The mugging incident

Posted: August 30, 2014 in ADVENTURE STORIES!, TRAVEL
Tags: , , , , , ,

I feel like enough time has gone by for me to finally talk about this. People always seem to ask “what’s the worst thing that happened when you travel?” Expecting to hear a story like this (or of being poorly kidnapped).

In reality- more bad stuff has happened to me in the states/Canada (email hacked, credit card fraud, car broken into, held at needle-point, assault, sexual harassment, etc) than when traveling. I guess we’re programmed to ignore these facts and just believe that the rest of the world is far more scary than our own. Probably because it’s unknown and unfamiliar.

I’ll get back to that.

I got mugged because I was careless and stupid.

Let me back up.

  1. I was walking up an unpopulated hill in daylight (normally- this is fine),
  2. listening to Ted talks on my phone. (Again- normally this is fine)
  3. but I was trying to pick one I hadn’t heard before- therefore- I was paying more attention to my phone than to what was around me (fatal mistake).

I didn’t even see this hooded figure come up next to me. He tapped me on the shoulder and said something about money. I ignored him, thinking he was a homeless person and went to walk away until he grabbed me and stuck a knife in my side and uttered “don’t scream”.

You know that bit in your lizard brain that tells you to fight, flight or freeze? Mine must be malfunctioning because I thought all 3 at the same time.

He got impatient and grunted “Give me money.”

The thoughts that raced through my head were like a channel-flipper.

  • “What should I do?”
  • “Seriously? This is happening?”
  • “Eh- I’ll just reboot my day back to the last save point.”
  • “Oh crap……. This isn’t a dream”
  • “I should kick him in the balls.” (This wasn’t a possibility from where he was physically standing).
  • “Maybe I should just do what they always do- and give him everything.”
  • “Wait- if I do that, I’ll end up with nothing. And besides- that didn’t work out for Batman’s parents.”
  • “There’s no way this guy is getting everything. Not without a fight.”
  • “He’s looking at me funny…. I should probably do something.”

I had my book bag and phone. On the back of my phone was my my-city bus card (which, by the way, in Cape Town is a master card. So, technically, it’s money.) I gave that to him. He threw that down to the ground and grabbed my phone…. MY PRECIOUS!

To most people it’s just an out of date iPhone. To me it is my camera, my microphone, my journal, my budget notes, my translator, my itinerary… And was it backed up? No. Of course not. That would be responsible……….

(Another lesson learned… Moving on.)

Then he wanted my bag as well.

Here’s where it gets complicated. My brain was saying “LN, you always just give them everything. It’s ok. Nothing is worth your life.” Except my passport, cards, first aid kit and journal was all in that bag! Ok- the first aid kit is replaceable but the rest wasn’t! Not easily! My hand-written journal had all my notes from the past month in it. I hadn’t gotten around to transposing it to my google-drive file (super slow Internet…). Besides- I have almost 95 stamps in that passport! Do you know how much of a bitch it is to get your passport replaced?!? Especially after 9/11?!?

Believe me- it’s a pain. And if you have to pick an option of dealing with homeland security or get stabbed? I pick getting stabbed every time.

So I refused to give up my bag. I gave him my best “back the fuck off” lion-stare that I’ve mastered at bars and in the bush. He grabbed the bag and tried to cut it off me. And this was HIS first mistake- because this is when I found out that his “knife” was as sharp as an envelope opener. I started screaming at this point and jumped after him.

Luckily my bag was heavy with bottled water. He panicked and threw that at me and took off- still with my phone. (My precious!)

I mustered up all my CrossFit endurance and took off after him. (Wearing chacos….) He rounded a corner where, for some miracle of gawd, a bunch of triathlon trainers were sprinting the hills. I was screaming “mugger! Thief! Stop him!” They must have heard me and they, too, took off after him.

Confession: I was impressed by this guy’s stamina. And embarrassed by my own. (If only he ran races for a living instead of getting high off backpacker’s pawned stuff! Yep. I’m passing judgement and making assumptions. This asshat had My Precious. I’m allowed.)

The particular neighborhood that I was in has “neighborhood watch” towers. Little boxes where a paid guard sits, texts all day, and makes sure nothing happens during his shift. Normally I disregard them and think they are a waste of money. Not today! Before I knew it, a guard came running out of one, and sprinted after the guy. (Mental note: South African security guards do not eat donuts on the job!) They rounded the corner and the next thing I knew I saw the guard come towards me with my phone.

MY PRECIOUS!

I offered to buy the guard lunch- but he declined and took off for his guard post which was un-manned during his act of amazing heroism.

I don’t know what happened to the thief- this seems to be a big question for people. To be honest, I don’t really care what happened to him because I ended up ok and all he ended up with a my-city bus card with 3$ on it.

Don’t let my hyperbole fool you, though. Afterwards I felt violated. Hyper aware of everything (glances, bumps and bulges in people’s coats/bags, weird smells, my gut feeling) and felt foolish for being so careless. Cape Town reminded me so much of San Francisco mixed with Melbourne that I just took safety for granted and didn’t even consider myself in a third world country (see my craptastic Internet moaning above).

The irony is that bad things happen all the time to people who aren’t paying attention. More has happened to me at “home” because I take safety for granted- when, in fact, desperate people who are looking for easy marks are everywhere.

I realize that there are heaps of exceptions to this opinion. I also realize that it’s exhausting to be hyper aware all the time- and the thought that if you let your guard down for an instant you’ll be a target is enough to make people never want to ever leave the house. So I’ll leave off with the advice I follow and keeps me sane and keeps me traveling with limited fear:

  1. Never travel with your passport if you don’t have to.
  2. There is (usually) power in groups, or advantages to walking quickly.
  3. Always back up yer crap. (Phone, journal, whatever.) Make this a weekly ritual.
  4. If you are already drawing attention to yourself (ie- if you’re the only white girl around) draw MORE attention by screaming, barking, talking to yourself/a sock puppet/whatever. What do you have to lose?
  5. A life lived in fear is a life half lived.
Advertisements
Comments
  1. matyldasays says:

    Sorry to hear about a bad experience. You were quite brave!

  2. Leib Lurie says:

    Nicely written, deeply emotional but hidden behind your delayed and post processing logic. Glad it worked out, and hope that the tips are used by others

  3. Good to hear you survived that physically intact. I’m actually surprised you went this long without anything happening.

    I think the best piece of advice is ‘Be prepared for anything. Even being mugged. It makes it easier to process when its happening.’ My grandmother was mugged when she came down from Kentucky to come see us when my sister was just a baby and we were in a park. Who mugs people holding babies? That’s when you realize people will do anything for a buck. You don’t have to be hyperaware if you are ready to face things when they happen. Don’t mind the ramblings of a kid from the hood as allot of people take their safety for granted.

    Eventually my dad caught the guy who stole her purse and she got it back with her keys and her checkbook minus some cash.

  4. […] looking for him. Marcus is still staying here. He filed a police report, but that’s kinda useless in Cape Town as everything is pretty corrupt and since there was no murder/real violence, even less action will […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s