It could have been worse, if you're inclined to be philosophical about it, and Todd Fisher is so inclined. In fact, he was philosophical within minutes after he realized what had happened yesterday morning. This is owing to the fact that he survived cancer. As he says: "I've already had my brush with mortality."
Fisher survived testicular cancer, a kind of cancer that might have been fatal had he had it 10 years earlier. "I'm living in Golden Time," Fisher says. "That's what the half-dozen or so guys in my group used to call it. We realized the cancer we had was not curable until 10 years ago. We used to say, 'Ten years ago and we'd have all been dead.' That means we're really living in Golden Time. I was diagnosed March 1990. I was in Philadelphia at the time. I had surgery and four months of chemotherapy. I've been in Golden Time ever since."
Yesterday morning around 11, Fisher's lucky-to-be-alive attitude was put to the test.
He was driving from his home in Lutherville to work on TV Hill, in the Woodberry section of North Baltimore. Fisher is program director at Variety 104.3, the former B-104 FM station now offering adult contemporary music. Fisher is 28. He drives a 1989 maroon Volkswagen Jetta with a car phone.
"That's not quite a Yuppie-mobile," I tell him. "I had you made for a yup, with a Beamer or Mercedes."
"No," Fisher says. "My car is no big deal."
He came off the Jones Falls Expressway, headed west on Cold Spring Lane, made a left turn onto Greenspring Avenue. The car phone rang. It was a friend calling from Texas. Fisher spoke and listened through the car phone intercom. That's when he heard the noise.
"For a split second, I thought, 'That sounded like a gunshot,' " he says. "It was a loud pop. I didn't lose control of the car. I didn't feel anything. I didn't see anything. I thought maybe I had hit something."
He pulled into the parking lot at the radio station and got out of the car. That's when he noticed the bullet hole. It was just below the window of the rear passenger door. The hole was the size of a half-dollar.
Fisher called the police to make a report. Two Northern District officers arrived and examined the hole. They speculated that it had been made with a single .22-caliber round. The bullet did not penetrate the interior of the car.
"The officers were expedient," Fisher says. "They took a report. I'm not saying their attitude was bad or anything. It was just that there was nothing they could do about it."
The officers suggested that someone had fired a shot at Fisher's car from the tree-covered hill at Cold Spring and Greenspring. "The kids used to throw rocks," one of the officers told Fisher. "Then they were shooting BBs. Then they had pellet guns. Now they have semiautomatic 9 millimeters."
The police can be forgiven if they reacted less than excitedly. There are no surprises in Baltimore anymore, not when it comes to guns. The only surprise is when and where they do their damage.
Monday night, while Todd Fisher slept soundly at his home in Baltimore County, an 11-year-old girl was wounded in the back during another wild street shooting in West Baltimore. At least 13 shots were fired after a red Nissan 300-ZX pulled into the intersection of Riggs and Arlington avenues and three men got out and opened fire with semiautomatic handguns.
"At first it didn't hit me," Fisher says of his incident. "It really didn't sink in till later that I could have been shot."
It could have been worse, if you are inclined to be philosophical about it.
The gunman could have aimed directly at Fisher's head. Or the gunman, intending only to put a bullet hole in the rear passenger door, might have flinched, sending the bullet through a window.
An hour or so after the shooting, Fisher was whacking racquetballs in a game with his boss, Jim Fox.
"I would have been a mess had that happened to me," I tell him.
"I've already been through a lot, I guess," Fisher says. "I went through all the why me's when I had cancer." So, he didn't need a bullet hole in his car to make him feel lucky to be alive. He already felt that way.
What happened to Todd Fisher was a relatively minor incident in the grand scheme of city life. But it is symbolic of the wicked randomness of gun violence. In this instance, it reached where it was not expected. It reaches the streets of West Baltimore all the time. It sent an 11-year-old girl to the hospital Monday night. There's a lot for Todd Fisher, and all the rest of us, to be philosophical about, including the fact that we're not kids trying to grow up on city streets infested with drug dealers.