stopping at a red light and before attempting to turn left onto a narrow one-way street, we entered into a distracted conversation about The Courier’s new job.
When the light turned green, we attempted to turn but upon seeing someone was crossing in front of us, we stopped. The front end of our car had entered the crosswalk, but had stopped well short of striking the pedestrian.
The man in the crosswalk was wearing a black pea coat, a dark yachting hat, a close salt n’ pepper beard and was smoking a pipe. He will subsequently be referred to as The Captain.
The Captain motioned to the crosswalk signal and indicated he had the right of way. The Courier rolled down his window and apologized to The Captain. The Captain, still in middle of the street, reiterated that he had the right of way. I rolled down my window, acknowledged The Captain’s right of way and apologized.
The cars behind us began honking their horns. The Captain remained in front of our car, preventing us from moving forward. Illegally parked cars prevented us from driving around him. The angle of our car had blocked most of the intersection and prevented anyone from driving around us.
The Captain stated that pedestrians always had the right of way and continued to stand fast. The Courier and I apologized again, pleaded that we were in a considerable hurry and asked if The Captain could remove himself from the middle of the street. He instead removed his cell phone from his pea coat pocket and claims to dial the police. The Courier and I exchangd looks of confusion and surprise.
(I do not know if the police were actually called or if the following one sided conversation was a ruse de guerre.)
The Captain: I’d like to report that I was nearly hit by a car. Yes. It was on the corner of # and #. Yes. The car license plate number is ###-####. No. Okay….
The Captain informed us that he will not move until the police arrive and turns away. I get out of the car and began to negotiations in the the hopes of convincing The Captain to remove himself from the crosswalk. I was careful not to insult or touch him.
Several minutes of asking, bargaining, pleading, arguing and attempted cajoling with the Captain yield no results. The line of cars behind us and my necessity to get to my appointment increased. The Courier steps from the car and begins arguing as well.
I contemplate calling the police myself but figure it would only complicate the situation and add to my lateness, especially if The Captain has note called the police as he’s claimed. Fortunately, I noticed two squad cars about halfway down the block. I excused myself from the still blocked crosswalk and walk with haste to the makeshift Capitol Hill police station that has been constructed next to the cars. The explanation of the situation does nothing but confuse the police officers on duty so I ask if one can just come outside and mediate.
The Police Officer asked for The Captains version of the events. He asked for our version of the events. The Officer asked if The Captain was hit by our car and he says no. The Officer looks confused asks what The Captain what his problem is. The Captain states he had the right of way and we violated that right. We offered an apology Officer asks if that was enough satisfy The Captain. He indicated it was not and makes a statement that suggests the Capitol Hill Police officer was not police officer-enough for him.
The Courier stated he is done arguing and goes and sits in his car. The Officer and Captain continued their conversation is the middle of the street, still blocking all traffic. I hail a cab and leave for my appointment.
At this point, my first hand knowledge of the situation ends. The Courier reports that the police officer demanded that unless this guy was hit by our car and needed help, he had to get out of the middle of the street. After a few more minutes of arguing, The Captain complied. The Courier was waved on and traffic began to flow normally.
Jesus, this has turned into a humongous post.
I’m still not sure what to make of this guy who was willing to block an intersection to make a point. (And I’m a little embarrassed about how I was not able to explain the situation to the police, instead leading them like Lassie to the scene of a little boy cornered by a lynx.) Like any city dweller, I’ve cast dirty looks at anyone who has nosed into the crosswalk whenever I’ve had the right away. I’ve even considered standing there until the light has changed so the driver misses his green light cycle. But to block traffic for 15 minutes is something I lack the patience for.
He could have been one of those litigious fellows who were hoping that either of the two of us in the car or another driver to assault him. There was a guy like that in college who obtained a permit to proselytize on campus but quickly began insulting people in the name of Christianity to an increasing degree. He did this for several days until someone at the paper turned up that he had done the same thing at VT and then sued the school when someone attacked him. When this becomes known, the guy packed up and moved on.
Update: After rereading this dry retelling of this story I realize that it loses its absurdity. I apologize for wasting your time. If we ever meet in person ask me to act it our because the wild hand gestures and my huffy attitude make it much funnier.