Today I received a letter from a girlfriend of mine, who is doing doctor type humanitarian work in Ethiopia. She is confident, tall, and streetwise.

She told me she got mugged yesterday. She’s okay, but nevertheless it shook her up. And the only casualty was her twenty dollar phone. It happened at about dusk. She noticed someone was following her on the main street, but then she turned on the side street of her route home, and naturally, he followed her.

This is what I wrote back to her.

Ah ma gad!
So sorry this had to happen to you. Jules- it only takes one time.
So often I hear people say, “Well it never happened to me,” sounding unconcerned when I advise them to conceal their money and credit cards in a different place other than a wallet in a back pocket.  (And urging not to carry so much cash.)
I had a similar experience to yours at age 24 in Paris.
Cheapo that I am, I took the subway home at 11pm even though my dinner date had given me 100 francs for a taxi.
That could last a week in 1984 for baguettes, Beaujolais nouveau, (which was my “training red”) crepes, and other cool junk!  It’s only 8 francs for the metro!
There were only 2 guys in my subway car. One African, and one white guy with a really bad complexion and a twitch.
Both of them bothered me on the train. Both got off at my stop. Just my luck.
The person behind the booth was counting money and I hung there for a while, while the African guy loitered in the stairwell.
He finally seemed to leave, and I started my 200 yard brisk walk to the apartment where my friend was staying, and I was crashing.
As I was leaving, white guy starts walking with me.  He said in a thick French accent,
“Don’t worry about the black man. He won’t bother you.”
I said in my big coat I paid 10 francs for in a thrift market, “I’m not worried. I have a gun.”
There was not a soul on the street! Not one.
He continued with me to my door, where there is a code to get into the hallway.  I said, “Well, I’m home. Nice to have met you. Good night.”
“Aren’t you going to ask me in?” He kind of irritably asked.
“Uhhh, no. But thanks for walking me. I appreciate it.” (And from our small talk conversation on route, I had noticed there was something off about him, mentally.)
He said, “I save your life, you American pig, why you don’t ask me in, ungrateful!”
At this point my girlfriend hears us. She is on second floor looking out of the window.
I say to him, good night. But I can’t open the door, because it would be worse to be trapped in the secluded hallway!
He said, “Are you scared?”
I said, no.
He then pulls out a knife. “Are you scared now?”
I shout up to my friend, “Lisa, he’s got a fucking knife! Call the police!”
She leaves for a moment and comes back to the window. “I don’t know how! I just tried, ” as she returns with a frying pan in her hand, like that’s going to do any good up there.
He puts the knife towards my face and I push him away. I say to the guy, “I don’t like using my gun if I don’t have to.”
(And of course I don’t have a gun, duh…I did have a croissant in my pocket that I took from the expensive dinner I was treated to.)
Just then an old man comes towards us. The FIRST person to see on this fairly Main Street.
He says something in French, something like what are you doing?!
I quickly put in the code and slam the door!
The two argued and pushed for a bit. I was worried about the old man, as I unsuccessfully tried to call the police.
They eventually went away, no body of old man hero left. So I thought he was okay.
Scared the shit out of me….and I can’t remember if I cried. Too long ago.  But I was scared.
I felt guilty for not staying out there with the old man, but I was young, dumb, and a bit selfish. Now I’m old, a little less dumb, and would have stayed for the battle with the old man.
Be careful. Next time go into a place BEFORE you turn on secluded street. Use your twenty-dollar phone to call a friend, tough guy….or follow your instincts to say this could be bad, and to even find a stranger who seems normal to walk you the rest of the way.
I did that in Morocco twice, when being followed. And it worked.
That’s my random streetwise lesson for the day.

4 Responses to “IT ONLY TAKES ONE TIME”

  1. May 1, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    Garp’s “The Under Toad” strikes more relentlessly than John Donne’s bell and we are always the victims. That you survived to pass along the lesson you learned means someday someone will be spared what you endured for having read your tale.

    • May 2, 2013 at 12:42 PM


  2. May 2, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    Never walk to your car at night without having your keys In hand and put two of the keys between two fingers, go for eyes or the esophagus. If you are turned around by someone in back of you use two fingers to esophagus push in and down, it will stop the person from breathtaking, when they fall, if male knee them in the balls. If it is a women push hard a down, becareful, you can kill someone. If it is your life just do it. I was taught by a military person that would go on Submarines to teach sailors when they are in dangerous countries.

    • May 3, 2013 at 11:24 AM

      You go girl! I will make sure not to tap you on the shoulder!

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Linda Chorney

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