Friday, August 13, 2010

An Inconvenient Experience

I preface this with a note that I am not writing this for sympathy or accolades. I am writing this to process my feelings.

The other night I had the unfortunate experience of being mugged. Take a minute and think about what it is to be mugged and I will tell you my story. You can see how it matches up.

I work in a sketchy area. It's part professional, part drug-infested, part homeless. On any given day, you'll see the range. You'll see the lawyers - mostly dodgy women in their mid-calf skirt suits; men with their briefcases and cheap shoes. You'll see the homeless begging you for change, most of whom stand themselves on opportune corners calling out as you pass by. You'll even counter the random hostile who'll shout "'Po-Ass-Bitch!" when you reply that you don't have a quarter to spare. Whatever, all in a day, right?

I left work on Tuesday and headed to the BART, just like every other night. The sun was bright but the air was cool with the onset of the fog. I ran the gauntlet - that stretch of sidewalk from my office building to the BART station - that section where I am never quite sure what I might encounter. I made it to the BART entrance and descended the stairs into the station and, upon reaching the flat, opened up my purse to grab my BART ticket. I remember thinking how convenient it was that the ticket was right on top; I didn't have to dig and fish around in my purse to find that dark blue envelope. I noticed the guy walking towards me but didn't think twice about it. He was headed for the escalator next to the stairs I just went down. This is a BART station. People come and go all the time. That's the nature of public transportation. And as I took that five seconds to look down and grab my BART cards, this punk decided to try grab my purse.

Let me be a little more precise. That punk tried to rip my purse right off my arm. Unfortunately for him, I had a firm grip on it myself and my feisty instinct took over. There was no way in hell I was going to allow this punk to steal my purse. I don't know why. I know what they say - let the guy have whatever and just get away to be safe. But, in that instant, that never even crossed my mind.

I saw red. There was no way I was going to let this punk steal my purse if I could help it and I grabbed on. I grabbed on to whatever I could of him and I refused to let go. I don't know how it all went down specifically. All I know is that I was pissed and I wasn't going to let him go if I could help it. I heard a rip of his sweatshirt. And then I heard another. He was trying to break free and dragging me around in the process. My shoes went flying off and I'm sure it must've been a spectacular sight. But but I still held on. Eventually he escaped my grasp and fled up the stairs.

Immediately the tears started flowing. I didn't mean to. I'm not sure I even realized it. It was one of those weird experiences where instinct prevailed on all accounts. The fighting back. The crying.

Just as the dirtbag fled, the station agent came out of the break room, lunch sack in hand, probably from eating his dinner. My belongings were scattered and I sobbed as I crawled around to gather them up.

One of my co-workers, one of my cube-mates actually, came down the stairs just in time to witness the chaos, to see me crying, crawling around picking up my things. He's this young, fresh out of college Indian guy. He was so sweet. He offered to stay with me and refused to leave when I insisted I was "fine". But the thing that I think about was how he kept asking me to "please stop crying". Three times I think he asked. And I kept telling him that I was trying, but the tears just wouldn't stop.

The cops came. I gave them a description. I told them what was missing from my wallet. Thankfully it was only the cash and my commuter checks. The dirtbag dropped my wallet and he didn't get my license (which of course has my home address), or any of my credit cards. I recounted the incident and just wanted to go home. Could I please go home now? My kids were there without a babysitter - I had called her to say I was on my way and she could head out.

No - I couldn't go home. The cops thought they might have caught the guy, so I had to stick around to ID him. At first I thought I couldn't. I had a description; felt super confident in it. But ID the guy? Not sure I could, much less have the strength in me. But it wasn't up to me. They drove me over a few blocks to where they apprehended a "suspect". Cops were everywhere. They had this guy, were holding him and made me look at him. And, FLASH, it was him. They sealed it when they searched him and he had my commuter checks and cash, but also receipts from things I'd purchased since last I cleaned out my wallet.

From there I finally got home. The cops were so nice. I thought they'd drop me off at the nearest BART station, but instead they drove me all the way to my car.

My neighbor, the sweetest person ever, came over to hang with the kids after I realized that I was going to be seriously delayed in getting home. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine once I put the kids to bed which was exactly what I needed.

All things considered, this really was an inconvenient experience. I could've been knived, shot or beaten in my attempt to save my purse. My wallet could've ended up in the hands of a dirtbad who would then know my name and address from my driver's license. I could've spent days trying to recover lost credit cards, driver's license and whatever other personal stuff I carry around day-in and day-out. But it didn't happen and I am lucky for that.

Now I just have to deal with that sense of insecurity. Can I walk to BART by myself? Is that person walking quickly towards me going to try to attack me? Am I going to have to testify against this guy, or will he plead out? I don't know, but I know that I am lucky and this really was just an inconvenient experience.
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