5 Feb

Last night I almost was robbed, and it was a very narrow almost.

This incident comes to me as further proof that New York, as if the entire city was a sentient entity, is trying to make sure I suffer one bad thing for every good thing I enjoy. A couple of weeks ago, on the same day I learn that I’m on a show with two pretty big comedy stars, I get the news that a classmate of mine passed away. Now, last night, this:

The girlfriend and I were on the way home from seeing a free TV taping of a new show comedian Michael Ian Black is doing for the E! network. By sheer luck we got to sit in the front row, ended up sitting right next to Amy Schumer and were literally inches from MIB himself as he got his makeup touched-up. It was a pretty funny and well-written show, and I hope it gets picked up, but it’s not the center of this story. Point is, I was in a pretty good mood up to that point, and enjoying the fact that, simply by living in New York I could enjoy these kinds of things I really like.

We were on the B train headed home. We were seated next to the train door, with me being immediately beside it. As usual, I had my phone out and was checking my Twitter. Now, as we pulled into the Beverly Road stop, I had become aware that there was a guy standing and kind of leaning towards me, but I paid it no mind because I was close to the door, and he was trying to get close to the door, he was just waiting to leave the train.

The train stops, the door opens, and he grabs my phone. Now, some people say when bad shit happens to them, it seems like the world goes into slow motion. I wouldn’t say that’s what happened to me, but some kind of hyper-awareness certainly kicked in. I’m pretty sure my thought in that very instant was “Wow, I was so sure this would never happen to me!” like the badly acted testimonial in some low budget crime safety video.

I guess I should be thankful that, instead of being paralyzed with shock, it was that kind of detached awareness, because it allowed my body to call forth every remaining bit of martial arts and wrestling training left within its stores of flabby muscle memory, and I reached out and grabbed onto his jacket as he tried to run out the door. I held on for dear life, rather surprising myself with my grip strength. I didn’t try to get up and follow him, but rather hoped I could pull him back into the train. That certainly wasn’t going to happen with my biceps, though. It did, however, stop him long enough, as he was wriggling against his own jacket for long enough that by the time he simply took off the jacket and I chased him shouting “THAT’S MY FUCKING PHONE!” someone saw what was happening and grabbed him. Now, in the struggle, either he dropped the phone voluntarily, or the person who grabbed him knocked it out of his hand, because it fell onto the platform floor, and I grabbed it and ran back into the train.

I suppose I should have stayed there to make sure this guy was caught and handed over to the cops, but I guess in those few seconds of grabbing his jacket, I had used up all the “fight” response my brain had, and as soon as the danger to my own property was neutralized, it was pure “flight” from there. I didn’t even see enough to get a great description of either the thief or the guy who caught him, which sucks because I really would like to thank him.

By the time I got back home, I did call the police to let them know about the incident. However, it took what seemed like a half-hour for a car to come, and really the only thing they could do was just notify the station and alert people, so in the end, I am really glad I got to keep my phone, because otherwise, that shit would have been gone for good. I DO have it marked with an ID number thing that the NYPD can track, but that definitely doesn’t guarantee its return.

You might be wondering how I feel after such an incident. Frankly, I feel really dumb. Really, really dumb. Knowing where I live, and knowing the risks of waving around an expensive smartphone near the subway door, I shouldn’t have been so lackadaisical. I SAW the dude leaning towards me, and it was actually kind of obvious. It was bad, sloppy thievery, really, like he was a reject from the Wet Bandits in Home Alone.

I suppose I feel good about myself in that I leapt up and caught him and didn’t passively let him run away with it. I feel bad that I wasn’t the one who stopped him for good, but at least I contributed to the eventual thwarting of the theft. Was it brave of me? I don’t know. I feel like perhaps as soon as I grabbed onto him I should have followed him out and beaten him up. Chances are if he wasn’t fast enough to avoid me grabbing him, he wasn’t fast enough to block a punch, and I know I have some knock-out power in me because I’ve made guys’ noses bleed after accidentally hitting them at half power. But who knows, he could have had a knife on him, or whatever, so maybe it was crazy of me to even try to grab him. I don’t know. How should I feel? Like a dumb, brave guy? I feel like a brave, dumb guy.

Here’s also how crazy I am, though: after the fact, I actually thought how shitty life must be for the guy who tried to take my phone. I legitimately tried to empathize with my attacker. Maybe it was because the girlfriend and I had a conversation earlier the same day about how criminal behavior is caused by things like poverty and lack of access to proper guidance and education, but how do I know that maybe that guy was poor, living some shit life, and he sees me, this white twenty-something with an expensive phone, probably a spoiled trust fund kid for all he knows, and didn’t feel some kind of genuine anger towards me for having a better life than him, and he thought maybe he’d take my meaningless material possession that I was just using to tune out the rest of the world, so he could sell it and do something viscerally important to him like feed himself or his family? How do I know there wasn’t some kind of Robin Hood-like justice to it in his mind and I just foiled his one attempt at victory over what he saw as an unjust world?

Again, I don’t know. That’s something I’ve been trying to do lately, any time I’m involved in some kind of conflict, I try to imagine what the other side’s rationale is, what might cause them to think the way they think. Everyone has their own personal justifications for the way they behave, whether it be an intellectual or philosophical justification, or just something as basic and animal as “I need to eat.” We all know that we all think we are correct. I guess, in the end, theft is a crime, and we have those laws as a reason to keep everyone’s urge to satisfy those animalistic needs in check so they don’t start doing it at other people’s expense. I shouldn’t feel guilty that I kept someone from stealing my shit, but that’s just how I am a lot of the time, wondering how in any situation I might be the one in the wrong.

Overall, I’m still feeling shaken. Shaken on a cosmic level, shaken by knowing that there were conditions in the world that caused that entire ordeal to happen. But, my girlfriend (thank God or whomever else that she didn’t get attacked or hurt), as wonderful as she is, knew to help me self-medicate with some cookies and a bottle of wine to help me get over it.

Bottom line: Bad shit happened, but kinda didn’t, not sure how I should feel about it.

And Dad, if you’re reading this, I know I told you about it kind of dishonestly by saying it happened to “my friend,” but you’ve been dealing with some bad news on your end and I didn’t want to make you worried about me, especially since, in the end, no harm or loss came about. I love you.


2 Responses to “Trauma”

  1. Kristine Ekman 02/05/2011 at 6:22 pm #

    I’ve been there. When I moved to Brooklyn 5 years ago, almost everyone I know had an identical story. My roommate Chris has his cell phone stolen while he was talking on it in front of our apartment. Also have been with someone when they were physically attacked and mugged, and I didn’t have any sort of “calm” reaction. If I’d had a gun, I probably would have used it. I’m sorry that this happened to you, and your reflections are well written. 😉

  2. Leanne 02/08/2011 at 9:48 am #

    ugh. i actually got pick pocketed when i came back to hong kong… i thought i had lost my itouch until i was emailed by the police. they had actually caught the guy 3 days later. i was shocked – that i had actually been notified. from what i saw of the police in NYC, if that had happened there i never would have seen my device again.

    i don’t think you were being silly by sympathizing with the guy, though. that probably just shows that you’re a good person, it’s all too easy to get blindly angry. i never would have run after the guy, either, i would have been too scared of getting attacked.

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