Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's a Good Old Fashioned Mugging

I've had more pepper spray containers than I can count. I have not ever had to use them.

I've been mugged three times.  My boss was talking about how dangerous the city is (!) again the other day as he has a habit of doing with me.  And I always counter with the suburbs are way scarier to me.  At least in the city the danger and crazy is right out in the open.  In the suburbs it's tucked away in garages and basements and sweater vests and Range Rovers.

I LOVE Chicago.  I say it all the time, but it's true.  Things like mugging don't make me want to run away and hide as I know the grass is always greener in the suburbs, right?  Taking the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) trains are a sure fire way to put yourself in harms way.  But if you are careful and smart, it is just fine.  

Have you been mugged yet?  It is something that happens more often to women and, I believe, in big cities it's just expected and honestly doesn't really freak me out. 

Back in the days of wine and roses I put myself in dangerous situations all the time.  And nothing really terrible happened to me that was any worse than what I was doing to myself.  I think I felt like everything that happened to me was my own fault, which to a large extent it was.

But, I did get mugged 3 times.  And that is not my fault.  Nobody gets to come to me and grab my stuff because they don't have what they want or need.  Two of these times happened when I was living in Oak Park, which is a suburb just west of Chicago. 

One of them happened at 10am on a weekday, and this was the scariest one.  I was walking to the CTA blue line train to go to work and a guy jumped out of a doorway that was hidden.  He had a knife.  I calmly gave him my bag as I was taught to do.  I looked him right in the eyes.  He had the knife at my face and then at my throat.  Now, he took my bag.  Which had nothing of great value in it, but it scared me pretty badly. 

Of course I didn't report it because I was just barely hanging on to my own life at that point and wanted nothing more to do with the police than I already had on my own. 

Two other times were unremarkable.  One was on the blue line and again, I gave the guy my bag.  I had learned not to carry all my worldly belongings in one bag at all times due to being relieved of that bag once too often. 

The last time was several years ago and was again pretty straight forward.  Walking home from the train, it was dark out and the guy snuck up on me and grabbed my bag and ran.  People are desperate and want  money.  I get it.  I've been there.  It helps me as a general rule to understand people if I try to see a situation from their view.  Although I never stole a stranger's money, I can easily understand that desperation.  And I'm not sure how my gut knew to stay calm and just hand my bag over, but 9 out of 10 times that is all these desperate people want. And I have an easier time forgiving desperation once I went through it myself.  I looked them all right in the eyes.  I saw it.

Desperate people aren't necessarily bad people, they are just at the end of their rope.  You may think me silly for having such a view, but in the grand scheme of things, I cannot afford the luxury of holding onto anger or resentment.  I have to let that shit go.  And trying my best to see where desperate people are coming from helps me do that.  They didn't hurt me.  They stole from me. 

I had a conversation with one of my dear friends Dana recently and she said something to the effect of "People who do terrible things still don't think they are bad people".  And that has stuck in my head since she said it.  It's pretty profound.  With so much evil in the world, even the most evil doers don't think they bad people.  They think what they are doing is justified somehow.  Seriously.  That is some profound shit right there.  I did terrible things when I was an active alcoholic.  Terrible.  But would I have said at that time that I was a bad person?  No, I wouldn't have.

I'm fortunate.  Nothing really happened to me.  I'm grateful it hasn't happened for a long time and hope it doesn't ever again.  But I am ever vigilant.  I am constantly aware of my surroundings.  I don't ever completely trust people around me. 

My brother is a Police Officer and he is someone I admire so much for his vigilance and constant awareness to protect people around him. He was one of those kids who would dream of protecting my mom and me from dragons and bad guys.  He would have night terrors about it.  And that fierce protectiveness now translates into his job but he's never really off the job when it comes to protecting people.  It never stops.  He knows that people are not always what they seem, for different reasons than I have learned, but we both have a general unease in large groups.  Andy is also not someone who scolds.  He tries to help.  And that to me is the hallmark of a successful public servant and a man.  I am impressed by him.  I am not as extreme, but I do notice that my guard is rarely down. 

When I think about it I haven't let my guard down for years.  Watch your back in every situation.  And ultimately, isn't that a metaphor for life?  Never let your guard down.  People do continue to surprise me in a good way, but rarely in a bad way.


  1. I love Chicago, too. I think maybe I should move there. I probably would, if it weren't for these 3 pesky kids and one super-sweet hubs. ;)
    Can't wait for my next visit. I'll be knocking on your door. (Only if I'm invited, of course. I'm not a stalker. I swear.)

  2. I love good old fashioned muggings. I'm actually shocked I was never mugged, thinking about all the nights I would stumble home to my apartment, alone in my 20's.

    It's crazy it happened twice in Oak Park- when we lived there we actually had more bad shit happen to us than when I lived in the city. The idea of being able to justify pretty much any action is a powerful one, isn't it?

  3. I'm a suburbs girl, and cities, mass transit and muggings are all kinda terrifying to me. I admire your ability to handle them so calmly.

    "...I cannot afford the luxury of holding onto anger or resentment."

    I love this line because I feel the same way. It hurts me to be angry. It seeps into my being and affects all that I do. It can be hard to forgive people when something bad happens, but, oh, it is so much easier to breathe once it's truly in the past.

  4. My mom was mugged like, once a month on the CTA for ten years. Ah, Chicago, good times.

  5. Wow....Just wow. Yeah, you might know some shit. ;) what a beautiful post for a beautiful time, and identification of desperation is an amazing emotion! <3 you!