I admit it. Last week, I punched a guy in the head. I didn't mean to I was just taking off my sweatshirt and he walked into my fist. But it's the first time in fifteen years that I punched anyone in the head, so I'm going to take credit for it.
The first time I gave someone a head punch, I was in sixth grade. The school bully had been ragging on me about a death in the family because, hey, that's what school bullies do. So I clenched my fist, reached back, and landed a right cross just below his right eye. He went reeling from my eighty pounds of fury, fell back into a seat, and broke it. It was one of those perfect After School Special moments that I'll be telling to my grandkids Al-Bundy-style. I felt great and so did the teachers, who all hated the kid, too. I didn't even get reprimanded.
But this recent one was less Biff Tannen and more a complete accident. I'd just gotten on the subway and I was pulling my sweatshirt off over my head. As my fists came down, and my eyes were still obscured, both of them clipped a man on the top of his head. Hard.
What could I have possibly said in that situation to make it alright?
"Hey, stranger. Sorry I punched you in the head. I was just taking my sweatshirt off and, well, you know how it is."
I did apologize, but I wasn't really sorry. I actually thought it was hysterical. How dumb do you have to be to walk by someone in mid-sweatshirt removal and not expect to be clocked in the head? Be aware of your surroundings! I bet this guy never made it past level one of Frogger.
I have friends that constantly bump into trees and mailboxes, and trees next to mailboxes. And I never understood it. I have stumbled, I have tripped, and I have stubbed several toes (and most of them were mine). But some people are prone to constantly getting punched in the head by people stripping on the subway.
Nothing much came of the altercation. I apologized as the bewildered man stumbled away. I'm glad he wasn't a big guy with something to prove, or I'd be writing this column through a straw. (Which is just as difficult as it sounds). Even with his timid nature, I bet I could have gotten him to hit me had I yelled "take that, Jerkface!" after I clubbed him in the forehead. But saying I was sorry diffused the situation. And then I hit him in the back of the head again! Bam!
Okay, I'm kidding, I sat down after my apology and put my sweatshirt in my lap. And then I hit him! Or maybe I just took out my notebook and jotted down the idea of writing a column about a guy I hit in the head.
I wonder if he's reading this. If he's thinking, "hey, that was me! I'm terrible at Frogger!" I should have put a "missed connection" ad in the back of the Village Voice in order to find out who he was.
"Manhattan-bound R train. Me, wearing a sweatshirt, swinging my arms. You, not looking where you were going, welt on your head."
Maybe I'm being insensitive with all this. I wouldn't be happy if someone hit ME in the head. Because I'd be so mad at myself for not looking where I was going.
Though the odds are the man I hit missed this particular column, maybe the 6th grade bully didn't. Maybe he's feeling guilty about what he did, how he pushed us around, and how much of a jerkface he was. Maybe he's matured and he'll read this and e-mail me and we'll go to lunch and let bygones be bygones. He'll say that he's sorry.
And I'll say, "here, hold my sweatshirt "
Steve Hofstetter is the author of the Student Body Shots books, which are available at SteveHofstetter.com. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.