I hereby confess that I committed a crime in New York with a can of French Onion Soup. I don’t feel badly about my crime. In fact, it makes me smile every time I think of it. I was sound asleep in my apartment with no thoughts of committing a crime, when at 3AM I was jolted awake by the sound of throbbing music shaking the whole building. The pounding of the base went on and on and it was impossible to sleep.
I got up, got dressed and left my apartment to search for the sound. As soon as I went into the hallway, I was immediately accosted by a large muscular tenant demanding to know if that was my music. I let him listen at my door to prove the sound was not emanating from my apartment. Satisfied, the large man stormed off searching every floor of the building to try to find the sound. But unlike the large tenant, I soon came to realize that the sound was coming from outside the building. The back stairwell of my building had frosted windows, which the landlord had illegally nailed shut. Through these windows I could clearly hear the throbbing sounds from outside.I went back to my apartment, got a hammer, and returned to the back stairs. I used the hammer to pull out the nails and open one of the windows.
In another building across the street, almost a block away, I saw an amazing site. In an upper story apartment there were two 5 foot tall stereo speakers , facing outward. They were sitting in an open window, blasting their sounds to the entire neighborhood. From other apartment windows up and down the block, people were screaming obscenities and yelling for the music to be turned off. There was a man in the apartment with the speakers and he seemed completely oblivious to the screams of his neighbors. The man was standing looking out the window while drinking tea (or maybe coffee) from a porcelain cup. He had a smile on his face, like all the world was enjoying his music. I could see all this clearly, since every light in his apartment was on, and he had no curtains.
No one, including me, called the police. Crime in New York was very high in those days, and everyone knew the police were not going to respond to a call about loud music. I decided it was time for direct action. I returned to my apartment and got a carton of eggs. Perhaps if I could throw an egg and hit one of the speakers the smiling man would get the hint that 3AM was not the time to share your tunes with the world.
I stood in the window of the back stairwell and tossed one egg after another with no luck. No matter what I did, I could not throw one far enough to hit the other building. One by one the eggs fell onto the empty street below.
I returned to my apartment defeated. The throbbing music continued and sleep remained impossible. Then, on the shelf over the stove, I saw the solution. A can of French Onion soup. Unlike an egg, a can of soup would have enough weight for me to throw it an entire block. If I could toss the can in a wide arc, it may just be able to knock a speaker off the windowsill, and back into the smiling man’s apartment. That would surely convince him that it was time to turn off the music.
Throwing a can of soup to an upper window a city block away is quite an athletic feat. Doing that while hitting a target the side of a stereo speaker required the accuracy of a major league baseball pitcher.
I took a running start and threw the French Onion soup can with all my might. It went in a high fast arc, right to the apartment. It almost hit the speaker, but it was sailing too far to the left. It missed the speakers, but did hit the window just left of the speakers. The soup can was moving with such force that it shattered the glass and flew into the smiling man’s apartment. Shocked at this turn of events, I ran out of the stairwell and back to my apartment before the smiling man could turn and get a glimpse of me. Less than a minute after I returned to my apartment, the throbbing music stopped, never to return.
Does this story have a moral? That’s hard to say. Is it about vigilante justice, annoying neighbors, or simply the impulsive passions of youth? This incident took place may years ago and I don’t think I could make that shot with the can again if I tried a hundred times.
Today I am much more mature. I would not throw a can of of soup. I might call the police hoping they would take action. More likely, I would probably just put up with the noise trying to turn the other cheek and not let the rudeness of others bother me. These are the mature adult things to do.
But back then I was not a mature adult. I was young and strong and there was no middle ground to any of my feelings. I either passionately loved or hated whatever was around. I hated the smiling man with the teacup and his loud music. I felt that justice had been served when his window got smashed. Today that kind of fury and passion seems as far away as the forgotten sound from the smiling man’s speakers. Today there is just the silence of the soup. Life is a lot easier without that type of instant anger. Still, there are times I miss the instant strength, clarity and sense of purpose that once could be summoned on a moments notice.
Perhaps the best moral of the story is quote from Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who in 1931 said, “youth is the most beautiful thing in this world – and what a pity it has to be wasted on children.”