You Better Up Your Game

My car is my office. On any given workday, I may begin my day at any one of 150 or so district sites and traverse to one, two, three others. It’s cool. It’s what I signed up for. I am never bored, and I appreciate every opportunity to blast my music on my terms.

Shortly after 10 AM Thursday, en route to my third district site of the day, I was stopped at a red light.  Ahead and to my right, I watched a woman banging on the windows and trying to pull open the doors of a white SUV.  It did not appear to be her car, and the driver, once the eastbound light turned, gunned it through the intersection.  I am so happy I saw her do what she did.

Because she then ran across the street to my car.  She began pounding on my windows, hollering at me, “They’re trying to get into my car.” and repeatedly pulled at my door handles, front and back.  It was quite a spectacle.  She kept hitting my windows, yanking the door handles while I asked her, “Where?  Where?  Where?  Where is your car? You’re trying to get into MY car!”  When the light finally turned green for me, I drove off with her still pounding on my car.

Crossing the intersection, I saw a car idling, its occupant watching her.  The car wasn’t parked, but positioned I think is the better word, perpendicular to the north/south street I headed south on, just on the edge of a gas station’s property.  The car was “parked” across the sidewalk, covering the concrete apron approach.

I wasn’t freaked out, weirded out and rattled maybe, but not truly fearful.  She didn’t threaten me, nor did she give any indication she had a weapon or anything, but the pieces didn’t fit.  Her story made no sense.  These, and a hundred more questions occurred to me in an instant:

  1. Where was her car?
  2. Who was trying to get into her car?
  3. Where was her car?
  4. She was already out of her car, so “they” were successful in “trying to get into her car,” right?
  5. When I noticed her, she was already in the middle of the street, having come from the direction of a gas station.  Why would she not go into the gas station?
  6. She had to cross two very busy streets to get to my car.   Why would she not stay on the south side of the street?
  7. WHERE IS HER CAR?
  8. Is that car positioned by the gas station going to reverse back out and box me in?
  9. What are the statistics on women-as-lures in modern day carjacking?
  10. What if she really needs help?

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I texted my coworkers upon arrival at my school, asking for a little debriefing session.  Talking through my scenario. they agreed that the story seemed sketchy, and that I’d made the right decision.  One of the girls drove by that very spot about 15 minutes after I’d passed; she reported seeing nothing.  No cops, no lingering lookie-loos, nothing.  I too returned by the scene within the hour on my way back to my office.  Nothing.  I checked the police calls, and saw nothing reported at or around that time, but did catch a few “suspicious person/auto” entries not long after the 60th & Burleigh occurrence.

Only a handful of times in 28 years in the central city have I been a direct witness, victim, or potential victim of crime, but I have colleagues who’ve been robbed or carjacked at gunpoint, had their cars stolen, or been inside homes when drug deals and/or shootings have occurred.  Once, a woman forgot her three-year-old was at my school for speech therapy.  A few hours later, I walked him home where his mother answered the door bare-ass naked.  She’d been, ahem, busy with a client, if ya know what I mean.  A friend asked me if I was near downtown when this happened, but I don’t usually work downtown.  Most often I work in the inner city.  All those scary places you see depicted on film or television are the places my students live–thousands of children reside in abject poverty which breeds violence which breeds more violence and apathy and, and, and. . .

So that’s where I go.  I don’t say this to paint myself the martyr, no, I say it because that’s what I do every day.  I wasn’t even completely freaked out that the carjacking attempt occurred, just a little off.  Off enough to announce it on social media of course, because, well, I don’t know exactly why.  I didn’t want victim-attention, but I did appreciate the many, many expressions of support.  Maybe I was seeking attention.  Honestly, it makes a better story than the reality played out.  I joked with my friend Nikki that the woman needed to up her game, to concoct a more credible ruse of a backstory.  I had enough time to reason it out, and so did at least one other motorist before me.

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Under the circumstances, that’s a good final score.

Still, all the way home at the end of the day I couldn’t help but wonder if question ten above was really afoot–what if she truly needed help?  Could I be so callous as to ignore a person who may have been desperate because I felt threatened?  Apparently yes. And that makes my head and heart a little.  Someone said it’s a good thing I’m cynical, and that hurt me.  I think “experienced” fits better.  Someone else said I should have pulled my Smith & Wesson or Glock.  Um, no, do you know me at all??

My gut tells me that I avoided a carjacking.  I stand by both my instincts and my post-incident assessment.  There’s a narrative that happens daily around here. The story is similar: a woman approaches and asks for money, help, or requests a ride for her, for her kids (who never seem to be with her. . .)  People, because they’re decent, naive, or don’t want to be rude (yes, I swear) roll down their windows, and say good-bye to their cars.  Poof!, they’re jacked.  I guess my bullet point main idea is to trust yourself, be aware of your surroundings, and always have the Barenaked Ladies playing while cruising through the city.  Lookin’ Up was streaming while my scenario played out.  Good job, irony, well played!

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8 thoughts on “You Better Up Your Game

  1. I think you did the right thing. The other day, I was walking to work and saw a woman lying on the ground writhing around and screaming in the courtyard of the building next door. People were coming out of the building and ignoring her, and I didn’t want to approach her considering where in the city I live. So I was going to tell the security guard at my office building across the street, but by the time I got there, she was walking down the sidewalk with a guy yelling at him–they were obviously together and most likely running some scam. Glad I didn’t go up to her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Geez, how scary to see that unfold in front of you. You were smart and savvy to enlist help and not jump in yourself. These stories people concoct to garner sympathy and attention can be quite complex–maybe if they’d invest those smarts and energy into something for good, we’d all live in a better world, huh? Boy, do I sound cynical!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very sorry about all this … but I think there is much to be said for “gut instinct” and street smarts. Plus, it was daylight, daytime, a busy place, which adds to its oddness. I’m glad you’re ok … and I think you make a great point about being “aware of your surroundings.” These days of multi-tasking, texting, phoning, ear-budding, it’s very easy to be unaware of potentially dangerous situations. Well done, Wendy!

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    • I have to say that in the week since, my attention has been more finely tuned to my surroundings and not on the phone in my console whenever I’m stopped at a light. I’ve worked in the inner city for so long that I feel like I’ve seen it all, as the saying goes, but THIS did not fit. Sadly, I’m seeing more and more incongruous behaviors (read: dangerous behaviors), but still, you never think it’s going to be you. Gah! It was me. I’m glad I listened to myself this time–my instincts are not always great.

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  3. I also agree — and this is the assessment of a kid who grew up in the friggin’ Bronx — that you made the right call. All you have in those out-of-nowhere moments are your instincts, and if they tell you something about this is hinky, it’s best to hit the pavement. You can always call the cops from a few blocks away. It’s one thing to see a crime in progress or a person in imminent danger, but what you saw was a lot of random chaos, which potentially indicates some kind of trick or smokescreen. It’s important to be a good citizen, yes, but equally important is looking out for yourself by trusting your street smarts. Don’t give your decision another thought, Wendy.

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    • Thanks, Sean. One week later I feel stronger than ever that it was a set up. I can picture the scene unfold, and am certain that car would’ve backed out, boxed me in, and my car would be but a memory. I drive by that spot every day, and haven’t noticed anything similar, but I am more conscientious as I motor around. I almost always turn left when I should go right, but this time, I beat the odds. Whew!

      Liked by 1 person

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