Friday, September 2, 2011

Ruminations Of An Old Bouncer

As I write this, it's been nearly 15 years since I was last shot at (I returned the favor that time).
It's been about 16 years since I last had someone try and ram a knife in my guts. It's been over 12 years since I've had to lay hands on someone to emphasize my point of "not going to happen!"
In my early 20s, I once sat down and tried to count all the physical altercations I'd been in. It was just under 100, and that was before I began a decade and a half of bouncing, bodyguard work, event security, corrections and other jobs -- where a bad day at work meant someone died.
In those years, it wasn't just the physical violence. In fact, most of those jobs consisted of working my ass off to keep the shit from going sideways. It was when it couldn't be talked down (or someone on your side did something REALLY stupid) that you'd have to go hands on. What made those jobs so 'special' was being covered in puke, blood, piss, shit and anything someone decided to throw on me. I dealt with drunks, druggies, homeless bums, hookers, MICAs (mentally ill chemically addicted), criminals, sex offenders, gang bangers, fanatics, rapists, killers and just general macho assholes wanting to engage in their stupid assholery.
Then, of course, there were all those medical emergencies, especially the wet and messy ones.
Then there came the times of walking into weird shit that made you want to laugh, throw up or just stunned you with the sheer "WTF are you doing?" I mean when you're told a pervert is in the bathroom, you walk in on him whacking off, you tell him to get the hell out and he asks, "Can I finish?" What do you say to that? This especially because he's still stroking his johnson and pointing it at you.
Then there's all the trauma drama of working around low functioning people. Things that manifest in incidents like walking into a hotel at 3 a.m. with a drunk, passed out stripper over your shoulder and leaving her there because you're not going to let her sleep it off at your place. (No way in hell was I going to risk a false sexual assault charge in retaliation for her getting fired for getting drunk at work.)
Or , at the end of a long hard shift, when all you want to do is go home, getting called over to tell two bums having homosexual sex to get out of the bed of the owner's truck. 'Cause he wants to go home too, and they ain't coming with him.
Sure there's the good times, laughing and joking with your bros. People whom you trust with your life, and they trust you with theirs. But there's also the screaming arguments when one of them does something stupid that could have gotten you killed or left you spitting blood.
There are also those wild, crazed rushes to get your bro to the hospital when it's so bad that you can't patch it up yourself. And there's attending funerals for those same brothers who got killed doing this stuff.
Then there was talking to the cops, federal marshals and FBI, the paperwork, lawyers and all that. But let's never forget the warm and fuzzy feeling of constantly watching your back, having to scan who's coming through the door, looking in the shadows of parking lots, watching for cars coming down the street with the windows rolled down and guns poking out. There's the automatic scans you do to see if anyone is silently coming at you with murder on his (or their) mind(s). Then there was the constant checking of your rear view mirror as you drive to make sure you're not being followed home when you know there is a contract out on your life. Or maybe it's someone else looking for revenge because of something you did to him or his family member.
See, it's not all about standing around, looking glamorous and being cool. Nor is it just about unleashing your mighty bad-assery on anyone who looks at you cross-eyed.
I've been spit on, cussed out, threatened, screamed at, called every name in the book and had them try to scratch my eyes out -- by men. Women are even worse. I've spit blood, tasted blood and drank more coffee that would have tasted better when you it pissed it out.
And never let us forget long nights of staring into the darkness, freezing your ass off in some dark and desolate place or being bored off your ass. That's part of waiting for someone to make a run at you or what you're protecting.
Then there's fun jobs, hauling out the wetvac when some drunk has spewed the night's drinking all over the place. Sometimes, they reach the bathroom; sometimes, they don't. And then there are the times when someone pisses and shits all over the bathroom. And let's not forget when someone you're 'handling' throws up on you or cleaning up after someone in a seizure explosively loses bowel control. Oh, yeah, then there's scrubbing blood out the carpet and off the walls. YOU get these jobs because everyone else freaks out and can't do it. But you're the 'tough guy,' so you get to do it.
This is the life you get when 'being tough' becomes your profession. And this is over and above all the violence ... and injuries. Plus, you get to look at everyone with suspicion because you're constantly being lied to, manipulated and attacked. You find yourself detaching from normal life as you see more and more of the bad side of humanity. You learn to not only casually accept violence and the worst of humanity, but you learn to be real good at it and its complexities.
Having said all that, I'd like to point out a certain breed I used to have to go up against while working event security. Now if you think event security isn't any kind of challenge to a tough guy, well, you'd be wrong. A lot of those ickier moments came working crowds of 10,000 to 30,000 people. It's also where I encountered a breed whose name is also their description.
When you heard the words 'no shirts' mixed with 'Code 1' on a radio call, you started toward the location with really bad attitude. This, even if your attitude had been pretty good just moments before.
First things first. Code 1 meant 'heads up, we might have a problem.' Except when you heard the words 'no shirts,' you pretty well knew it was going to go to Code 2 (we have a problem) and more than likely Code 3 (it's hitting the fan). That's because No Shirts were almost always trouble.
As a rule, No Shirts were easy to spot. They were young, clean, college-aged, white kids from upper middle class families. They were often jocks and in good physical shape. They'd come to events and start drinking. They were famous for stacking beer cups to show off their drinking prowess. As their blood alcohol levels got higher, they got rowdier.
What they were also famous for was peeling off their shirts in the heat of the day. The combo of stacked beer cups, no shirt and stupid, rowdy behavior made them our problem.
No Shirts were trouble because they were too young to know any better and too big not to be taken seriously.
More than that, they believed they were invincible and, therefore, had no hesitation about becoming violent.
I mean, hell, bikers and bad asses were a whole lot easier to deal with. Granted thugs were a lot more dangerous if it hit the fan, but actual tough guys could be talked to, talked down and reasoned with far more easily than No Shirts. That was because actual bad asses knew that violence wasn't a game. More than that, they knew we could -- and would -- hurt them right back.
Among the truly experienced, everyone knew -- if it went sideways -- going to jail, the hospital or the morgue was possible. Because of this, there was a general reluctance to engage in unnecessary violence. This actually made them easier to deal with and resolve issues sans violence. If it couldn't be resolved, then thugs preferred doing it on their terms -- and that is what made them dangerous. They were intentional about injuring you.
Conversely, No Shirts, weren't intentionally dangerous, but they achieved it through sheer ignorance.
The combination of aggressiveness, short temper, good physical conditioning, a sense of entitlement, the willingness to fight and having absolutely no idea when to stop made them de facto dangerous. And not in a good way.
More of a "can't I just shoot this dickslap in the face and be done with it?" way.
These handsome, clean and shiny kids from the 'burbs were -- in this condition -- loose cannons.
From an internal perspective, the extent of their thinking focused on how they were going to kick your ass and NOT about the damage you could cause to them.
The booze wasn't the problem. Their belief they were invincible gods of might and destruction made them really hard to talk down. Why shouldn't they just kick your ass right then and there? The booze just added to this stupidity.
From an external standpoint, if you let them, they would beat you into a hospital. That's because they didn't know how much damage they could cause, nor did they know when to stop. They'd keep on throwing punches and kicks, even if someone went down.
An experienced fighter will know when he's losing. In these circumstances, if peace terms are offered, odds are good he'll take them. These guys, if they sensed they were losing, would fight harder. They'd ignore the terms of surrender. That meant there were only two ways to handle them in a one-on-one.
One was to be bigger, stronger, more physically fit and aggressive than they were and fight them into submission. (This, while it sounds good, extends the length of the fight and increases the risk of injury to everyone.)
Two, seriously injure them before they do it to you.
In case you missed it, Point 2 means if violence starts, you go in with the intent of breaking things from the start (intentional). Because while they don't intend to cause that kind of damage, they will. Basically because they don't know when to stop or quit due to their being young, dumb and full of cum (unintentional). And you can't rely on them to have an epiphany about the damage they are doing while kicking someone on the ground and stopping.
I would also like to point out another difference between actual bad asses and No Shirts. If you thump a thug for being an asshole and starting shit he can't finish, he doesn't run home to his lawyer daddy and try to sue your ass. Middle class punks do. It's never about the damage they cause, it's all about what you did to them.
That's why when a call of 'no shirts' came over the radio, you rolled. Simply stated, the safest way to handle No Shirts, was to cheat. And cheat we did.
Daily.
Our professional answer to No Shirts was to hit them with overwhelming force. They wanted to play macho one-on-one games? We didn't. There was one No Shirt? There were four of us. There were four of them? There were 16 of us.
I would say we'd overwhelm them before they knew what hit them, but, the fact was, they were so focused on going one-on-one with someone, they were blind to the actual situation they were in. They would be screaming at and focused on one of us and never notice the odds had seriously changed against them. Or if they did, they were so convinced of their own superiority, they still thought they could take us all on.
We quickly dissuaded them from that illusion.
How? Simple, we weren't being paid to fight. Nor were we being paid to lose. We were being paid to protect the owner's interests and solve problems like the No Shirts. And to do it as quickly as possible. That meant we weren't playing by the same blind, macho rules they were using. We had a lot more options than just blind aggression and head-on fury.
As well as dogpiling, these options included blindsiding, sucker punching them and other sneaky shit. Stuff that people who use violence as a part of their lives and jobs knew, but No Shirts didn't.
I tell you this bit of history to explain why some buffed out, shiny, middle class dude getting up in my face isn't scary. In fact, it's just a pain in the ass. Not just that, though, it isn't even special, it's a routine problem.
I'd dealt with dangerous dudes who knew how to seriously hurt you -- and yet would hesitate to do so because they knew you could return the favor. In contrast, young, macho middle class guys in good shape don't know that. Worse, they never realized any hesitation to engage them DIDN'T come from their awesome 'bad assedness.' The real danger comes from the repercussions of having to hurt them before they inadvertently hurt you.
Sure I could crack his skull with the steel rod up my sleeve, but think of the paperwork. Is shooting this dude in the balls really worth the prison time? Macho idiots, who want to impress the world with how big their dicks are, don't think this way. People who have actual experience with violence and fighting do -- especially people who are professionally violent.
That's why someone who is
a) bound, bent and determined to take it violent no matter what
b) and is not really dangerous enough that you can just shoot him right up front
is such a pain in the ass.
It's not big, bad, scary, but a "I don't need this kinda shit" hassle.
Changing tracks, there are a lot of programs out there that promise to make you a bad ass fighter. The sad thing about these programs is they present themselves as new, unique and cutting edge. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but, when a system is based on being physically fit, strong, large and aggressive, it's NOT the system that is producing results.
Breaking news here, people: Being physically fit, strong, large and aggressive has been, throughout history, what 'wins' an overwhelming majority of 'fights'.
Hell, it was what the No Shirts were relying on. It was what -- in their limited experience -- had worked and that was why they were swaggering around as though they could beat King Kong to death with their dicks.
Excepts 'fights' are only a small amount of how violence happens. The same mechanism of being bigger and stronger can also be used to commit assaults, bully and intimidate. As it often is.
This is what has been bugging the shit out of me for nearly a decade now. Here are all these super, uber, kick-ass systems like MMA, Krav, Kapap, so-called 'self-defense' mixed with Crossfit, reality based self-defense, whatever kind of combatives or some other 'extreme' physical training regime mixed with martial arts and boxing. These programs claim to be the ultimate hot shit fighting system.
Guess what, it ain't the system that's winning the fight!
What carries the day is:
a) being physically fit, strong and aggressive
b) NOT stepping outside a very limited spectrum of how violence happens.
Let's address point A first. For millions of years, bigger, stronger, better shape and raw aggressiveness have been winning an overwhelming majority of fights over social issues. This is a specialized type of violence where individuals are trying to establish dominance and the pecking order. And it is real common among the young-dumb-and-full-of-cum crowd.
It's also actually the least effective way to fight. Lots of sturm und drang, less actual injury. In fact, this kind of violence is designed to be ineffective and non-lethal.
Not that training in an ultimate fighting system doesn't work. In fact, it works great in that one specific kind of violence. And, if you happen to be monkey dancing and going up against someone of the same size, physical conditioning and using the same social violence tactics as you, that training IS likely to be the determining factor. It's a lot less effective if the dude charging you outweighs you by 100 pounds and is in equally good shape. Or if he's got a weapon and intends to kill you.
More often than not, what's really doing the work ISN'T the fighting system you've paid so much to learn. It's being bigger, stronger and more aggressive. Attributes that you developed working out in that nice, clean, shiny gym with the music pumping to get you all worked up and excited. As people often mistake intensity for truth, they also tend to ascribe success to the system and not the foundation of physical fitness that's actually holding it up.
Before we address point B, let's look at the result. The problem is these programs are turning people into No Shirts.
These programs pander to middle class fantasies about being a stud. They promote the attitude you can kick ass and take names. They tell you you're prepared to go out into the night and clash with bad boys -- without teaching what you really need in order to survive. An entire middle class subculture has sprung up around these 'gyms,' disguised as combative training halls. The addition of tattoos, gelled hair and the proper clothing line shows the word what cool god of bad-assery you are.
But I can assure you none of those will save you from a shotgun blast from the shadows -- with the trigger being pulled by the guy you beat up last week. Nor will it stop the guy you just intimidated and made eat crow in front of everyone from stepping out of the shadows and laying a baseball bat across the back of your skull. It especially won't stop the cops from arresting you for using your ultimate fighting system against a dude in a club or at a party. And it sure as hell won't stop you from being tazed, pepper sprayed or dog piled on by a bunch of professionals who -- despite the fact they really want to crack your skull for being an asshole -- are trying their best NOT to injure you. (Hint: Don't ever make it easier for them to injure you than to try lesser means, you won't like the answer.)
It also won't keep you from being puked on, bled on or from having to scrub stuff if you decide to become professional about violence. Not a cage fighter or a ultimate fighting 'coach,' but someone who's actually standing the wall and keeping shit from happening. That's IF someone is willing to hire you. (Think about No Shirts being bouncers. There's a lawsuit waiting to happen.) The word 'reality' is used a lot with these programs that pander to middle class fantasies about being a stud. But some how the filthy and disgusting aspects of the job never get mentioned.
But maybe that's because these guys really aren't training for stepping out into the night, they're just telling themselves that.
My fundamental problem with what is being taught in these programs is that they do NOT prepare you for violence. They prepare you for your middle class fantasies and illusions of violence. At best, they prepare you to do an illegal activity (fighting). They also feed into dreams of dominance and power by convincing you that you are such a stud.
In short, these programs will give you everything you need to know about how to be a No Shirt.
And as long as you stay in the safety of that clean and shiny gym, work and live in nice middle class environments, you'll never have to find out what's missing from what you were taught. You also, if you have a lick of sense, won't go out and find yourself in a situation facing someone who knows how to handle No Shirts -- or, worse, facing a true bad ass who will just shoot you in the face rather than do your macho monkey dance.
I'm an old dawg now. Not only did I do a whole lot of slamming and jamming when I was younger, but I discovered how messy and gross violence and that side of life can be. That's why I have a problem when I see people try and glorify it. I especially have problems with this current trend of willfully producing No Shirts -- and calling it self-defense. I mean what's being taught is a horrible blend of ignorance and arrogance when it comes to how violence happens, the complexities of it and the ramifications. But oh my gawd will the instructors -- and people who paid LOTS of money to take the courses -- tell you how good it is for handling 'real' violence. Their ultimate-extreme-sure-fire-one-stop-shopping-system-for-all-your-self-defense-needs IS everything you'll need to beat Godzilla to death with your dick.
If this is your ideal of what a stud is, then go on. If this is what you want to believe, then I ain't gonna stop you. You go right on ahead.
But if you wouldn't mind a little bit of closing advice. Do yourself a favor and stay in the gym, training hall and on the Internet. There you can tell yourself what ever you want to believe about violence and be safe and happy. Be warned though, if you step out into the night with that attitude, sooner or later, you WILL run into someone who
a) won't have any hesitation about seriously injuring you.
b) or to whom you're just another day on the job.
And that can be a hard, painful and bloody way of discovering what you don't know about violence.
M