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It was an average birthday for me. About seven of my friends took me out to dinner and a movie. We all had the standard Mexican dinner and headed for the theater across the street.

It just so happened that my birthday was the same night that Gladiator opened and it was Mother's Day. It looked as though the night wouldn't be a total waste because I had been looking forward to Gladiator for a while. The theater was packed but we found our seats. At the time I didn't take notice of the people sitting around us. This would change in a little more than 155 minutes.

At this point a little background information is necessary to understand the events that are about to transpire. I am in wheelchair and although I am very mobile I can in no way feign the ability to stand without my leg braces (which I don't wear to crowded places for mobility reasons). In the interest of comfort I had transferred from my wheelchair to one of the theater seats.

Somehow during the course of the movie my roommate, who was sitting next to me, had fallen asleep. He awoke just as the movie ended and that is when the trouble started.

As my roommate awoke the man in front of him stood up and turned to face us. Just as a point of reference, none of us knew this man. His first words to any of us were directed to my roommate and consisted of, "Hey, you think it's funny kicking my chair". My roommate, being a master of the spoken word, responded with "What?" The man, who I had now processed in my mind as several sizes bigger than myself, repeated his previous inquiry and added, "How 'bout I kick your ass right here in front of your girlfriend?"

I could tell my roommate was in over his head. He is not a small guy but he is smaller than me and definitely couldn't fair well against the angry gentleman threatening him. This is where I stepped in. I am a generally non-violent person. I have been in a fight or two but I like to avoid them at all costs. Being that my roommate was at a loss for words I asked the gentleman "could we all just calm down and everyone go home." The response was a little startling. The man asked if I wanted him to kick my ass. I declined the offer and once again asked if we could all go home and forget any of this ever happened.

I hadn't really noticed but I was holding my hands up in what I thought to be the sign for "I don't want to fight, please stop this". The man slapped my left hand down and once again asked if I wanted to get my ass kicked. At this point I was really flustered. As strange as it may seem, the thought that this would end up a fight hadn't crossed my mind. I thought it could all be worked out. I was wrong.

After having my hand slapped I asked him if he would refrain from touching me again. This is where it went sour. Before I had a chance to react, I had taken a right to the mouth. As though I had been training for this, I quickly assesed the situation and weighed my options. I decided this was a full fledged fight and the punch had not caused any major injury. As I reached to return the favor, the man had started to flee the theater. Even though I try not to be violent, this is where I lost my nerve. Someone had punched me and run off like a little girl. In the South we don't react well to those situations. I released a few expletives and hurtled over the seat into my wheelchair. My best friend and I proceeded to chase the man out the emergency exit of the theater. This is when I noticed that he had two small children and a wife in tow.

The kids and the wife ended my rampage. I wasn't bigger than him but with my 6'4" best friend in tow we were going to do some serious damage. I couldn't fight a man in front of his kids when the odds weren't even. I opted to alert the sheriff standing at the front of the theater as opposed to hand out a good old country ass whuppin'.

The sheriff took statements from everyone and proceeded to question the man who had punched me. Next, the sheriff walked over towards me and my friends with a very perplexed look on his face. He explained to me that the man claimed that I had gotten in his face and was threatening him. Everyone standing there burst into laughter. I politely explained that I couldn't even stand up much less get in someone's face. The officer concurred and said he wouldn't need any more information from me. They cuffed him and put him into the squad car.

I thought the night was over but the officer explained that I would have to go to the county jail and do something involving a warrant or they wouldn't be able to charge the guy. I complied with the request and we spent the last couple of hours of my birthday sitting at the county jail explaining the situation to about six different cops and judges. I figured the man would be released on bond and then he would be taken care of at trial. As though fate was on my side all of a sudden, the computer system at the jail was down and they couldn't check if he had a prior record. He had to spend the night in jail.

It took a little over a year for the case to go to court. When the court date finally arrived he pled guilty and I didn't even get to testify. He was given probation, a fine, and anger management courses. When it was all said and done, my pride was hurt more than anything and I would have been more satisfied with a Thunderdome solution to the charges.

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