Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Possum in the Cooler

Hmm, I get the sense that many of you were scared off by yesterday's topic. Let me see if I can give you something that is true, yet bizarrely funny.
When I was in college, I moved into an apartment my sophomore year. I knew I wanted to be away from campus near the city, and I knew alot of the people that would be living around me. I did, however, meet one interesting character: Tom.
Tom lived in the building A of the apartment complex. I was in B. His window was directly across from my living room. I never really found out how old he was, but his hair was peppered with gray. He also lived alone, played alot of golf, and was never without a beer in his hand. I'm not kidding about that last part. Whether it was 8 in the morning or 10 at night, Tom had a Bud in his hand. It "HAD to be a Bud," he once told me. He was one of those guys that was really friendly, but once you started talking to him, you had no clue what the heck he was talking about at the time. I returned home from class one day to find him sitting on a lawn chair drinking a beer and reading a magazine. With a Poison album blaring from his apartment, he got up and stopped me to talk about a girl in his magazine (yup, it was that kind of magazine). I had just been through a particularly bad test, so I wanted to get into my apartment and relax. As he kept talking to me and I kept trying to go, I never got the impression that our topic had changed from the girl. I guess it had, however, because he told me he was talking about his job. I never caught the change in topic.
Tom was, however, a good example of why you don't drink all the time. I remember one night I was eating dinner outside. The night was gorgeous, and the sky full of stars. I loved nights like that when I was in college. You could sit on the stoop or fire escape, have a nice dinner, and people watch around the neighborhood. Well, as I sat there that night, I could hear screaming and the sounds of a struggle. I ran around the corner to see Tom, bleeding from his arms and left leg and sitting on top of a cooler that was making noise. It sounded like screams and scratches. Now, put yourself in my position. Here's a guy who you know is drunk most of the time. He's bleeding, but still holding his beer and smiling, and he's sitting on top of a big cooler that's rattling and making noise. What's your first reaction? Mine was, "What the hell are you doing?"
What he told me was quite possibly the funniest and saddest (at the same time) answer:
"Duuude. I was out here with the barbeque drinking a beer when I saw something coming near my meat. I didn't know what it was, so I decided to investigate. I fell over and there was this...thing baring it's teeth at me. I tried to move, but it attacked me and bit my leg. I grabbed it, and it bit my arm, so I slammed its head into the ground and then threw it in the cooler with my beer. I don't want to move, because it might get out. Can you get me the phone?"
So here's what happened: Tom was drunk, he feel and found a possum and its babies. The possum freaked out when Tom tried to shoo it away and almost stepped on a baby possum. The animal attacked, and Tom threw it into his cooler where it drowned.
I ended up calling Animal Control to take away the dead possum and its babies. Tom also had to be checked (along with the possum) for Rabies. The genius almost got arrested as well, because someone had called the cops. The officer who showed up was a woman, and Tom started hitting on her and harassing her. If I hadn't sat him down and sobered him up a little, he would have gone to jail. The cop later asked me why I was helping him. "Why not let him go to jail? He's got to learn his lesson." I looked at her and told her the truth, "I don't know. I get the sense that if someone doesn't help him now and then, he'll hurt himself...or die." She just looked at me and said, "You're a good person. Stupid...but a good person."
I often wonder, even now, if the cop was right. If a person has no connection to you, should you still care? You don't know the guy on the street, so if he asks for money, should you ignore him? I guess I helped Tom because it was also a way of helping me.
In the end, I moved out of my apartment and into the house next door. I never saw Tom again after he tried to crash a party at my house one night where he groped a friend of mine and was later arrested for punching through a police cruiser window (I'm not kidding). He just disappeared.

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