Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Give me your money."

TW armed robbery

About two hours ago (11:50pm) I was mugged at gunpoint in Philadelphia. I am safe and unharmed. Only $40 was stolen, I was only threatened and not attacked, and I'm fortunate it was nothing more -- both my phone and credit cards were not taken.

The guy was clumsy. He did a poor job getting my attention, approaching me from behind. I had been on the phone, and at some point he took the phone from me and turned it off, holding it in his hand. There was something strangely human in it, watching him do this thing we all do (ending a phone call).

Once he did and told me to give him my wallet, at first I was incredulous: "For real, you're robbing me?" At which point he waved his gun and said he wasn't fucking around. I was struck by how calm I remained through it, and how agitated he was. He kept demanding my wallet, which I calmly demonstrated was an object not on my person (I only carry an ID, credit card, and small amount of cash). I could see through his eyes the situation, how he was taking this huge risk of armed robbery and coming up disappointingly short, and it was bordering on comical to me. When he disengaged, he unconvincingly told me to run. I didn't, but walked away briefly before turning around to try to follow him as he fled the scene.

I was genuinely surprised he gave me my phone and cards back. He probably didn't want to risk getting tracked. In a strange way, I appreciated that. He wasn't trying to ruin my life, just nick some quick cash off a target. It felt almost like a business transaction, except clumsy and vaguely threatening. I feel hugely grateful I didn't have to add the fear of sexual assault on top of the experience. I am really, really lucky.

The whole experience felt more like a nuisance, a disappointing experience of Philadelphia, rather than a deeply traumatic experience. I almost didn't call the cops because so little damage was actually done, but then decided to in case he could be stopped from committing further crimes. The police were on the scene within minutes, picked me up and then scoured the area. It was impressive how quick their response time was, and it was a whole fleet of cars working in unison combined (briefly) with a helicopter search. For all the shit we give police forces about everything they do wrong (and there are plenty legitimate grievances to be sure), they certainly had their act together in responding here. Perhaps that partially had to do with white male privilege, but in this case I'll take it.

I was pleased with how I handled the situation, but it wasn't flawless. I'd give myself an 80% at best. I remained calm and under control, calculating my risk of fighting back versus complying. But, I was walking distracted late at night, and I know better there, and didn't assertively defend certain items (like allowing him to take the phone out of my hand). I don't like that he could've walked off with information that could've led to identity theft. I could tell the guy was all bluster, I could've defended myself better.

During the line of information gathering from one of the police officers, he asked me where I was walking from. I had been on a 45 minute walk, enjoying the night air, to get home. I informed him I was coming from downtown, about 30 minutes away, to which he exclaimed, "You WALKED?!" Call me a naïve Pacific Northwest hippy, apparently it's unheard of to enjoy a nighttime walk through sketchy parts of Philadelphia. It's moments like these that make me realize I'm a full-blown Polyanna when it comes to concerns about "sketchy neighborhoods" or fear of crime. We'll see how this event impacts that spirit, up to now I've generally believed that life is too short to be afraid of it and I'll just deal with the consequences when they come to me. I hope this event doesn't make me fearful of walking at night, I quite enjoy having that freedom and liberty.

I'm feeling lucky to be alive and mostly unaffected by a situation that could've turned devastating very quickly.