“I’ll f**king plant you on the ground! I will do it!”
Later, a friend asked me to describe the man who screamed this threat. What colour’s his hair? Did he have glasses? What were on his feet? Was he wearing coveralls?
I couldn’t give a useful description, except that he was taller and broader than me. I recalled a jacket, but no other clothing. I couldn’t say if he was wearing workboots or shoes. I think his hair was light and short.
However, I was sure he wasn’t wearing glasses because I clearly remember angry eyes glaring at me with menace out of an egg-shaped face.
I never averted my gaze. My instincts told me he would attack if I looked away.
This occurred in the parking lot of a Happy Valley-Goose Bay store. I was about to pull my Ford Ranger into a space between a larger pickup truck and a smaller car when I noticed that one of the truck’s rear doors was open and that a woman was leaning inside. I stopped, keeping my foot on the brake pedal while my signal light blinked. I was not pressed for time so I had no trouble waiting.
Some minutes passed until a sedan turned off the street towards the empty space.
When the driver noticed me he veered away and came to a stop. The woman, still leaning into her truck, pulled her door in towards herself. Assuming she had seen what was happening and was purposely providing me more room to park, I slowly drove into the space, still leaving her able to swing her door fully open. I stopped and turned off my engine, waiting until the way was clear before getting out of the Ranger and walking towards the store.
“Buddy!” I heard, turning to see this large man rush towards me. His screaming was nearly incoherent.
All I understood was something about his wife being eight-months pregnant.
He halted in front of me, glaring down at me while he yelled, barely pausing for breath. He remained difficult to understand, but I managed to figure out he was accusing me of almost endangering his wife.
“I’m sorry you think that, but,” I tried to say, keeping my voice calm. He was in no mood to listen. I only enraged him more.
“Use your f**king brain!” he screamed from inches away, adding something about his wife almost getting squashed.
I gestured towards our two vehicles to point out there was clearly ample space between them and I tried again to reason with the man.
“Look,” I said, “there’s ... ”
“Use your f**king brain!” he yelled again and again. He said other things, but that was his favourite phrase. “Use your f**king brain! Use your f**king brain!”
Unfortunately, I have experienced similar situations before — from both perspectives, I’m sorry to say.
I knew the man had worked himself into such a frenzy that he was a hair-trigger away from violence.
I realized nothing I said would do anything except make him angrier. I stopped trying to respond and simply held my ground and his gaze.
I did not trust what he would do if my eyes left his, or if I tried to leave, so I just let his garbled stream of invective wash over me.
Finally, after some minutes of getting nothing but silence out of me, the man’s screams trailed off and he stomped away. I watched his retreat until he stopped to see that I had not moved. That’s when he uttered his clearest threat.
“What are you f**king looking at? I’ll f**king plant you on the ground! I will do it!”
I didn’t answer. I just kept looking at him with what I hoped was a firm, neutral expression.
My silence seemed to confuse him. I held his gaze for a while longer before glancing at his licence plate and resuming my walk to the store. Before I reached it, I heard him scream again, but I couldn’t tell if it was at me.
Once inside, I worried the bully, denied satisfaction with me, was taking his angry frustrations out on another person, but when I got back outside his truck was gone.
Michael Johansen is a writer living in North West River, Labrador