Tasmanian Devil in a pickup truck

The story about the August 15 beating of Jon Brittain in Ohio City's gay district reminded me of something that happened to me a few weeks ago. I work a few blocks from there, and I think this is no coincidence.

I returned to work after a lunch out with my wife, parked across the street from my building, and saw that a nearby light was red, so I jogged across the road. Then I noticed a pickup had gone through the light. Nobody else moved ... the light was still red ... he hadn't come from the cross street. I glared at the truck as I crossed the street. When he got to me he slowed down and said, 'you got a problem?' I said, 'you just ran a red light, asshole.' Since he had stopped in my path, I walked around the back of his truck. Then he got out. Huh? 'Why, are you a cop?' he yelled. He didn't wait for me to answer. What came out of his mouth after that was an escalating stream of vile insults and threats. Bewildered, I think I called him an asshole again and ran. After all, this encounter took place in the middle of another intersection, and I didn't want to get hit by a car while I was trying not to get in a fight with a dumpy sixtysomething white dude wearing a wifebeater. I went back to my desk and tried to work despite the adrenaline rush.

For a few hours I wondered what would motivate someone to pick a fight with a random stranger in broad daylight. A blue collar bender? Bad divorce? He already had a body in the bed of his pickup and wanted some bruises of his own to make it look like he'd killed them in self-defense? It didn't make sense.

The next day I thought about what he'd looked like, and what I had looked like at the time. I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and I didn't have my briefcase or nametag. I'm a skinny young-looking guy and I was on foot a few blocks from the gay district. He looked like a member of the generation and social class of Americans for whom open homophobia is common. So there you have it.

The attack on Jon Brittain appears to have been opportunistic, not a hate crime. But I couldn't help being reminded of my experience. I almost bought a house in that neighborhood. I drive by it every day, at the end of my commute. On the one hand, I'd have a much smaller carbon footprint if I walked to work, but on the other hand, justified or not, I have concerns about my personal safety.