(NO) Muggings in NYC

NYC by Boat © Aheli Purkayastha
NYC by Boat © Aheli 

When I first told people I was moving to the City, a deluge of safety advice came my way. “Always carry pepper spray.” “Stare down everyone who comes your way.” “Make sure to get falafel from Mamoud’s near Washington Square Park.” Err… well okay it was a mix of safety and food advice. I never thought I would put any of it to good use until:

New York City, October 2013

It was 9PM on an unexpectedly warm night in October when Jodes and I were heading back from dinner. We had grabbed the same cab and Jodes was making her usual noises about dropping me off at my doorstep.  It’s important that you understand that whenever Jodes and I travel back from a downtown event, she always insists on having the cab driver stop directly in front of my apartment complex, despite the fact that it takes her several blocks (and several dollars) out of her way. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5PM on our way back from Hong Kong Market* or 2AM on our way back from the LES, that cab driver will be making two stops, both directly in front of our respective heavily-secured front doors. Every. Single. Time.

Now, Jodie had already given the cab driver explicit instructions. However, I sensed opportunity. Not only would the cab driver end up going at least ten blocks out of his way, but Jodie was jetlagged and in desperate need of a good night sleep. I very sweetly explained to her that she could drop me off one block up from my apartment and that it would shave at least five minutes off her commute back. Didn’t it make sense to drop the person who was wide awake off in a more convenient location, rather than risk her falling asleep in the back of the cab. Her snoring might scare the driver. Safety first, am I right? Perhaps, sensing that it would be easier to give in to my oh-so-logical demands, she acquiesced and I was dropped off in the new spot.

As I stared the walk back, I laughed at Jodie’s unnecessary worrying. I was a graduate of four self-defense classes, I had my college logo rap whistle, and I was the only person ever to kick my ex-marine kickboxing teacher, Bernie, right in the gut. I was clearly an expert in personal safety! Smiling, I thought back to my favorite piece of Bernie advice. It was something about threading your keys through your fingers? I reached into my pocket and grabbed my keys, threading each individual key through my fingers till it looked like I had a very spiky ring or knuckle bracelet on.  What did he say? Keep your keys through your fingers in your pocket and always be aware of your surrounding.

I had the keys in my fingers and I was definitely aware of my… wait, how long had those footsteps been following me? How long was I lost in this daydream?

Then I heard it. A foot crunch down on a plastic bottle. Startled, I turned around, throwing my hand up in the air!

“Ahhhhhhh” screamed the guy behind me as he stumbled sideways into the only tree on my street. Clutching his head, he looked up to see me. A tiny Asian girl, eyes wide open and my key-laced hands up in the air.

“Ahhhhhh” he went for a second time, stumbling back onto the same time, as he realized that what he thought was a late evening run had turned into him accidently scaring a tiny girl.

Would you know it? I helped some poor guy realize that he should never run near the vicinity of women walking home in the late evening. It also confirmed what I already no. Don’t mess with Aheli-freaking-P.

*Best Asian Grocery Store on the Island

Postscript and General Opinion Note:

I know this is a light hearted piece on that time I didn’t get mugged and instead, scared a guy witless when he realized that I might think that he was an attacker. I’m grateful this guy was out for a run, and respected me enough to keep his distance after we established his motive (running). Things could have been much worse as they are for so many women (and men).  Please look into any personal safety classes nearby, and remember to talk to your love ones about how not to make someone feel unsafe. Less attacks mean I’m one step closer to getting dropped off on that corner. 

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