Yesterday morning I experienced the longest eleven minutes of my life. It was a typical morning 9:30 am rush to work. Coffee in hand I mulled in front of the train station waiting for an Uber because I’d recently torn the ligaments in my foot. Headphones in my ear as I watched the little dot on the screen’s progress, scrutinizing his every move as if he were the worst Pac Man player I’d ever seen.
Suddenly a thin figure bumped into me, which I wasn’t unused to in this city, but instead of the normal mumbling apology and eye contact, she didn’t move away. She stayed close and stared at me directly.
“Give me your phone, your purse, your bag, everything”
Surely she wasn’t..
“Give me it now or I’ll stab you” – She brandished a knife from within her leather jacket and my disbelief spoke before my self-preservation.
“You’re not going to rob me in broad daylight with all of these people around”
She pulled the knife out further and pushed it into my blue purse. I pulled away. “You’re crazy” I looked around frantically. Surely someone would be able to help me. No one. I spoke louder hoping she would wander away. “ You’re crazy, get away from me!” She backed off a few steps. “I’m not crazy, you’re crazy” She replied. Nobody moved. The crowd continued to mull about.
I quickly tried to get away, or hobble away as it were. I grabbed someone nearby, she continued in pursuit. As I explained to him that this woman was trying to rob me at knifepoint and I needed someone to walk with. He nodded a little hazed by my frantic explanation. As I continued, I realized
I knew him.
Maybe that’s why it was easier to pick him for help. I thought I was saved but she followed close behind. He went a few steps with me then stopped. My pursuant continued pushing me towards a darker less populated area.
I was terrified. Do I cross the street into quiet not-so-crowded alcoves, where I was most likely to be robbed or stabbed or whatever happens on the news, or should I make a run for it? I had a 200-person presentation that night; I didn’t have time for this.
I decide to make a run for it. I threw my hot coffee in her face and made a run back for the train station. This only stunned her for a few moments, but I made it several yards closer towards the busy train station. She caught up to me and latched on.
“ I’m going to stab you and kill you”
By now she was livid. And suddenly we were brawling, she swinging at me with a knife in one hand, and punched with the other. I blocked all I could. panic filling every moment.
And nobody lends a hand.
I finally pushed her away from me, and backed into the train station, screaming for help. I felt blood flowing down my face.
“SOMEBODY HELP ME!”
People stare and watch.
“Anybody, please, somebody, help me!”
30 eyes follow us.
I’m crying, begging, pleading.
“Please, she’s got a knife, she’s trying to stab me, please! ANYONE!”
One Gentleman from a distance tells her she better stop
I don’t know how but I finally made it to the far platforms where there was a conductor. I screamed the whole way. A private security guard appeared and took us into custody until the police arrived.
I know San Francisco is a tight-knit community, and we like to think that we’d jump to help one another. But what the hell was that? I’ve read all the psychology books. I know the typical explanations. I want to deeply believe in humanity. Did it all happen so fast that those of us who can beat enemies on a video game in milliseconds didn’t have time to react? Those of us who can pound out code like it’s nobody’s business, who can troubleshoot outages for million- and billion- dollar companies without breaking a sweat; why can’t you stand beside someone in need? Those of us who can be bossy, can’t be bossy to protect someone being assaulted?
To those who had to hear me present to 200 people that night, I’m sorry for my nervousness, it wasn’t because I was assaulted, it is because I was wrestling with my realization of reality.
Is this how disconnected from the real world we’ve become?
Is this how afraid we’ve become?