Thursday, March 17, 2005

karma, divine intervention, luck or stupidity?

So, a friend and I were talking in a very well-lighted parking lot yesterday evening around 10:20 pm. I see a guy pull in to the parking lot in a large truck. He pulled up to an empty car... you know the way cops pull up to eachother to talk through the window. But, of course, there was no one in the other car, so he must have had some other reason.

I was suspicious. As I talked to my friend, I was watching him. Let's call him Jake. He got out of the truck and walked all around the parking lot. It looked like he was either looking for someone or something. As I have seen an awful lot of broken windows in my neighborhood lately, I was convinced he was looking to break into one of the cars.

Jake got back into the truck and drove out of the parking lot. I continued talking to my friend, and I expressed my concern that Jake (I hadn't named him yet, he was still just "dude in the truck") was casing the parking lot. Not two minutes later, he pulled into the parking lot again; this time he just drove around the parking lot. We were still talking when he pulled into the parking lot one more time. He parked about 100 feet away and got out. As he approached us he said something I didn't hear. When we turned to him, Jake said, "Give me all your money, or I will shoot you." I looked down at the hand in the pocket and knew that he did not have a gun in his pocket.

So, depending on your point of view, stupidly, confidently, obliviously, I said, "I don't have anything with me." Jake said, "Then give me your purse." I had my hands in my pocket, trying to unlock the keypad on my phone and trying to dial 911. I continued with the same coolness, "I don't have a purse." He looked at my friend and said, "Give me your purse then." Perhaps inspired by my responses, or perhaps only because she was unwilling to give up the newly-purchased I-pod in her purse, she said, "Come on, dude, all I have is twenty dollars." Somewhere in this exchange, Jake through in this tidbit in case we had not understood the gravity of the situation: "You guys are going to make me hurt you."

As Jake considered whether or not to negotiate, all three of us noticed a young man walking towards us on the sidewalk. Jake was more interested in the young man than I expected. I was still furiously trying to dial my cell phone inside my jacket pocket. As the young man got closer, Jake turned around and muttered something like, "You guys got lucky." He got back into the truck and drove off.

Truthfully, I could not tell you if he jumped in the truck or which way he drove off. I was too busy getting the phone out of the pocket, trying to memorize his license plate and get into my friend's car at the same time. I am a pretty good multi-tasker, but when you are rattled, it's a little harder to focus. So, we got in the car, I reminded my friend to lock the doors, and we drove off as well. I was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher who was complaining about my cell phone cutting out. That's a whole other story...

So, for some reason, without talking about it, we decided to drive around ... maybe we felt safer moving. I have to admit that I was scared, but more than that, I was pissed. That is my neighborhood dammit. I am not ok with some dumb, and I mean really stupid, jerk accosting me in my neighborhood and demanding my money. I only had twenty bucks for real. It would not have been that big of a deal for me, but I was NOT going to give him shit. So, as we drove around, I was looking for him. I wanted that damn license plate. When I looked up, he was right in front of us while I was still on the phone with the cops. I gave the entire plate to the dispatcher (she did not pass it along to the four cops cars that were in MY neighborhood, but that's part of that other story).

The rest of the story is irrelevant except the attitude of the second cop. I know he wanted to say, and did in so many words, just give guys like that what they want. You never know when someone will have a gun or will hurt you. I tried to express to him that I wasn't interested in Jake being prosecuted for failing to rob my friend and I. I noted Jake's intent to have something that didn't belong to him. I noted that he was stupid but fairly persistent. As we spoke ad infinitum telling our story, Jake was out there casing someone or something... get on it.

So, the karma, divine intervention, luck or stupidity line comes in here... which one do you think it was? I know there will be a lot of votes for stupidity. Obviously Jake was bigger and stronger than me. I do carry a fair amount of anger around with me that I am willing to believe would function in that Incredible Hulk way. In any case, if Jake had been truly interested in hurting my friend and I, he could have tried. But he wasn't. I don't know how I knew, but somehow I did. I worried about how stupid he was and how that might engender a disaster anyway, but not enough to get in the car and drive away before he had returned the third time. Many people, perhaps not those who read my blog (but maybe), would say that we were asking for it by noting his suspicious behavior and staying there. I am sure that is what the cops thought.

The troubling part for me is that this is not the first time I have been in imminent physical danger and stood my ground instead of trying to figure out an escape route. So, do I have an internal danger clock that is instructing me to be righteously indignant rather than terrified and compliant? Is it KARMA? Or is it DIVINE INTERVENTION working to keep me safe from myself?