Thursday, May 01, 2008

Vigilante Justice?

I was biking home tonight, approaching the Queensboro Bridge, and "noticed" an expensive car driving erratically: taking up two lanes, sliding between two lanes, and otherwise making me very nervous.

At a red light, I pulled up to the car and confronted a young woman, not at all surprisingly, gabbing on her cell phone. Not only is this illegal, it's dangerous.

[I would add that since the hand-held cell phone ban, drivers have gotten noticeably less erratic.]

I loudly (her window was up) but not really rudely yelled at her to stop talking on her phone because she was obviously distracted and could kill somebody like me.

She smiled at me and gave me the thumbs up and continued to talk. I insisted she stop talking on her phone. She put her cell phone on her lap and I started to bike away. But I knew she hadn't hung up. So I came back to her window and of course she was still on the phone. I again asked her to stop. She gently waved and even kissy-kissied me, but refused to hang up.

At this point, in a moment I would call inspired genius, I leaned over, took the cap off her front left tire, and proceeded to release the air. To be honest, deep down I've always wanted to do this, but that's not really the point.

I figured if she has too oblivious to notice I was letting the air out of her tires, she really shouldn't be driving. Before all the air was out, the light changed and she gently rolled away. She could still drive on the tire, unfortunately. But it definitely needed air.

While the Indian limo driver behind her gave me a stern nod of disapproval, I believe I did the right thing, like trying to take the keys out of the hands of a drunk driver. Or am I just an asshole?

I am interested in your comments.


Joseph said...

Wow. That was pretty extreme. In my rural town I would have called a cop. Don't know if that would have worked in NYC. Reminds me of the time the wheel of my car fell off as I was driving--someone had loosened the lug nuts. Scary. And I was paying attention, so I could just cruise over to the shoulder, again on a rural road. I think you just contributed to making a dangerous situation a lot worse. Now she'll continue to be oblivious but in addition, she'll be barreling along the road and completely lose control of the car when her tire starts flapping off the rim. Love the sentiment; utterly the wrong action, sorry to say. I've whacked cars while riding, and certainly it will now occur to me to let the air out. But I hope that I don't! . . . yikes.

PCM said...


Calling a cop wasn't really a possibility.

I don't think it's a danger issue because it's not like you drive on a flat and don't know it.

And wacking a car (now who hasn't done that?) is much more aggressive. And wacking a car doesn't accomplish anything other than make an aggressive display.

Since this woman was being passive-aggressive toward me, I thought my actions seemed much more fitting.

And besides, is it even a crime to let the air out of tire? What could I be charged with?

AV said...

I just can't believe that someone DIDN'T NOTICE while you let the air out. I also can't believe that people still talk on phones and drive. Also: was the quote on the later post from Randy Cohen? He really likes the "my heart says, but my head says," turn of phrase.

Joseph said...

Yep, good point that whacking a car is pretty aggressive. In our rural town a friend of mine did that the other day and the woman go out of the car, slapped him across the face, and got back in a sped off. He was just too stunned to do anything! But I do think that people are oblivious to whether their tires are inflated--I'm amazed at the cars I've seen that are driving around with almost no air pressure. I suppose if it was fully fully deflated it would work. But if its not fully fully deflated, I think it might make a dangerous situation even worse. Love the urban legend idea. Amazing how those things can start and take on a life of their own.

PCM said...


My goal was to disable the car. Admittedly, I did fail in that goal, perhaps making a dangerous situation more dangerous (though I still would debate that point).

But my greater ethical questions remains: was the goal justified.

AV, I can neither confirm nor deny your guess. But I will say that you are a very astute reader.

PCM said...

See a later post for the suss from the NYPD. Nothing illegal in my action that they can think of!

Princess Kim said...

I think that what you did was pretty reasonable, and actually kind of fantastic. I wouldn't judge anyone who chooses vigilante justice in its more mild forms (like what you did). I'm quite a fan.

Anonymous said...

To be honest I would have handled it a little bit differently then you. But I am a unique individual. I have a very deep distain for people in general and I take every opportunity to insert myself into situations like this. That being said I would have tried to get the womans attention as though I needed directions. Once she rolled down her window I would have spit directly in her face. As well as verbally abused her for as long as she would have been in shouting distance. I am a particulary mean and vicious person with my own ideas of right and wrong. Often these ideas differ from social norms. I, like you, live in NYC and find myself in situations like this all the time. I am always looking for a fight. The subway is a great place to find people that deserve to get there ass handed to them. I recall one instance where a black guy was giving a woman half his size a problem, threatening her to the point she screamed for him to leave her alone, which did not deter him. He kept right on. Well to make a long story short. I put him in his place. I am a martial artist with no use for restraint. I dont look like a tough guy so bullies tend to disreguard my prescence in situations like this. To be honest I love every minute of it. I sometimes ride the train through harlem in the hopes one of these dirtbags decides to start something with me. In a sense I may be considered a vigilante. But the fact is I am more of a sociopath. A fetishist. A sadist. Deep down I am a good person. Yet I do so enjoy hurting people. This conflict forces me to seek out those that I deem deserving of my vicious intent. Hoodlums, liars, thieves. Anyone that doesnt obey the rules. I put one man to sleep for not letting me off the train before he forced himself on the train. NYC has no shortage of scum. I wouldnt have it any other way.

PCM said...


But I guess I should be honored that Batman, the Dark Knight, is reading my blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I just googled "is it illegal to let the air out of a tire?" and found your blog.

I, too, am guilty of vigilante justice this evening. Except I got most of the air out of the tire. Believe me, many in the neighborhood will be grateful tomorrow.

It took a long time, though. A rat darted out from under the vehicle while I was doing it. Ew. But I was determined.

(Violent Spit Man up there scares me, though.)


Daisy in LIC.

PCM said...


You can't just join the darkside and not tell why!

What were the circumstances?

Details... We need details!

And lucky for us it's not illegal!

And don't miss my follow-up post on letting the air out of car tires here.

Kym said...

why didn't you politely tap on her window, get her to put the window down and then grabbed the phone and thrown it away? or similar. I don't think letting down the tire was a good then to do.

PCM said...

She was not going to roll down her window for me. Would you have?