Sigh. What can you do. A certain relative of mine had just finished the New York State and Massachusetts State Bar Entrance exams. This naturally entailed living in hell for several weeks, and then taking three day-long tests while bouncing around the Northeastern United States. He was needing to blow off some steam, and so was I. After he finished the final day, he called me at work and said "Yo, I've had a shot and a pint, where are we drinking?"

So I convinced him to get dinner first. We went to a nice-if-nowhere-near-authentic Southwestern place here in Boston. The food was okay. The four pitchers of margaritas were tasty.

Look , let me make this clear: I do not drink tequila anymore. Everyone has had The Tequila Experience. I've had it a few times. I only ever look at the stuff when I'm needing to get blind fast, and damn the consequences. So, fine, that was my mistake.

We staggered out amiably, having paid and collected our coats. As we staggered down the block, I began to look for a taxi. One drove by; however, after veering towards us, must have gotten a better look and veered away. Being black in Boston will get you this kind of treatment. We let him go with only a few shouted imprecations.

Up at the end of the block, hard by FAO Schwarz, is a cab stand. There was one cab there, the driver on the phone. We ambled up, knocked on the window. He rolled it down; I said "Cambridge?" He looked me up and down (big black guy, khaki shorts, sport pocket tee w/fountain pen) and looked my bro up and down (whiter black guy, tall, wearing nice pants and button-down with a sportcoat).

He waved a finger. "No, no, I off duty."

Well, heck, what can you do. So we shrugged and continued on our way. Ten seconds later, however, there's the slam of a door as someone gets into the back of the cab. What? So we head back. My brother knocks on the driver's window, waves at the back and yells "What the fuck is that, then?"

The driver ignores us for a few seconds, then rolls down his window and yells "FUCK YOU!" at the top of his voice. This is not a good response to two drunken offended Americans. My brother opens the driver's door and says

"Why don't you just step out, then."

I, meanwhile, am doing a tap number on the cab's hood. The driver goes nose to nose with my bro, who's now way gone into the fight; he's blowing off steam, and he's trashed, and this guy apparently doesn't like picking up black people. His bad; here we go.

Then a couple of small boys run over from FAO Schwarz and tug on my pants. "No, no, no!" one is yelling. "He's our Dad!"

Ever have that completely sunken feeling that no matter what you do the rest of your life, here, now, you're the biggest asshole that ever lived? I hope not, for your sake, but I got that. I climbed carefully off the cab, bent down to talk to the boys, who were maybe ten or twelve. "Is he your father?"

They nod furiously, and at this point, the passenger gets out - and it's a fourteen-year-old girl, obviously their sister. I close my eyes against the sheer embarrassed horror, and open them to say to the kids 'I'm really, really very sorry." Turning, I start yelling at my brother to back off. However, he can't even hear me by this point, so I wedge myself between him and the cabby where they are trying to taunt each other into making the first move, and start apologizing to the cabby profusely as I back my brother away.

My bro doesn't resist too hard, but keeps yelling shit, as does the cabby; the latter even tries to reach past me to pop my brother one now that I'm holding the kid back. That's pretty foul, but I let it slide, the guy's obviously petrified and angry as all hell - with good reason.

Anyhow, some other passerby showed up, saw me trying to extricate my brother, and held back the cabby. I had to suckerpunch my bro to get him unjacked, then I hauled him off down the street. God, I learned I hate being the asshole and realizing it. At least the kids weren't too freaked; they looked like they understood what was going on and were trying to explain the situation to me so we could defuse it. We did. I certainly hope they don't come away with any psychological harm. Nobody hit anyone.

Although this could have all been defused had the cabby simply pointed to his kids when we arrived and said "No, I'm off duty with my kids" or something, it's not really his fault.

I'm gonna go have my daily serving of crow, now.

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