I don't like bullies. Since the 1980s I’ve been in the timeshare industry, first as a developer and than as an independent consultant in both the United States and Europe. In my industry—well, probably in every industry—there are lots of bullies.
For a number of years I worked as an expert witness for different attorneys-general in various states, testifying against bullies. I loved it. There was nothing more satisfying than seeing a bully being led into court wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs and seeing him walk out the same way after being convicted in part because of my testimony. Good stuff!
My first case was in Ohio, when I was hired by the Ohio Attorney General’s office to serve as an expert witness in a case involving a company that had scammed money from a lot of people who owned timeshares. The “Oscar Bradley” case involved contacting timeshare owners and telling them that their week was now worth thousands of dollars more than they paid for it (timeshares rarely increase in value), and the Oscar Bradley company could sell the timeshare and make them a lot of money. All you had to do was send them a bunch of money up front. Uh, not a good idea. They were convicted.
I ran into my first bully in Melbourne, Florida in 1964. Family friends had invited me to travel with them from Cape Cod to their home in Florida and spend the month of August with them. If I had known how hot it was going to be, I would have refused. But I was young and stupid, so off I went.
My friend Craig wanted to show me around his neighborhood. Our first stop was the elementary school, which was only a couple of streets away. We were playing on the swings when suddenly he stopped; he looked very nervous.
“What's wrong?” I asked.
“It's Swayzee” he replied, “we need to get out of here.”
Not realizing that Craig feared for our very lives, I took a few more turns on the swings and gave Swayzee enough time to catch up with me.
“Who the f&%k are you?” he politely inquired of me.
Craig replied for me: “Nobody, and we have to go.”
Swayzee didn't think so, and grabbed me from behind and threw me to the ground. As he was introducing my face to his fists, Craig tackled him and knocked him off me. After that Craig and I did the only thing we could do—we ran like hell. I spent the rest of the month peering around corners, trying to avoid Mr. Swayzee.
The next time I met a bully was the following summer in Hyannis. I’d built a shoe shine kit and would walk two blocks to Main Street to spend the evening shining shoes. I remember that I charged a dime, and if the customer wanted a spit shine, it was fifteen cents. Business was brisk back then, and I could pull down at least a dollar a night—on a good night, sometimes two dollars. I would then head off to the penny candy store and spend at least fifty cents buying my favorite candies. Back in those days, penny candy actually cost a penny: Mary Janes, Tootsie Rolls, Necco Wafers, and the long, white tapes with the little dots of candy stuck to them could all be had for that princely sum. If I was particularly flush, I would spend the two cents to get a set of candy lips or a couple of candy cigarettes so I could be a grown-up.
It wasn't long before I attracted the attention of the local bully, whose name was Bimbo. I'm sure that wasn't really his name, but that's what everyone called him; I never did find out his real name. Bimbo would find me and demand that I hand over either my money or my candy. When I refused, Bimbo would put me in a headlock and bang my head into a parking meter until I gave him what he wanted.
Since I liked both my money and my candy, I tried to avoid Bimbo whenever possible. I remember one time when I spotted him coming down Main Street before he saw me. Thinking quickly, I ducked behind the windmill at the Miniature Golf Course and hid there until I saw him saunter by. Business was now over for the night, and I headed home without money or candy. But I did have my dignity, and my head wasn't sore.
When I was in junior high school, the local bullies were named David and John (no last names here). David was the really scary one, and my friends and I were terrified of being caught by David in the woods near my house. We were convinced that he would find us, kill us, and bury our bodies deep in the woods. Turned out we might not have been far off, because in 1999 David was convicted of manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend while aboard a local charter boat. It was big news at the time, but didn't surprise me. In 2005, I read David's obituary in the local paper, and after that I felt it was safe to go back into the woods by my mother's house.
John was the older brother of a friend of mine, Terry. As older brothers sometimes do, he enjoyed beating up on us little kids. I think it was early in high school when two friends of mine and I went looking for Terry to join up with us for Halloween. As we walked up the driveway to the house, we saw John in the upstairs window holding a shotgun. We told him that we were just there to see Terry. He yelled back at us to leave or he was going to blow us away. Okay then, we're outta here. As we turned to run we heard the shotgun go off, and my friend Bruce started yelling. John had shot Bruce with a shell full of rock salt. We took Bruce to the hospital, where a doctor patiently used tweezers to pull the salt pellets out of Bruce's back. From then on, Terry had to come find us.
Yup, I don't like bullies. I don't know how to prevent them from becoming bullies, and I'm not sure how to stop them from bullying, but I do have a suggestion: When you see a bully, beat the crap out of them, even if it takes all of your friends together to do it. If that won't work, then your only option is to go total psycho on the guy. Start waving your arms and growling, let saliva pour out of your mouth, and let your eyes go all helter skelter. Think Charles Manson. Even a bully won't mess with a crazy person.
The only way a bully will leave you alone is if he's more afraid of you than you are of him.