About a year ago, I had an experience that I believe christened my New York life. I was mugged.
I had just stepped out of my building to head to the subway to meet friends. A young man (like, 15 years old) came up behind me and asked me what time it was… I pulled my phone out and he reached over my shoulder and snatched it out of my hand. I was absolutely confounded. My neighborhood is pretty safe… and it was light out… and there were people around. I thought it was a joke. I actually shouted to him, “Are you serious?!” He turned around and looked at me and then took off running. And I chased him. Screaming bloody murder. (Seriously, I don’t think I could replicate the sounds I made… it was like the auditory form adrenaline).
Now, everyone (including all of the officers at the precinct) told me I was a complete crazy person for chasing him as he could have been armed and could have killed me. Over a fucking iPhone. But in that moment, my instinct was to fight. I chased him for a couple of blocks until I realized there was no way I was going to be able to keep up with a 6′ tall teenager. I stood at a corner, panicked… my neighbors came down to comfort me, telling me they heard me screaming and called 911.
An embarrassing amount of cop cars arrived (white girl screaming in Harlem- send help!) and eventually my phone was recovered. Shattered, but recovered.
I learned a lot from this experience. I learned that my neighborhood is pretty amazing and though it doesn’t always feel that way, there is a strong sense of community. I learned to be more guarded, even when I feel safe. But I also learned that I’m a pretty tough cookie. I wasn’t scared… not once. I wasn’t calm, that’s for sure… I was running and screaming and flailing my arms like a junkie. But I wasn’t scared. I was pissed.
I guess I perceive myself as being a relatively fearful person. I mean, I was scared of the dark for a freakishly long time. But I’m not scared. I’m actually not scared of much at all. The unknown is unsettling, sure… but scary? Nah. I’m also not good at being a victim. It just doesn’t suit me.
Blog song title: “Come Out Fighting” by Pennywise
Photo credit: my very kind roommate