Guest Post by Bob Kuhn (Positive Impact Board Member)
I’ve only been to jail once in my life. When I was 19 years old, I was arrested for disturbing the peace through fighting. The incident seems pretty funny now but wasn’t very funny at the time. It’s what resulted after a type of bar-room-brawl that broke out over a minor dispute. Let me explain.
It was a Friday night and I borrowed my sister’s car to go out on a date. I was with my then future wife, Jeanine, and we were double dating with two of our friends: my friend, Rusty, and a friend of Jeanine’s who would probably like to remain anonymous. This was our friends first date. Although exciting, it turned out to be their last.
The four of us went to a local bar and sat together at a table. Typical for bars in the 1970’s, there were bumper-pool tables situated around the floor. It cost 25 cents to play a game. There were unwritten rules of play that were widely known and always honored. One rule was that in order to play you needed to place a quarter on the table. This secured a game with a previous winner. Your turn to play was in direct correlation with the number of quarters already present; if there were four quarters on the table, you knew you would be the fifth to play.
Jeanine asked me to put up a quarter so she could play. I did, and since there were no other quarters on the table, I anticipated she would be next. That’s where the trouble started. At the end of the game being played, I noticed the quarter gone. I wasn’t sure who took it but assumed it was one of two guys standing by the table arguing over the next turn. Wanting to show my girlfriend how chivalrous I was, I stood up to defend her right to the next play.
I walked over to the table and said, “Which one of you chumps took my quarter?” One of the guys was highly offended by either my tone or the word “chump” and he pushed me down. He then proceeded to come at me with his fist drawn back. In order to keep him from doing serious damage while I was on the floor, I tossed a chair at him to slow him down. It gave me enough time to stand up. We each threw a punch at each other. His connected with my head, making me woozy, and mine happened to break his nose, making blood gush onto his face. (In case you’re wondering, there is a nonviolent moral to this story. Please keep reading.)
The fight was immediately broken up by my friend Rusty and a barroom employee. Then someone yelled, “He hit Charlie (I think that was his name) in the face with a chair.” Several people in the bar heard the yell, looked at “Charlie’s” bloody face and decided to do me bodily harm. Being still a little woozy, I was grateful that each person was taking individual turns to hit or kick me and that the angry group didn’t coordinate its efforts. Somehow, Rusty was able to get me and our dates out of the barroom and back to my sister’s car. After we were in and ready to drive away, we noticed the car was blocked in the parking lot by other cars.
Several of the angry people from the barroom decided to come out looking for me. When they saw me in the car, they surrounded it and tried to kick in the windows. I backed up the car through the group, making people jump out of the way while hitting the cars that had us blocked in. We almost got away when someone shattered my window. That’s when the police showed up. They arrested me and “Charlie” for disturbing the peace through fighting.
We both went to Orleans Parish Central Lockup to be processed. Every guard and police officer that passed by commented on my pathetic looking swollen bruised face. I looked a mess. Charlie didn’t look too bad after the bleeding stopped. All you could see was a slight cut on a crooked nose. We started talking and almost became friends. In a short period of time, we were both bailed out by one of Charlie’s friends who obviously felt sorry for me. Rusty drove my sister’s car to the Central Lockup and picked me up. I went home and broke the news to my sister about the damage to her car. That was probably the worst part of the night.
That Monday at work I shared the weekend’s event with some of my warehouse coworkers. They were a pretty rough group. One coworker was a large man built like a wrestler. He said, “If that was me, I would have gone home, got my baseball bat and gone back to do some damage.” Another coworker, who was probably a member of some urban gang, said, “I would have grabbed my piece, went back and lit up those punks.” And yet another one, who was an athletic type, said, “I would have put a call in to my boys and we would have tore that place up.” Yet, the wisest statement came from my laid back “hippie” coworker. He simply said, “I would’ve just put up another quarter.” Wow! It’s amazing how profound it is to be made aware of the obvious. If I would have just given up my right to the next game and considered it a 25 cent loss, all would have remained peaceful.
(OK. Here comes the moral of the story.) In order to have peace, we often need to give up something. It might be a little bit of pride, some perceived right, or even something we own. That’s not to say we shouldn’t stand up for our rights or the rights of others when needed. It’s just that we should take the time to ask, “Is it worth it?” “Is that parking spot, that insult, or that place in line really worth ruining my peace?” I am convinced that my one-time-arrest record, the cost to repair my sister’s car, and the ruining of a very pleasant evening was not worth a quarter. Stay peaceful my friends.