I met Peter while working at the Greenhouse, a resturant in the Kahler Grand Hotel. He was a regular who hung out daily having few drinks and played NTN Trivia, before the bands started at another bar next door.
The first thing you’d notice about Pete was his wheelchair; he was a quadriplegic from a C4 fracture of his spinal column. Pete was a intelligent guy, he managed to graduate from Berkley’s Astrophysics program. His goal in college was to become a rocket scientist and work in a high-flying aerospace company, like a defense contractor. Unfortunately, while he was nearing completion of his degree President Reagan started to cut the budget on the Department of Defense. Bush senior made more DoD cuts and all the defense companies merged, changed direction, or went away.
Our friendship started because Pete had a VCR and recorded The X-Files for me, and he’d usually wait to watch it with me on Saturday (back when the new episodes premiered on Sundays). As a waiter I tended to have to work on Fridays, and would miss it. Another reason Pete and I always got along so well was his sarcastic sense of humor. Pete had that special knack for making fun of a person to their face, without them realizing it. It was with Pete that I honed my ability to do the same.
Pete’s mother visited often. She was a real treat, though you never knew what version of her would show up. She could be a bear or a sweetheart, so I’d always have a plan to back out. During one of her better visits I went to lunch and a movie with Pete and his mom. Pete lived close to downtown, so we just walked (Pete rolled) to the theater along with his mother.
After the movie Pete wanted to head to the pharmacy to grab a pack of smokes (a dirty habit - just say no to smoking kids). Well, this particular weekend Rochester was having one of those special sidewalk sale days. The streets were full of local venders with all their crap set out for sale. The sidewalk was crowded with people meandering about looking for deals, and tripping over everything like they had blinders on. We walked along the sidewalk, Pete stops at the Pharmacy for his pack of smokes.
Outside the pharmacy we notice a nutjob walking his bicycle and mumbling to himself. He must have been talking to Alah or some invisible dude, because they was nobody close to him, and everyone else was trying to ignor him. He wasn’t harming anyone, just being annoying like street nutjobs are supposed to. So, as he was hanging around babbling about nonsense and pushing his bike Pete says something towards the nutjob, out-loud. Pete uttered the three sounds, that would forever change the course of the afternoon. I say sounds, because they aren’t exactly words.
Nutjob looks over to the direction where it came from and decides there’s no way a cripple would ever holler at him like that. Yup, he was pissed! Immediately he confronts me and starts yelling about what I said.
I told him,
“I didn’t say anything; go back to walking your bike and talking to aliens or Alah or watever!”
The disturbance was escalating – Nutjob was getting louder and more daring. He’d set his bike down for a minute and then come right up to my face and yell at me, then run away. He didn’t try to hit me or anything, but people were taking notice. Nutjob went through this again and again, getting more in my face each time until I’d have to put my hands up in defense and shove him back.
He finally wandered off, got back on his bike, and started to ride away. But he turns right back around and comes at me again. I think he was only retrieving his bike so it wouldn’t get taken. Now he’s getting more upset and swearing at me. I think Nutjob has completly flipped his lid! He wanders back across the street, and yells at me from a distance. I made it to the edge of the sidewalk sale, so there are fewer bystanders near me. Pete and his mom didn’t make it far. Pete wanted to watch the chaos he created! He was only a few yards from me. He was pretty amused with himself, and had already prepared the story he would get to tell at the bar that night.
Suddenly a cop pulls alongside and skids to a stop - lights on, but no siren. He was going pretty damn fast for there being a sidewalk sale, as close by as it was. The cop looks at me like I’m the bad guy, and I think I’m going to get into trouble over this whole ordeal. At his point I can only wonder if Pete and his mother can, or will back me up, and whether the shop owners who called the cops saw me or Nutjob as the instigator.
Seconds after the cop pulls alongside me Nutjob leaves his bike, and runs across the street at me again – this time in front of the cop.
Nutjob yells to the cop,
“There he is, it was him, arrest him.”
He actually runs right up to me and hits me in the stomach, while in front of the cop. Then he yelled at the cop again, this time to have me arrested and jailed. I took one in the chops out of shock. It didn’t hurt or anything, I just had no idea he was finally going to hit me. I explain to the cop, if he comes at me again, I’m going to wipe the sidewalk with his face.
Two other squad cars arrive on scene, immediately after my being hit. They both pulled over to the other side of the street where Nutjob had run to. The cops tackled Nutjob, as he started to run away with his bike.
The first cop on scene wouldn’t arrest the guy. He tells me that I have to do a citizen’s arrest. I have to write the whole thing up on some cop form and turn it in. It would become a public document. I figure there’s a chance I could get sued before it’s over with, because the guy was a Nutjob. Nevertheless, I wrote the whole story down for the cop, even the part about Pete actually saying “Ah, shud’dup,” and how I took the fall with Nutjob to protect Pete and his mother. The cops had Nutjob in the back of one of the other squad cars. They took him away after we all gave statements, and I did my citizen’s arrest. The cops wanted to finish up my ordeal - they had a fresh package on doughnuts to polish off.
The only other time I came close to seeing a citizen’s arrest was while working at a mortgage company. A loan officer (Darrel Williams) wanted his processor to do something he was ethically unable to do and before it was over Darrel was on top of his desk yelling down at the processor. Debbie, another loan officer came out of her office and yelled,
“Darrell, you goof-ball get down from there!”
Back to Nutjob, they took him to the jail, but he didn’t last long. They then had to take him to the psychiatric ward of the Saint Mary’s Hospital, because they couldn't control him. I did get follow up from the local court system. Nutjob was deemed a harm to himself, and others and was committed.
We looked up the case at the courthouse while trying to pay a parking ticket, and learned the public record was heavily redacted because of his mental situation. We also learned he came from a very wealthy local family who couldn’t control him.
I haven’t had to arrest anyone since.
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