Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Excitement of the Wrong Kind

I've been thinking a lot lately about the dangers of living in a big city. It has been on my mind because my mom is planning a trip to bring my grandma out here to visit us and the big city of Boston. However, one thing I know she worries about is being safe here in the city.

Of course, this is somewhat justified - there are evil people out there who want to do bad things to us. But mostly, I consider her fear as coming from being in an unfamiliar setting. (And legitimately so – part of culture shock is not being able to read the cultural clues to determine what is a threatening situation. And she has never lived in a big city.) But the thing about being in a new culture is that once you live with it for awhile, you become more comfortable in it. We have found that our standard of a “safe neighborhood” has changed even since we moved here.

I do take precautions, though. I always zip up my purse. I never talk on my cell phone while walking (you may feel safer, but you're less aware of what's going on around you). I try to walk confidently and with purpose towards a destination. But yes, mom, I go out after dark by myself.

However, this evening I gained a new piece of information about being safe in the city. Now I know what purse snatchers look like!

Tonight after visiting a friend, I walked down to our neighborhood Whole Foods. On the way back, I passed one or two people, but the third one was a little odd looking. Usually when passing people on the street, I try to look at their faces; but I couldn’t make out the face of this one approaching me. It looked like he had a scarf covering his whole face.

Then, suddenly, he lunged at me and yanked down hard on my purse with both hands. I was only holding in my hand (rather than under my arm, which I’ve heard is better), but I was holding it tightly. I growl-screamed and looked behind me to see whether or not he had my purse. It all happened so fast, I wasn’t quite sure where I stood! But his hands were empty, and he was running on.

I've heard it said before that bad things are always worse in your imagination than they are in real life. And I think that was true in this case. I had an adrenaline rush for the next few blocks, but by the time I had gotten to the T station, I was laughing and thanking God that I didn’t lose my id, my cell phone, my T pass, my keys, my money, my bank cards, and everything else I carry around with me in that purse! And I was thinking that I will never again carry a purse with a breaking strap. (And Brian says I should say that I won’t ever go walking after dark by myself again too; but well, we’ll see how long that lasts! At least, I won't go walking down that street after dark again.)

Mom, Gramby, Aunts & Sisters? I hope this doesn't scare y'all from coming! I'm really excited about your trip!


Robby said...

My heart beat faster just reading your story! In this instance, I think I agree with Brian. I'm so glad you didn't lose all your stuff--what a hassle. But I'm way more glad that you are okay.

Aly sun said...

Eek. Yes that is frightening. What if he had had a weapon? I got an adrenaline rush just reading your story. Of course we aren't completely safe anywhere. Our house was broken into in the country.

Hope your mom and grandma aren't spooked and have a wonderful time enjoying the city.

Axon L. Parker said...

Oh Mel. You be careful, hear?! I keep wondering when our turn is coming, as Baltimore is fond of muggings. I'm glad to know that it was worse in imagination than in reality though:)

Sarah said...

Ack, another adrenaline rush here reading about yours! I bet the growl-scream helped quite a bit too...

Marianne Elixir said...

I love that your instinct was a growl-scream! You are awesome. I have a funny feeling, that you're a little like me, and surviving this attempted snatch will actually make you MORE comfortable in your city (as now you know what to look for).

Of course, I'm very glad you are safe, your purse didn't get snatched, and that you can laugh about it. You are tough.

Janelle Rispler said...

Good information for an up'n'coming urban mommy. I'm so glad you're safe and so is your purse.

deanna said...

Good, you're safe and didn't even lose your purse. I'm sure sorry you had to have that experience, but you wrote about it very well, which to me is a sign of an adventure that's worth something!

Poppy and Marmee said...

Wow - Mel - we were going to bring you some mace but we found out that we couldn't take it on the airplane. I'm sure this happened so fast that you wouldn't have had time to find the mace unless it was in your hand. Also these snatchers may cover their faces for not being identified and also for not being able to breathe in the mace. Daddy says maybe the mace is for the eyes. Reactions are hard to predetermine; but God was definately watching out for you and gave you a good reaction and result.

sufferingsummer said...

wow. I was basically thinking exactly what Marianne wrote...this would make me more comfortable...sad, but true. I also love that you responded with a growl/scream...that is awesome.

I do walk after dark, though now with kids I do it far less often. Still I like night walks...even purposeless ones but I like you, walk with purpose always. Colin also gave me a little marital arts weapon that you hold in your hand and has two metal points that stick out through your it would hurt no matter where or what you hit...if I don't have that with me I carry my keys with the largest key sticking out between my middle and pointer fingers. I think you are aware and that is a good first defense. There is so much to fear in the world if we let ourselves think too much on it! I hope your family visits too :)
my word verification is "sities"...seemed appropriate!

Melanie said...

I do sorta still get chills when I think of him lunging towards me! Sort of like that feeling I get when an actor jumps onto the screen in a suspense movie. You know it's coming, but you just can't help yourself!

Alysun - I'm so glad he didn't have a weapon! I don't know what I would have done if he had - probably given it to him. As much as I'd hate to lose all that personal information, I'd hate to lose my life more!

Deanna - your response made me laugh so hard!

Mom - I'm quite sure that the scarf was so I couldn't identify him. He also had a hoodie drawn up over his head and his hands in his pockets. I was thinking about that today, and at first, my thought was "I should have realized!" that he had nothing identifiable about him showing. But then, I thought on it more, and I realized - it was 20* out there! The person I passed right before him was so bundled up only her eyes were showing.

I talked to a policeman, and he asked about his shoes. I thought this was interesting - was it because shoes are the least disposable item of clothing we own? Anyway, I didn't notice them!

Also, it's illegal to carry mace in Boston without a permit. And also - it's only useful if you're ready with it.

Summer - interesting. Do you know what this is called? Do you always carry it in your hand when you're walking? I've heard the keys trick, but of course, my keys were tucked away in my purse. Perhaps I'll start carrying them in my coat pocket again.

meg said...

oh Mel - I'm just catching up on blog posts, hooollly dang! This is a major reason why I hate carrying a bag of any kind around a city. I wish I could carry things in my pocket and not have to worry about this sort of thing.
whew. I'm glad you're safe and you didn't have to make a ton of phone calls to cancel or replace things!

Susan-M- said...

Yikes. Although I've never been mugged, my great-uncle was pickpocketed in Europe by some guys that worked in pairs- one fellow distracted him while another picked his pocket. So even if you don't carry a purse to worry about, it's helpful to be aware. Glad that this was an unsuccessful attempt and your quick instincts helped.