Mugged on Moving Day
And moving beyond it
It had been an exciting day: I moved into a great apartment in an upscale harbor neighborhood. All I had heard from locals when I mentioned the move were things like, “You’re moving to Rose Bay? Look at you, ooh la la.” My roommates were new friends: Liz, a fellow BU alum who did the Sydney semester two years after I did, and her Aussie boyfriend David. Liz loves to cook, and David must have plenty of Aussie mates – point me to my room!
My welcome to the neighborhood? I was mugged my first night in town, 40 yards from my new home on our leafy suburban street.
Scary? Terrifying, of course. But I suppose some might say I was one of the lucky ones, as far as mugging victims go. I got home physically unscathed, my only real loss monetary – the cash I had on me, my phone and, looking ahead, the money I’ll be spending on taxis instead of taking the bus or walking home.
After a long day of furniture assembling and unpacking, I had decided to go into the city for a chill concert with friends. I took the bus home, arriving at about 1 a.m.; Rose Bay was fast asleep. My attackers were two kids, I’d say 20 years old. Halfway home – it’s about three blocks – I heard people running behind me, one on each side of the road. Startled, I half turned around as the near one – let’s call him Mercurial Man – said, “You think we’re going to hurt you? We’re not going to hurt you.” Before I realized what was going on, the other guy crossed the street ahead of us, blocking the sidewalk. “Just give us your bag. We’re not going to hurt you, just give us your bag,” they both started saying, simultaneously and repeatedly.
I tried to keep walking at first, saying something like, “Oh my God, are you kidding me? No way, you’re not really doing this right now.”
The bigger one from across the street – let’s call him Fatty – got a little meaner, saying, “Don’t scream, he’s got a knife. Just give us your bag.” I felt fairly sure there was no knife, but Fatty had his soft body against me to keep me from going anywhere. Soon Merman (yes, I’m giving his nickname a nickname) grabbed my Coach wristlet from my hand.
Here’s how the rest of the night and following day played out, and few thoughts from along the way.
An unexpected survival skill: Reading people.
After Merman got my bag, Fatty began to run away. Realizing the meeker of the two had my things – he was the one who kept repeating they weren’t going to hurt me – I decided to try and capitalize on his apparent crisis of conscience before he fled.
“Can I at least have my keys?” Merman handed me the keys to the house I just moved out of – I was to return them the next day. Impatiently: “There’s another one in there.” He handed me the key to my new place. “And can you please just give me my cards? What can you do with my cards?” He handed me three of the credit cards, IDs and various business cards I had on me. “There are more, please just give me the rest of my cards.” As Merman handed me the remaining items, Fatty whisper-yelled from across the street, “What is this, a f***ing charity case?!” And they both took off down the road.
I didn’t sleep a wink that night, instead watching movies to keep myself from thinking about what could have happened. There can be a very thin line between losing some cash and being seriously harmed. But in the three minute interaction, I read the situation enough to conclude I wouldn’t put myself in further danger by standing up for myself a little. And my night was far less inconvenient as a result.
The power of laughter and positive outlets.
Admittedly, I thought of little else the following day. Replaying what happened, thinking about other ways I could have reacted, resolving not to let it change my daily life. And when I wasn’t thinking about it quietly, I was repeating the story. As much as I could, I’d try to insert humor in my account. Fatty’s “charity case” line always got a chuckle. My new roommates and I joked how at least it was a “Rose Bay-style” mugging – nonviolent and Merman took the time to return things (he must have really sifted through because I realized later he had kept my bus pass). After I told my parents, my Dad tried to lighten the mood by suggesting that at least I had a good blog topic.
I laughed when he said that, but he was right. I did spend a fair amount of time thinking about how I’d write about it, how I could make it a compelling, reflective story. If it was going to be on my mind anyway, at least I could make it productive. Instead of dwelling on the details I thought about how to describe them. It allowed me to become a storyteller, no longer just the victim.
Like everything Down Under, the Aussie police are equal parts serious and casual. I kind of like it.
After Skyping my parents first thing in the morning, I walked to the nearby Rose Bay Police Station. Each officer I encountered showed immediate surprise at my mugging; I’m pretty sure a big day for them is the proverbial cat-in-a-tree. The Sergeant at the desk looked earnest when I said I was there to report a mugging, but then turned around to someone I couldn’t see and said seemingly casually, “This lady had her bag snatched last night; want to take her to the interview room?”
I was assigned to Constable Shuttleworth, who couldn’t be much older than I am and definitely green; she and I spent a solid three hours together, moving slowly and carefully through the steps of reporting a crime. But I was happy to be a guinea pig for her and offer a change of pace. Although I did have a flashback to the time I was a teeth dummy for my friend in dental hygiene school; the standard cleaning and exam took hours.
The RBPD was serious enough about bag-snatching that when Shuttleworth showed our two-hour masterpiece report to Sarge for review, he decided that since Merman had handled my cards, perhaps they could remove DNA from them and check for a match. Can’t imagine the NYPD takes the time to do this for a nonviolent mugging worth less than $300. But the casual vibe was maintained as Sarge kept apologizing for the “rigmarole” of the whole process.
Said rigmarole included getting a cheek swab from me for elimination during the DNA testing of the cards. They set up a video camera – well, a camcorder propped on a file cabinet – to record the process in which I was to “rub the insides of my cheeks vigorously at least 40 times on each side” with a swab; I looked like I was trying to brush my teeth but missed. It was a little silly, but they were taking their time to investigate my case, and it did make me feel a little safer. Or at least taken seriously. And hey, I figure if getting mugged in Rose Bay was such a shocker even to the town protectors, the odds should be in my favor for a while, right?
Exactly one week later, after dinner at my place, I walked my sister to the bus stop to go back to her dorm in the city. Then I walked home along the exact same route as that night, alone, in the dark. Sure, it was only 9 pm; even Rose Bay is awake at 9. But it felt good. I’ve always been one to go wherever I want, even if it means going alone. And no Merman and Fatty are going to change that.
Read Megan’s last blog, “Making Friends.”