Back during my days as a personal trainer, I had a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. It was within walking distance to my job, a convenience, to be sure. Unfortunately, trainers rarely rake in mega-bucks, so having a roommate turned out to be an impractical necessity. I went through several, male and female, before my position improved to the point that I could afford a larger, nicer place all on my own.
For purposes of this anecdote, one of these roommates we will refer to as “Smith”. I don’t remember what Smith did for a living, but I do recall him being in his early twenties, perhaps 5’10” and 180 lbs., and a bit of a party animal. He would often go out after work and come home at three or even four o’clock in the morning – especially on weekends.
One week, I found myself suffering with an incurable case of insomnia. It was a first for me, and finding myself staring at the clock all night was hell. I’d tried everything, from reading to watching TV to counting proverbial sheep, all to no avail. In my third night of sleeplessness, I found myself laying there with my Walkman on (yes, we had tape players back then) listening to a soft rock radio station in the hopes of conking out.
Eventually, I got up to get a drink of water. It was still pitch-black out, but I knew the layout of the apartment well enough that, even without my contact lenses, I could navigate to and from the kitchen without fear. As I was leaving the kitchen, I noticed that the security chain on the apartment door wasn’t in place. I checked the time; it was five-thirty in the morning and, after listening outside my roommate’s door, decided, “It’s Tuesday night; he must be home and out cold.” I reasoned that he had work in the morning – surely no sane human being would be out at such an hour.
Oh, how wrong I was.
I went back to bed and put on my headphones. A few minutes later, there was an incredibly loud crash, coupled with a vibration that shook the entire apartment. Even with my headphones on, I knew that someone had just kicked in the door to my apartment.
Like a switch being flipped, my brain went into what I call, “Terminator mode”. A voice in my head said, with surprising calmness, “Intruder. Kill him.”
I sprang out of bed, flung open the door to my bedroom, and rushed out into the living room. Not fifteen feet away, a would-be burglar stood in the apartment doorway. He was backlit by the hallway light, a menacing silhouette. I wasted no time and charged. I was on him in a heartbeat and wrapped both my hands around his neck. With a strength that surprised even me, I picked him up by the throat and held him in the air, choking the life out of him.
The intruder struggled desperately, and kept trying to speak. Eventually, the choked words, “Max . . . it’s me! Max, it’s . . . me!” made their way through my adrenaline-laced fog. I lowered my adversary down until his face was close to mine and squinted. It was Smith! I mumbled something like, “Oh . . .” put him down, patted his head like he was a dog, and went back into my room. I fell asleep in seconds.
In the morning, Smith was chattering away hysterically. He kept telling me, “My God, it was like the Frankenstein monster coming after me! That was the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life!” Apparently, the poor bastard had come home, found himself locked out, and started banging on the door. In my room, door closed, and with headphones on, I couldn’t hear him. Of course, there was a payphone downstairs and he could’ve just called. I had a phone right next to my bed (no cell phones back then). Apparently, that was too much effort for his slightly-intoxicated brain, and he settled for kicking open the door (turns out the sissy chain was anchored in the molding, a problem I resolved immediately).
Even though it was all a misunderstanding, Smith was now terrified of me and announced he was moving out forthwith. Within a few days, he was gone. I went through two roomies after that, one of whom was mentioned in my tell-all, “Memoirs of a Gym Rat”. Neither of them lasted very long (meaning they moved out, and no, I didn’t throttle either of them).
On a positive note, at least I know that, when danger looms, I’m not one of those people who hides under the bed or cowers in fear. A man’s home truly is his castle. And if you invade mine rest assured I’m coming at you, sword (or perhaps something far more creative) in hand. So think twice.
Or better yet, call first!