One recent Sunday, shortly after eight, I loaded Pere Ubu’s Cloudland on my MP3 player and left my Andersonville apartment to go for a run. I always begin my route along a light-industrial stretch of Ravenswood, which is usually deserted. I value the solitude because my sinus problems entail loud snorting and hawking for the first 15 or 20 minutes of any aerobic exercise. I’ve never joined a running club because I’m too self-conscious about the disgusting noises I make while warming up.

Ten minutes down the road the snot situation was so bad I had to stop and bend over to get some serious esophageal rummaging out of the way. I was thus preoccupied when someone began pummeling me, rather ineffectually, between the shoulder blades. In the time it took me to straighten up and turn around, my brain assayed a semireasonable explanation for what my back was feeling–perhaps a misguided Samaritan was trying to help me clear my passageways–but that hypothesis evaporated the instant I saw my assailant: a tiny middle-aged woman who would have been the picture of mousy Birkenstock propriety had her face not been contorted with righteous wrath.

I took off my headphones. “Madam?”

“That’s right!” she shouted, then turned away and walked off down the street.

After a little more spitting, I resumed my run, quickly overtaking the woman. Hearing me approach, she turned around, placed herself directly in my path, and raised her arms. Although her combat stance looked distinctly unpracticed and I outweighed her by at least 70 pounds, her eyes said “Bring it on.”

I detoured off the curb and into the street. “There are laws against this kind of behavior, you mad bitch,” I said as I passed, giving her a wide berth.

“Arrest me,” she said, taking a final swipe in the general direction of my head.