The time was 1998. Bill Clinton was president. Mike Piazza had just become a Met. Savage Garden wanted to stand with all of us on a mountain. I had just completed my first semester at Cal and was back living at my parents' house in Pleasant Hill. Best friend and future roommate Aaron "Bin Lloyden" Vinson was attending his UC Berkeley orientation, called CALSO, the day after his high school graduation. I got a page from him around 9 that night. Not surprisingly to those who know Aaron, or who knew he'd been at Grad Night until the wee hours of the morning, he'd fallen asleep in his temporary dorm room once he'd been properly oriented. Would I like to come to Berkeley and hang out, he wondered.
We met up, and decided to wander around campus. Very little at Berkeley is locked up. You can usually look at the T. Rex in the Valley Life Sciences Building, or throw a frisbee on the field at Memorial Stadium any time of night. Our meanderings took us to the Greek Theatre, where a wide-open gate swung invitingly.
There was no show that night, though it looked like one was imminent because of the guys driving forklifts around on the stage. Aside from them, it was completely empty in the Theatre. It's a shame that so many Cal students miss out on Berkeley in the summer, easily the nicest time of year, and this night was no exception. We sat on the grass and talked about cognitive science, school, and our plans for the upcoming semester for hours. The roadie-type guys below kept racing the forklifts, sounding more and more drunken, but we didn't pay much attention until we tried to leave.
When we walked down to the place we'd come in, we were met by one of the roadies. His eyes were red, and he had a dog at his side.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he asked us. He refused to believe that the gate had been left open and ordered us to leave "the way you came in", indicating the top of the gate. The dog was barking, the roadie-type guy was angry, and we retreated hastily, fuming at the ill treatment we were receiving. We notched a moral victory as the clearly-unlocked gate swung open upon first touch, but we didn't look back.
As we walked down the hill, I seethed. That drunken roadie-type guy had ruined a wholly pleasant evening with his bullying. Who did he think he was, bossing us around and accusing us of trespassing? Worse than the anger I was feeling was the helplessness; that the roadie-type guy had pushed us around and there was nothing we could do about it. Or was there? I had an idea.
We stopped at Top Dog so Aaron could get a root beer, both for refreshment and laugh-disguising purposes. Then I used one of Berkeley's omnipresent blue security phones to call the UCPD. Within minutes, a fresh-faced young officer was there to take a statement. I told the story just as it had happened, up to the point when the roadie-type guy had begun yelling. Then, I added a small fabrication.
"The guy told us we had better go out the way we came in," I told the cop. "And then he..." Here, I paused to take a deep breath. Aaron clutched his root beer and avoided eye contact. I continued. "Then he said, 'Get out of here right now, or I'm gonna grab your dick, you little bastard.'" I paused again to let it sink in. "So, you know, we got out of there. I'm pretty sure that guy was drinking."
The cop looked befuddled. Even in Berkeley, a terrorist threat regarding dick-grabbing was not an everyday occurrence. He appeared sympathetic, but told me, "You know, I'm not sure we're really dealing with a crime here. I could maybe charge him with disturbing the peace... well, disturbing your peace... I'm not sure what to say. I could talk to him, though."
I nodded gratefully. I didn't want to press charges, I told him. I'm sure the guy just had a bit too much to drink. "I just don't want someone else to, you know, get their dick grabbed or something like that", I explained. Aaron nearly spat out his root beer.
The cop shook our hands, and headed up the hill. With any luck, the roadie-type guy would get really pissed off at the dick-grabbing accusations. Maybe he'd yell. Maybe he'd have to stop racing the forklifts. Maybe he'd even take a swing at the cop. The only thing we knew for sure was that we were getting the hell out of Berkeley once the cop was out of sight, after giving him two phony numbers.