mr. zilla goes to town

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

one good turn

Saturday was a gorgeous day here: temperature around 25C, with blue sky and occasional cool breezes. Late in the afternoon I was biking home, moving slowly through the pedestrian traffic around the Woodley Park metro station when something out of the oridinary caught my eye.

A very tall, overweight gentleman, perhaps in his early fifties and with a very irregular gait, was tearing posters down from nearby lampposts, shredding them, and throwing them into the street. After watching for a minute or two, it was plain that it was only one type of poster he was removing, those for the March for Women's Lives this Sunday by the Capitol.

I'm curious, and nosy, so what the hell?

"Excuse me sir, what are you up to?"

No answer.

"Sir? Why are you tearing down the posters?"

A baleful look. "I'm cleaning up the city."

A pause. I look down at the shredded paper that's in the gutter.

"What a great idea. But why are you only tearing down the posters for the march for women?"

His sweaty poster ripping was by now accompanied by a tense jaw.

"I'd genuinely like to know why you're doing it. It must be really important to you."

A sneer. "Oh... go back to school."

Ok, he's obviously not interested in a friendly chat.

"I learned about the First Amendment in school, the one about freedom of speech, how about you?"

At this point he fixed me with another grumpy glare, abandoned the task, and stomped off down the Metro elevator.

And that, grandkids, is how I earned my pro-tect-choice girl scout merit badge, awarded by my good friend Chris from AGI: with humility and kindness, inadvertently but gently, protecting defenceless posters from a grumpy old man who should have crossed the damn street when he saw me coming.

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