This is a true story.
It’s all about how knowing people and having friends can really make a difference. And not only in the “I feel good about myself because people like me” sense.
No, I’m talking about basic survival.
And it’s also about how treating people with respect and dignity, even if you are uncomfortable being around them, can pay off with tremendous results. It’s about making a good impression on someone. That’s the DIFF in this case. You really never know when your actions will come back to haunt you, or in this instance, save you.
So, here’s my story.
I’m not making this up. It happened many years ago. My friend Ian can vouch for the story. He was there.
This crazy story happened one evening when I was hanging out in Downtown Detroit with Ian. We were standing around near Nikki’s Pizza (something we did a lot back then, as did many other students at Detroit’s Cass Tech High School). What happened next is something I’ll never forget (and neither will Ian).
So there we were, hanging out, looking for some of our friends, when suddenly about 10-15 really scary looking guys came around the corner. We were in trouble and it didn’t take growing up in Detroit to tell us so. These guys weren’t playing around. They were straight up gangsters. And they weren’t being nice.
“Oh. Oh. What we got here? Looks like someone in the wrong place at the wroooooong time.”
“Whatchu doin here? Why you in our city?”
“How much money you got on you?”
There was nothing we could do. We both stood there without saying a word, keeping our heads up but not directly looking at anyone. We knew better than to look down. Then you don’t even see the punch coming. Better to keep you head up and block as much as you can before you’re taken down.
We were going down.
Then it happened.
From the back of the group a guy says “Hey. Don’t you know Ron J.?”
Without hestitation I said “Yeah. Yeah, I know Ron J.”
I did know Ron J.
Well, if you can believe this (and I know it’s hard to believe), the guy who recognized me had hung out with me two years earlier with a mutual friend named Ron J. Ron J. went to high school with me and we hung out all the time. It’s just that Ron J. lived near 8 mile and his boyhood friends were members of the 8 Mile and Schaefer Posse. They didn’t play and they didn’t follow the rules, but they were his friends. And yup, that’s the same 8 Mile that Eminem rapped about.
So anyway, one day I was hanging out with Ron J. and we drove to his neighborhood and picked up some of his friends and hung out. I had pretty much nothing in common with them and hanging out with them made me more than a little uneasy, but they were cool with me because I was friends with Ron J. In fact, the same one that recognized me that day told me that he had never hung out with "someone like you" before. My day with them ended when they started talking about stealing cars. Ron J. said: “Clayton ain’t getting involved in this. That ain’t him.” And then he dropped me off and I went home.
The next time I saw the 8 Mile Posse was the day in front of Nikki’s.
As soon as they recognized me, their demeanor and speech changed instantly. “This is my boy. He’s cool,” said the guy who recognized me.
Then the 8 Mile Posse gave us play (shook our hands) and told us to let them know if anybody messed with us that night.
“You tell them 8 Mile has got your back and come find us. We’ll be down here all night” they said as they walked away.
Ian and I looked at each other and Ian said “I don’t know what just happened but thank you.”
Yeah, don’t ever tell me it isn’t all about who you know and who likes you.