discarded lies: saturday, december 20, 2014 7:18 pm zst
It debones your anchovies
daily archive: 09/17/2008
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How To Not Get Mugged
You actually cannot avoid getting mugged. If somebody is determined to take your wallet at the threat of your life, you must give up the wallet. No matter how large and powerful you may be, there is always some person or some combination of persons who are stronger.

What you can do is determine the venue.

Here are some simple rules:

Trust your instincts. If you feel endangered, you are.

Have no shame about acting oddly – Run if you feel threatened; run down the middle of the street; and scream. The worst that can happen is that some handful of people will find you eccentric. The best is that you may preserve your life.

Walk with confidence but not cockiness. Pay attention to other peoples on the street. When I lived in Baltimore and Boston, I always knew what each other pedestrian was about. In NYC, a far safer place, you cannot possibly deal with the volume of pedestrians – but I sometimes pick out a few to give attention to.

What is the best venue in which to get mugged? Make it as public as possible. The middle of the street is vastly superior to the sidewalk. Under a traffic-light is probably as good as you can do. Make the mugger come to your choice of venue.

Here are a pair of stories where I was not mugged.

I was in my late 20’s auditing a company located at ~23rd and Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore– when Greenmount was incredibly dangerous below 27th St. One evening, I started walking to my home on 31st in my cheap three-piece suit carrying a brown auditor’s bag in a slow drizzle. I noted about four men on both sides of the Avenue sizing me up (while I was young then, I would have been no match for four). I moved to the middle of the Avenue. Cars honked at me in the light rain. I didn’t feel I needed to either scream or run as I knew I was only a few blocks from safety. The men walked along the Avenue on both sidewalks parallel to me. When I got to 27th, the following men went away and I moved to the sidewalk. (FWIW, there have been other occasions where I have both screamed and run, but where I was probably in less danger than that evening)

Perhaps there is a corollary here – if you are going to be in a tough neighborhood, either know the neighborhood and its edges or have a guide who does.

Time matters. Muggers sleep in – it is a lousy, dangerous, and poorly-paid job. Sleeping in is perhaps the only fringe. You are safe in the worst Project in America on a Saturday or Sunday morning when the responsible people of the Project are about and the muggers are sleeping in. At 2:00 a.m., watch yourself.

The family took a trip across Mexico. One evening, I was a little bored in a town which was about the size of Saltillo or Morelios (but which was neither) – so I took my eldest (then thirteen year old) son for a walk. I was then about forty and had far more physical presence than I retain today, but my now quite formidable son had far less. We walked down the mainstreets and then to an intermediate-size street and then to a side street. I noted two really tough-looking and threatening men, one with a weapon (some sort of iron bar), walking towards us about 50 yards away. I reversed direction and headed back towards the intermediate-sized street. After about ten yards of retrowalking, a windowless blue van pulled directly across our path, blocking both street and sidewalk. The driver was clean-shaven, kindly, and sweet-spoken and had no accent to his English. He motioned for us to climb into his van. I looked at him like he was crazy, and asked “you want me to get in there?” He pointed to the rapidly approaching tough-looking guys and said, “yes.” He also repeatedly and nervously glanced at my right fist wherein I had wrapped my keys with a key protruding from between each finger. Living in the slums of Baltimore and Boston for twenty years had taught me a couple of things which might be useful in Mexico. I said, “Thank you. Thank you very kindly. Thank you very much. Thank you very very much. But no thank you.”

I grabbed the son’s hand and swept him around the back of the van – saying, “Come on Jeremiah.” This was actually the scariest moment – for if the van had backed up, I would have had to fight right there.

Walking back through the calculi, I have no clue as to what I would have actually done if the van had backed up. The sweet-spoken guy however may have thought that there was a substantial possibility that I would have killed him sitting in the driver’s seat before his compatriots could arrive. At any rate, the van did not back up.

I have played urban chess for all of my adult life.

We then jogged – my son frontward and me back-pedaling – to the intermediate-sized street. I told Jeremiah to scour the streets for largish rocks and for nirvana – a bottle where I could break off the bottom and give Jeremiah something to fight with. It is astounding how frustratingly clean the streets of Mexico can be.

The tough guys stopped to speak with the sweet-spoken guy, and we reached the intermediate-sized street which we walked down the center of for about 100 yards and then returned to the sidewalk.

For about a decade and one-half, there was a chunk of me which thought I might have turned down the sweet-spoken guy’s offer of assistance from racism rather than self-preservation. Then I read a magazine article laying out how a “rescuer” is a standard part of Mexican robbery method.

Trust your instincts.

And of course the tough guys did stop to talk with the sweet-spoken guy.

Now, there is no way that my son and I could have actually held off the would-be robbers, although I maybe could have handled one of them despite my age. All that we did was to raise a little doubt in their minds and move the venue to as public a place as possible.

So once I took my children (then in their mid-teens and twenties) to visit my sweet, petite, and Quaker wife in Takoma Park, Maryland. I let them off one evening and they walked over to New Hampshire Avenue to purchase something. She was utterly appalled that I would allow them to go to such a dangerous neighborhood at night. I busted a gut at the thought that there was some possible group of muggers who would even consider taking my sons as a group. My wife made me drive after them. When we returned to her house, I said, “You were right – they were in a mugging. But I made them pick up the old lady and return her purse.”

In fairness to my wife, she looks at a world where essentially all are stronger than she; and she must depend on her wits and the order of the public square. While I and my children understand that it is our duty to provide order to the public square.

I am aging and can no longer stand as large a presence in the public square as I once could and did.

I am far closer to my petite Quaker wife in terms of force than in the past -- but I can still make a decent bluff.

So as I gain in age, I may have to get to the second half of Dylan’s sentence “and let others do for you.” I am not used to letting others do for me – I do for others. Perhaps I need to learn a little humility.

But with Bane beside me, we can still do for others. Perhaps I should get Bane a puppy.
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