Camel Lights and a 9MM handgun

If I said I had an “interesting night tonight”, that would be the understatement of the year.

It did really begin like any other—I had a night off from The Brewery; there were a few good spots to hit and lots of people that I wanted to run into were going to be out.

I met up with the Three Amigos earlier in the night, made a game plan and dispersed to the initial meeting spots.

Good people were around, good times were being had, and meaningful conversation was flowing.

After hitting three venues and seeing just as many bands, the lights came up halfway through the last song of the third set and everybody started heading for the doors.

And the rest of the night would undoubtedly change my life as I knew it…

We hopped in the Saab and rolled across Cameron to the Hess Station to grab a pack of smokes. Camel lights are $4.18 at the station across the street…at the time, it seemed like a great deal compared to six bucks at the machine in The Brewery.

I hopped out of my car like I have countless times before and walked to the back of the line at the bullet-proof glass cage that the employee of Hess sits in; disbursing gasoline, cigarettes and junk food during the overnight shift.

And then I went to get smokes.

(Mind you, I’m in very jovial spirits at this point. I ran into more great people tonight than I have in many moons. Seemingly, every social circle that I run in convened tonight…in perfect harmony. )

The kid in front of me looked not much different than I did. He was Caucasian; probably 5’10; likely of Irish decent. His black hooded sweatshirt wasn’t too oversized…in fact; it was probably around the same size that I wear my hoodies.

But something about the fact that I was standing around three and a half feet behind him disturbed him to the point that he turned to me and instructed me to “step back, son”; without any provocation or instigation.

I stood there, patiently in line, while he purchased his Pepsi and waited my turn to save a few bucks on a pack of smokes.

But this kid insisted that I “step back ‘cause I don’t like you being that close” to his apparent sacred personal stake of the sidewalk in front of the bullet proof cage of the Hess Station at Cameron and Market in Harrisburg.

There were two very nice, very presentable and extremely respectable women sitting in my car waiting for me to return. They trusted my unspoken promise to get them to their final destinations without incident or any apparent danger.

But the Caucasian kid in the moderately sized black hoodie driving the older (probably 92-94) black blazer with chrome pinstripes decided to prove to his passengers (three black males) that he was such a tough guy and bad ass that nobody…not even some kid in a red Saab leaving a night of rock and roll with two great people…was gonna invade HIS space.

No, this fucking kid had the audacity to turn to me again and say “yo..step back son”

And my immediate reply was “Pardon me?” with a big smile on my face…

He said “yo, step back son…or we gonna have problems”.

[If you’ve read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, you’ll understand the next thirty seconds of my life]

The look in that poor, confused kids’ eyes told me that he was obviously in a proving point of his social relationship with the three passengers in his car.

Something in my gut told me that he was no different than a dog growling at a foreign dog attempting to establish dominance and some miniscule form of control of a situation that is normally a passive exchange at a Hess Station at Cameron and Market streets at two AM on a Saturday morning.

Although the minutia of the next thirty seconds is escaping me at this moment, what I do remember is this Caucasian kid of Irish decent in a black hooded sweatshirt forming his pointer, middle and thumb fingers into the shape of a gun and pressing them against the temple of my head while informing me “next time I tell you to step back, you step the fuck back, son”.

“Dude, listen man…seriously…you got me all wrong…I’m most likely going to do the same thing you’re going to do right now. I’m just getting a pack of smokes man. It’s really all good. We’re cut from the same cloth, brother. We’re just people.” I said calmly.

And then he took his Pepsi and went to talk to the girls in my car. What was said was, no doubt, rude and disrespectful,, but given the circumstances and knowing what kind of riff raff leaves Second Street in Harrisburg at two AM on a Saturday morning, I wasn’t all that surprised by the exchange.

And I was ready for it to be over; my passengers and I to laugh about it and for us to continue our fun night.

But as I backed my Saab around the row of cars parked in front of the Hess Station at Market and Cameron, the kid in the moderately sized black hooded sweatshirt of Irish decent reached into his older black Chevy Blazer with the chrome pinstripes and pointed what looked to be pretty damn close to a 9MM automatic handgun at myself and the passengers in my car.

Apparently because I stood too close in line to him at the Hess Station at Market and Cameron.

Something, in the Blink of an eye, told me that this boy was not a threat to me or my passengers, so I calmly exited the gas station and drove to our original destination.

The girls were obviously shaken.

And it spurred a conversation.

A dialogue about what the fuck is going on in the world we’re living in…

A discussion about where we’re all from and why we decide to do the things we do…try to impress the company that we keep…while most of the time, not even considering the ulterior values and motives of those we assimilate with.

Years ago, I remember reading about the “new world order” and how it was such a horrible thing…how can each nation keep it’s identity?

But recently I’ve been thinking that maybe a World Order of Humanity isn’t such a bad thing.

Maybe all of the oppressed people of every nation can band together and form a sort of universal consciousness to just be good people.

Respect each others backgrounds and beliefs; while at the same time forging our own ground towards global unity and a higher level of conciousness and working together as a species rather than a country or company or organization or religion having a giant circle jerk about who is better than the other.

But that’s just what I thought about after having a gun pulled on me for standing too close to someone at the Hess Station at Cameron and Market Streets.

I did call the police to report the incident. The dispatcher seemed quite responsive to my call as well. But I didn’t want to talk to the police; I just wanted to make sure the incident got logged–because I know that the kid likely wouldn’t have been found. And if he did, what would happen? He’ll get another item listed to his permanent record? Maybe a fine? And even if he was on some sort of probation and got locked up again, he’d just wind up back on the streets in less than six months and what would that accomplish?

I’ll never forget what that kid looks like and believe that Karma will catch up to him sooner than later.

Something tells me that this blog will make more people aware of the fragility of encounters with strangers at gas stations than a police report ever will.


  1. TattooJim says:

    I know it sounds messed up..but…you shoulda stepped back a bit….this is exactly how it unravels…little bitch shoulda got his ass handed to him, but..its the mean streets man..glad yer ok tho…

  2. I know what you’re saying about stepping back a bit..

    And definitely realize that things could have gone MUCH worse than they did..

    But I do feel that I was able to preserve SOME dignity in the situation by calling him on his shit talking bluff.

    Trust me–in the flash of time that the whole thing occured, I feel like I was able to read him pretty accurately–

    He’s just some piece of shit punk that was trying to prove himself–

  3. TattooJim says:

    But if you didn’t hava gun, with a protection permit it was moot. If you had the ability to kill him, snuff his bitch life out and you didnt, you were in the water too deep..sorry but its the truth….you choose to be (or not to be) a victim…

  4. TattooJim says:

    LOL that last post of mine was based on an opinion fueled by Beam…..sorry Mike..all I meant to say was that youre lucky, but shoulda hada gun of your own..

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