Cold Steel on My Cheek

I share experience, because I think it helps others to understand me.  I have shared this experience before many times.  It was one of those so called "life changing" moments. The kind of moment I hope most people do not experience.  It was not the only time I had cold steel on my cheek.  Once is more than enough.

Starting point for my story will be that time I watched Oprah and she had a specialist on to share with her audience suggestions to try if/when- they get robbed.  The specialist explained that people who want to separate your property from you have already determined their "good reason" for their action.  It may be a gang initiation, the need to feed a drug habit, or serious financial troubles.  What you should understand is their taking of your property is as serious to them as your job is to you.  Imagine your motivation to get your job done, what do you do when someone gets in your way?

I had never considered a criminal in that light before.  The point the specialist was making was a robber has the upper hand in most cases and you life is more valuable than anything they can get from you.  The specialist then followed with a suggestion that once you have determined what the thief is after your best bet is to throw that item away from yourself so that the attacker would have to turn to retrieve the item giving you a moment to get away.  I thought this suggestion was brilliant and filed it in the back of my head just in case.

A few years later, I am a single mom working at a call center.  It is hard to juggle employment as a single mom.  So many things can happen with a kid that keeps you out of work, so when you get sick you go to work sick. Everything feels like you are on the verge of falling off the edge into financial ruin.  It had been years since I had an ear infection.  I forgot exactly how painful they were... brain piercing comes to mind.  My ear had been aching for a few days and I was trying over the counter solutions and drinking plenty of water to see if I could get it to clear.  Finally it was too much, I was feverish and in so much pain that I scheduled an Urgent Care Appointment after work.  It was November and dark when I got off work .  Luckily the medical offices were not busy that Saturday night and I was in and out rather quick with a prescription of antibiotics.  I craved relief so as soon as I got to my car I sat in the driver's seat, my left leg still hanging out the door.  I opened the child proof cap on the prescription and swallowed the first tiny pill without water.  Then I turned to set my purse, my Motorola bag phone and the pill bottle on the passenger seat to my right.

When I sat up again, I felt cold steel on my cheek.  I looked to my left to see a man in a red Chicago Bulls hooded jacket.  He had a mask on his face.  He immediately started calling me a "bitch" saying he was going to kill me.  He demanded my purse.  Of course I knew what to do.  I started grabbing what ever I could off the passenger seat and throwing it out the door.  Which was really under the door since the man with the pre-adolescent voice and a gun on my check was blocking my door.

Parked next to my car was a van and it was dark.  My get away strategy was not working.  The gunman had no idea what I was doing and his voice was getting louder and more demanding.  Finally I spoke.  I told him that I had thrown everything out the door.  That I needed him to turn and pick it up and go away because I had a 9 year old son I needed to get home to.  My message took a moment for him to comprehend, because he continued to yell at me and threaten me.  I repeated myself and he turned and grabbed my property off the ground and ran away.

I had seen plenty of TV shows where the bad guys drive by and shoot up a car, so I climbed out of my car and decided to hide by the front bumper until I was sure he was gone.  I watched a white Ford Bronco burn rubber as it sped out of the parking lot.  After taking a moment to gather my senses I looked under the van and found my purse was there as well as my prescription.  The only thing he got was my Motorola Bag phone.  Shaking, I walked back into the medical offices.  The on-duty security guard was called and then the police.  I filed a report, in Sacramento they give you a business card with the officer's name and the report number.

I drove myself home, and got up and went to work the next day.  My supervisor asked me if I needed time off when I shared what happened.  I said no and asked for permission to look up the call records on the Motorola Bag phone that was taken.  I wanted to get the details to the police.  I got clearance and printed the call records.  I even did some research- calling some of the numbers and had a pretty good idea that the guy's name was "Somebody" Watts from the people I spoke to.  I called the officer who took the report to let him know what I had.  I was so disappointed by his response.

He said there were so many worse crimes going on in the area that mine was not important and probably would not get any attention.  But- I said- he could have shot and killed me.  He had a gun pointed at my head.  The officer reassured me that if I had been shot the case would get attention.  He told me if I wanted I could drop off the records I had put together at the main station downtown.

This was not the first time I had been disappointed by how a legal matter had been handled.  Nor would it be the last.  It was a lesson for me at just how slow justice is... if it even existed, because I fully expected that this armed robbery was unacceptable, illegal even.  But if nothing was going to be done about it... I had nothing more than a false sense of security.  Three days later at work I broke down in uncontrollable sobs.  My supervisor told me to go home- she said- you have been in shock for 3 days- it was obvious to me, you are finally processing what happened.

My 9 year old is now 30 years old.  I am not so naive to expect law enforcement to have my back.  I get annoyed at TV shows where the police offers seem to take a special interest in a crime until it is solved.  BULL SHIT!!

Still I am grateful for law enforcement.  Because I realize their jobs are difficult, a job I have no interest in doing.  Like teacher's, law enforcement budgets get cut, as a result they forgo raises so legislators and bureaucrats can fund pet projects that help them get re-elected, while making a case to the public increase taxes- so they can afford to continue paying public servents.  The result is we expect public servants to do more than is humanly possible- while under staffed- with an explosive workload.  They have to prioritize which laws to enforce.  My horrific experience did not rank enforcement.

This is why I struggle to see the value in more gun legislation.  For some people I just jumped from talking about apples to talking about oranges.  They will not see the connection I see to making new gun laws.  But I am going in anyway.  My concern is if the law enforcement cannot manage their current work load what can they do with the new laws legislators want to make?  Certainly they cannot enforce them any better.  But we re-elect law makers who can claim the helped us feel safe.  But this "safety" is an illusion.

I will make an example of illegal immigration.  As I hear one side saying that local law enforcement needs to engage in identifying and rounding up illegal aliens, I also hear the local police departments responding they are already overstretched with their current duties- that they cannot possibly spare enough resources to the illegal immigration issue.  I can accept this response based upon my experience.  There is the world of how we believe things should work... and there is also what really happens.

For this reason I cringe at the suggestion of new gun laws.  In reality I do not see a way to get illegal guns off the streets in America... any faster than we can clean up illegal immigration, illegal drugs or illegal drunk driving.  We already have more laws than we can enforce effectively.  They make us feel safe until we realize they are not really working.

That being said I am against doing nothing about problems.  And yes as I write this I am bundling mass shootings as a problem we need to figure out how to solve.  We have to do something... probably a lot of things to fix this problem, a multilayered complex solution that makes us look at some ugly aspects of things we prefer to ignore, and avoid talking about. Because even as we like to believe we are exceptional as a nation, we also are greatly flawed.  We rushed into this post industrial high tech age with exposure to everything- all the time. At this time we find we are oddly disconnected.  How can we be a great nation if we are disconnected?  I think those Russian trolls have identified our flaws. We need to be the "United" States again.  We can have disagreement, but we need to hash out what we agree we can "DO".  We need to explore what is not working to the root cause and take action on solutions.  Grandstanding on being "right" may work well for your "Brand" and get viral hits.  But words mean nothing, they serve only as entertainment- especially if they only influence stagnation which will destroy us inside out.

Look at us now as we viciously devour the armed school officer who failed to go into that Florida school with the live shooter.  Compared to the hero's inside who gave their lives shielding other students. The officer had one job and failed to do it when his moment happened.  It makes us feel better to "finally" have someone to blame.  Blaming may be a verb, but it will accomplish NOTHING! It doesn't make us safer. Just how long will it take for internet attention whores to beat him up enough online to vindicate our responsibility to do anything?   He's lost his job, which is just- do we also want to destroy his life? Honestly I can have some empathy for this man's situation.  Survivors guilt is going to be a heavy burden for the rest of his life.  Earlier I said my life was more important than anything a thief can take from me.  I cannot imagine it is easy to make that decision to willfully move from safety into danger.  And all we are doing is second guessing what he "could have done".  We will never know if lives could have been saved.  I do not wish further destruction on this man or his family.  Maybe as we step back to look at how we are socially destroying this man nationally we can reflect on impact when this social marginalization happens to a young man at school.  How about we talk about how we socially damage people, rather than helping them.