Sometimes I suspect that there is some degree of transcendent luck or serendipity in the things that find their way into wallets, purses, briefcases, backpacks, or any other containers suitably convenient and capacious to accumulate a large and varied assortment of random articles. Perhaps the wallet should be stricken from the list, in observation of the fact that the average billfold can accommodate only a few dozen bills, a few dollars in change, an embarrassment in riches of coupons, an accordioned procession of prophylactics, or any combination of the above in lesser quantity before becoming a spine-curving, stitch-splitting, ass-tumor, but there is little room in this story for such debate. Either way, everybody has their own collection of bat-tools necessary to survive our daily expeditions into the aptly named urban jungle.

Highly favored among my modest collection of short range luggage is a tattered leather bag, to which charm and character are lent by dysfunctional zippers and stains that might be from coffee, might be from something flagged with a black label and a disclaimer, but can most likely be attributed to some pleasingly toxic combination thereof. Inside this disreputable parcel you might find any number of tools, shiny objects, business cards, and whatever else I might have acquired during my travels. One thing you wouldn't find is a decent weapon, a fact that I came to realize and respect the first time someone accepted one of my habitual challenges to a knife fight in a phone booth.

Now, before I continue with my account, it is important that you understand the logistics of the phone booth knife fight. As a result of the immense danger so clearly inherent in any activity centering on the forcible introduction of sharp objects into one's viscera, the mere challenge to such a bout is often enough to settle a dispute. Even the most belligerent of folks are squeamish at the thought of so intimate a rehearsal of freestyle amateur street-surgery. A beast possessed of so ferocious a bite need rarely bark twice, much less get to the chewing.

Ah, and now you ask what, pray tell, might be the catch? Well, I'm glad you brought that up. Like any "good" thing, it is best to issue such contentious challenges in moderation, and with a degree of discretion. Many people have met their end, as I nearly did, by failing to recognize the fact that, if only by statistical default, half the world's population is of below-average intelligence, and that some members of this group are so profoundly sub-standard in their abilities as to call a bluff as dangerous as the one currently in question. I proceed with a cautionary tale.

The general consensus among motorists surveyed as to their feelings on the practice of "bumper parking" is that such offenses are justification enough to subject the offender to most any flavor of abuse, and it was with this pre-decided verdict in mind that I so quickly brandished my threat of choice upon witnessing the violation of my bumpers at the hand of a frustrated SUV pilot (I hate to build the stereotype, but hey, that's how it was), attempting to dock his vehicle in a tremendously cramped space, employing a variation on the three point turn, distinguished from the original maneuver through the addition of approximately two dozen points, each punctuated with the crunching of bumpers. Perhaps I would have been wise to note that the offender was not quite the diminutive, conflict-fearing sort of individual to whom such challenges can be safely issued, this being evidenced by the fact that I was sitting on the hood of my car at the time of the collision, my presence doing little to deter the less than smooth advances of the incoming vehicle. The driver was out of the car, and bristling with knives before I could finish my challenge. I'd like to think that my tongue is sharp enough to inspire jealousy in even the finest of cutlery, but the sight of such dangerously equipped enthusiasm was discouragement enough to really take the force out of my delivery by the time I got to the phone booth part, which is sort of the kick of the whole thing. He didn"t even catch it the first time around.

"In a phone booth, I said."

"Oh. Fine. Lead the way, asshole."

"Please, after you. Asshole."

My force and originality had drained out through anticipated knife holes.

Without further dialog, he spun on his heel and commenced to marching purposefully away, presumably toward a phone booth. A look in the direction of my car revealed that a quick escape would not be possible, seeing as how I was left with slightly less than one car length of parking space, my opponent's bumper resting comfortably atop my own. Seeing my best shot at a speedy retreat blocked, I turned and trudged along in pursuit of my fate. It was time to take inventory. Maybe that packrat grab-bag luck would kick in.

A quick survey of my provisions revealed a rather unimpressive armory, made up of an ice pick handle, to which there is little point (sorry for the pun), a broken motorcycle peg blackjack, and a knife, of sorts. I was terrified to discover that what I had remembered as a fierce lock blade was in fact a big friendly hobo knife, the kind with a fold out fork and spoon, very nice, and a blade that couldn't cut its way out of a bowl of caviar. Not that any of this matters anyway, nobody wins a knife fight in a phone booth, you might as well call a colostomy bag dealership while you're in there, because by the time you come out, odds are your secondary digestive apparatus will have been liberated from your abdomen.

Lucky for me, Chicago is a tough place in which to find a good phone booth, and while my daring adversary led the search, I was able to rifle through my bag in search of a more suitable, if unorthodox, tool. Despite the pleasing heft of the three cell Mag-Lite, it was just a little on the cliché side, and as we neared the only phone booth in that particular part of the city, I was forced to improvise. Having selected my implement of choice, I assumed a cocky swagger, trying hard to emphasize the fact that while this fellow in front of me had a scary looking knife, I had a really spiffy hat. Like Indiana Jones, man. Or Hunter S. Thompson.

Upon our arrival at the phone booth, we discovered to my relief that it was occupied by a wooden policeman, monumental in size, with a severity possessed only by those whose faces have been shaped with a hatchet. I couldn't help but imagine him having a shootout with a cigar store Indian.

My relief at this imposing occupation was not, however, justified, as my opponent, determined to get on with the scheduled activities, stepped into the booth and most disrespectfully grasped the graven constable around the waist and struggled to extricate him from the booth. The officer was facing me over his shoulder, and I pressed an index finger to my lips as I assumed what seemed like a good position for fightin' dirty.

I only feel a little bit cowardly about what I did, and I bet the guy will track me down and thank me some day, thank me graciously, for protecting him from his own violent impulsiveness by beating him over the head with a fifteen ounce can of corned beef hash to keep him from joining me and my fold out spoon in that phone booth.

Please forgive my deviation from the original context of the phone booth knife fight, as i have little basis for writing in the area of aviation. I hope I have fulfilled at least some modest portion of the great potential of this previously uninhabited nodeshell.

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