At court, you have to take a number from one of those paper ticket dispensers like they have in bakeries, and then get on line and wait to be called.
On the way to the courtroom, two Russian guys, one bulbous, one viperine, walked down the corridor side-by-side with me. When we got to the courtroom, and it was obvious I was going to the same place, they trotted faster in order to get on line ahead of me. I went to get a number and got on line behind them.
Bulbous guy smirked at me, but then he looked around and realized his mistake. Infuriated, he turned around to me and said "You tricky! You get number first!" I smiled politely and nodded. It galled him that he exerted himself to beat me to the line and yet I would be called first. He looked at the NOW SERVING board, then at me, and said "Gimmie your number!" I looked incredulous and smugly said "No."
Bulbovitch turned to Viperov and said in English "I said to gimmie number and he said no!". Viperov looked at me from under half-closed eyelids and said to Bulbovitch, "Must be a Jew".
In my most booming voice, the one that fills the room without being a scream, I said "WHAT. DID. YOU. JUST. SAY?". Viperov just stared at me. Bulbovitch said "Nawthing, nawthing, nevermine." I said to Bulbovitch, "IT SOUNDED LIKE HE SAID 'MUST BE A JEW'. IS THAT RIGHT?" Some of the other people on line, who were dressed as observant Orthodox Jews turned around to watch. Bulbovitch repeated "Naw, is nawthing," while Viperov tried to look bored.
I had accomplished my goal with these clowns, which was to make sure that shit like this *always* gets called out. Always. But now that the Russians had blinked, it was time to de-escalate and offer them a face-saving olive branch before they started shooting.
"Wow," I said in a somewhat lower voice. "I would have sworn that's what he said. Thanks.". Bulbovitch nodded and turned his back to me. At least he was still ahead of me in line.
I am the author of the book "The Science of Battelestar Galactica", published in October 2010 by Wiley. I am also a contributing editor for Wired Magazine. I write science fiction. I used to work at the American Museum of Natural History. I have worked as a robot programmer for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I have lost $500,000 in US currency. I have done standup comedy. I have walked on the outside ledge of the 72nd floor of the Empire State Building for a radio story. I have designed experiments that have flown on the Space Shuttle. I grew up in a haunted house in Yonkers, NY. I have been on the internet since 1989. I have explained meteorites to David Byrne. I have had Wolf Blitzer steal pizza from me. I have shaken hands with five men who have walked on the moon.