Never Ignore The Little Voice Inside Your Head.

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When I was thirty-two years old, I was mugged.

With ten years of city life in Chicago under my belt, a genetic disposition toward calculated risk (a ticker tape of pros and cons runs in a continuous loop through my head), and a fairly acceptable amount of caffeine flowing through my veins, I raced out the door one muggy summer morning to power walk a few short blocks and sign my son up for baseball. This was during the Mesozoic Era, or pre-electronic enrollment, and I knew I had about a twenty-minute window to make the line before all spots would be taken, thereby denying my son the necessary foundation to learn to hit a ball off a tee, which was an absolute must if he was ever going to claim his rightful spot in the Cubs starting lineup.

That’s the inside of my brain. Image via addamsfamily.com

Apparently, everyone else in my neighborhood had older kids, no kids and were therefore hung over, or happened to be White Sox fans, because on that particular morning, the street was deserted.

Well, almost deserted.

A couple of blocks deep into my line of sight, I noticed someone walking toward me: brisk pace, slumped shoulders, hoodie half-covering his head. He kind of resembled one of my favorite guest stars from 21 Jump Street, but not one of the good guys. More than any fictional character, though, he looked like someone who didn’t want to be seen.

Image via nydailynews.com

Having intentionally exposed myself to a ridiculous amount of 80s trivia-caliber crime shows growing up, I was immediately on guard. But I also had time to think, which, as fate would have it, ended up being a big mistake.

As the sketchy figure approached, I debated the voice inside my head that, at this point, had busted through my ticker tape and was jumping up and down against the inside of my cranium, screaming at me to cross the street.

This is my sixth sense busting through my internal ticker tape of logic. Image, via fandomania.com, not to scale.

The conversation went something like this:

Sixth Sense: “Hey. Are you, like, awake or what? There’s only one other person in the entire city of Chicago who’s outside right now, and he happens to be walking toward you. He doesn’t appear to be stumbling home from a walk of shame and he’s not dressed in a suit carrying a bible. In fact, he looks kind of scary.”

Conscience: “I see him.”

Sixth Sense: “O.K., great. What are you gonna do?”

Conscience: “Nothing.”

Sixth Sense: “Right. Perfect answer, because he’s now about a block away, has yet to look up so you can see his face, and appears to be roughly twice your size.”

Conscience: “I realize that, but you don’t know what he’s about any more than I do.”

Sixth Sense: “I don’t need to know. I can feel who he is, and on a scale of 1 – 100, I’d guess somewhere in the “absolute certainty” range that he isn’t someone who wants to be your friend.”

Conscience: “You’re just projecting fear.”

Sixth Sense: “Exactly.”

Conscience: “Listen, I’m not jaded like you. In case you haven’t noticed, ever since 9/11 there’s been a lot of misguided profiling in this country, and I don’t buy into false labels. I’m standing my ground.”

Sixth Sense: “You’re asking for it.”

Conscience: “You’re stereotyping.”

Sixth Sense: “You’re smarter than this.”

Conscience: “You’re better than this.”

Sixth Sense: “You’re an idiot.”

Conscience: “You’re an ass.”

At this point in my two-sided internal monologue, the partially hooded man walked quickly by, only lightly brushing my shoulder as he passed.

“See?” I said to myself, smug and satisfied as the stranger circled back, and with a rapid-sequence series of moves that could only be the work of a Ninja or a professional thief, attempted to rip my arm off from behind. Because it was attached to my purse.

None of these ninjas mugged me. Image via travelblog.org

Now, since I’d already done such a fantastic job of following the logical, subconscious direction dictated by a vocal minority of my brain, I proved to be equally awesome at thinking on my feet. I did exactly what every cop, teacher, and after-school special tells you not to.

As he grabbed, I flexed. When he pulled, I hung on, pitting us in a five-second tug-of-war that felt more like the time it would take to tread water through a football field of quicksand in a pair of Christian Louboutins.

Image via shoeblog.com.

Finally, my strap broke, he grabbed my purse, and sprinted away. I ran in the opposite direction, but not before stopping to pick up my wallet, which had fallen to the sidewalk during our fight.

In the end he stole a 37” Samsonite Comfort Travel umbrella, a list of people who had sent gifts to my newborn daughter, and some thank you cards. I have no idea who was on that list, but now, ten years later, if you sent a present and didn’t hear from me? I’m truly sorry, but it wasn’t my fault, so please stop ignoring my friend requests.

Image via mnandp.files.wordpress.com

Although I’m attempting to highlight the humor as I tell this story, my experience was the exact opposite. It was horrendous. I suffered from insomnia for months, pacing the floor in my bedroom as I played, replayed, and overplayed the virtual Rubik’s Cube combination of decisions I could have made that day but didn’t, not to mention the potential outcomes. I know there are countless people who’ve been in similar situations with worse results. In the end, I was lucky.

Getting mugged isn’t exclusive to my gender. I have male friends who’ve been robbed (and thankfully not shot) at gunpoint, which has to be a harrowing experience. But when a man enters a woman’s personal space, uninvited and intending harm, it’s a violation that’s difficult to shake, with a magnitude of future influence that’s even harder to define. The physical odds are beyond unevenly stacked when it comes to defense, and the moral implication behind the intent has the potential to be, and often is, life-changing.

And that’s why I think women have developed a 6th sense. Because we need it.

Women often try to be everything to everyone else, paying little attention to our own inner voices. We’re a nurturing gender, and want to believe, sometimes contrary to the preponderance of evidence presented, in the power of good.

In those few moments when I talked myself out of doing what was right and inevitably made decisions that were completely wrong, my intent was honest even if my execution poor. I didn’t want to label someone. I wanted to be nice. I didn’t want to judge. I wanted to walk by that man and feel justified in the knowledge that I hadn’t bought into stereotypes. I didn’t want to run. I wanted to be fair.

I made a big mistake.

A couple of hours after I was mugged, the police officer showed up to file a report, and told me there was a series of shootings that morning about ten blocks from my house. They happened earlier, and all involved robbery. Was it the same guy? I’ll never know. They didn’t catch him. But I’ll always wonder.

When your 6th sense tells you to do something, listen. I didn’t, and I was fortunate to get the chance to try again.

44 responses »

  1. That’s the rub between being enlightened and being safe.
    Generally, I won’t cross the street just because the villain stereotype du jour is coming towards me.
    But every so often, yeah, I run into one of the ones that give the bigger group a bad name.

    Glad this one went your way and that you can look back on it and laugh!

    • Hope your run-ins left you unscathed, El Guapo.

      It only took me about 9 and1/2ish years to learn to laugh at the whole thing…through my tears…and a hugh Maker’s Mark…used in lieu of milk in the morning with my Wheaties.

      Thanks for the visit and comment. =)

  2. Wow…this was an awesome, gut wrenching post Stacie and I have several comments.

    1. When you were 32 years old….you look like you’re 26. I don’t know what you do to look so fabulous but don’t stop doing it.
    2. Wow. I may have been through a lot in my life, but never a random act of violence. You must have been terrified. I think I would have been scared to leave the house for weeks.
    3. I know that this was a an awful and very serious event, your comedic take on it had me laughing out loud. It’s not fair that God gave you looks, intelligence, a sharp wit AND a nice personality. Some people are just spoiled. 😉

    • 1. You just made my month Wendy! I’m 42, but based on my complete lack of sleep last night due my monthly visit to hormonal hell, today I feel like I’m 82. Of course if I was 82 my hormonal issues would be a thing of the past, so maybe 62?

      2. I was more pissed than terrified. Mad that I didn’t listen to my 6th sense, mad that I was wrong, mad that the guy entered my personal space…when I get mad I debate with myself, often at 2 a.m., and figure out 248 other ways I could have solved the problem I failed to address in the moment. Of course, the moment’s gone, but that never seems to stop me. =p

      3. OK now you just made my year. All the love and compliments in the universe right back atcha.

      xoxo

  3. I’m so sorry this happened to you, Stacie. I was chased when I was ten, and while I was lucky enough to get away, I completely know how warped your psyche can get from such an experience. I love your sense of humor, and how you use your razor-sharp wit to make your point. As Yoda would say, ” A great writer, you are.”

    I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall of that creepazoid’s house when he sat down to check out his haul and found the umbrella and thank you notes. Karma, baby!

    • Thanks, Beth. I do love how karma seems to thread it’s way around the world. =)

      Being chased at the age of 10 would be life-changing. I’m glad you got away. Karma flexing it’s muscles once again perhaps, combined with a little girl who had a good head on her shoulders.

      I love Yoda. “A great writer, too you are, Beth.” Thanks for stopping by. I’m picking up a class in January at Lighthouse, BTW. Have you ever taken anything from Bill Henderson?

      • Bill is great! A very poetic and beautiful writer. What class are you taking? I’m doing NaNo, by the way. Scrapped my previous novel 50 pages in after realizing it was a major snoozer/downer. Psyched by my new idea and the ticking clock! It will be fun to debrief about it in December. Good luck!

      • Good luck to you too! I’ve never done it before. Since I haven’t worked on the novel since mid-June, I thought it’d be the perfect kick in the pants to get me going…and finished.

        I have no idea what class to take, or what he’s teaching. Do you have a suggestion? Sarah rec’d him as an instructor since she’s taking time off, and I now realize (since I’m not currently taking a class) that it’s a great motivation to produce.

  4. I loved this piece, Stacie! Your inner dialogue with yourself was very relatable to me because I have the same conversations with myself as well. Even if you had crossed the street he still may have come after you and your purse. I loved that he didn’t in the end even end up with anything of value. How lucky were you to have your wallet fall out! I am so glad you were OK!

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and comment, Diane. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who sometimes (OK, in my case, often) has competing dialogue running through her brain.

      I kind felt like my wallet falling out was the world’s way of rewarding me for trying to do what I had convinced myself at the time was the right thing.

      Never again though!

  5. Such wise words. I’m so sorry that happened to you. We’re taught to be polite, and we don’t want to offend someone by crossing the street. “What if he’s just an innocent Joe?” we ask ourselves, not wanting to target them. But as you point out, that 6th sense is there for a reason. We have to listen to it. I had a scary experience in an isolated metro stop when I was a young Au Pair girl in Paris years ago. Luckily, it ended with me kicking the guy who’d cornered me and running away like a bat out of hell. I ran the entire way to the next busy Metro stop, likely looking like a fool to anyone watching but not caring. I shook for hours afterwards and have been extremely cautious ever since, so I know how long experiences like that can stay with us.

    • It only takes one encounter to make a lifelong imprint. I’m so happy you were smart and yours ended up the right way. I used this post to talk with all three of my kids about safety…I cross-my-fingers hope they never have to put it to use though.

      Thanks for the comment, Carrie, always glad to see you here!

  6. Maybe your 6th sense did know – “what if” you crossed that street and he chased you and couldn’t catch you and used the gun the police were referring to – it could have been a lot worse. So scary either way. So glad you were ok in the end!

  7. Yikes! I couldn’t agree with you more about listening to our sixth sense, especially since there’s usually a pretty big size differential between men and women. At a couple of the gyms I went to there were assaults in the parking lot. (Supposedly women are most vulnerable after the gym and the grocery store, when they’re tired or their arms are full.) So, I used to be like a crazy person, “accidentally” setting off my car alarm whenever I saw men wandering around the parking lot, especially if they weren’t wearing gym clothes. I figured better safe than sorry, and that no one would want to attack me with all that noise.

    • I used to take the train at 5:00 a.m. in Chicago so I could go to the gym and shower before work. I had mace, some kind of super-high frequency screaming alarm thing, etc. You’re right about better to be safe than sorry…it’s a lesson that’s now etched into my brain.

    • The weird thing is, I always thought I WAS hypervigilant. It was more a matter of me talking me out of what I knew to be pretty obvious based on variables that should have been left out of the equation all along. Does that make sense?

      Congrats on getting FP, again. Are you coming down off the high yet? It’s like a sugar rush that last for a solid 48 hours.

  8. I hate that this happened. You got enough distance from it to be able to share your experience and what went through your mind at that moment. And you reminded us about our sixth sense. I’m so glad you didn’t get hurt Stacie.

    • That was laugh-out-loud funny, Sid. The answer is no, and thanks to that asshole, there will be no trips to spring training in AZ when it’s 15 degrees in CO.

      Nice to see you. How’ve you been?

  9. Thanks for sharing that story and making an important point. It’s interesting how logic and rational thinking can talk a person out of listening to intuition. My daughter and I had a guy follow us out of the subway station a little too close, a little too late at night and with no one else around, or so it seemed. Thankfully our hotel door wasn’t far away but I nervous and getting bad vibes. I tried to teach my daughter about that and she dismissed it and me as being paranoid. So now, the issue is how to get our kids to understand that and listen to it too. Thanks for bring up a good topic Stacie.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Lisa. Writing this post proved to be a good talking point for me with my kids, since at the time it happened they were toddlers and babies (or didn’t exist).

      Glad you ended up OK in the subway. You’re a smart woman, I’d be willing to bet your daughter will come around.

  10. Whoa, what a scary situation! Were you a total wreck in the weeks following? Also, I’d be telling everyone that story. “Oh, you had a bad day today? I GOT MUGGED.”

    I never get alone with a man in an elevator. Between my mom and 60 minutes, I’ve learned that it’s a very dangerous place for a woman to be. I’ve gotten some very disgusted looks when I step out and say I’ll wait for the next one, but I’m not taking the chance.

    So happy you were okay.

    • That’s the thing: I’m a really careful person too. I crossed paths with that guy at the wrong time in history (post 9/11 when friends and co-workers were being falsely labeled), and didn’t listen when my 6th sense told me to get my head out of my ass. Never again. I totally get your motives with elevators. Stay with it. xoxo

  11. Wow, that must have been scary. But I did like what you said about you didn’t to stereotype and wanted to be fair. How does one strike that balance? I’m glad you came out in one piece!

    • It’s a hard line to walk sometimes, and I find it to be the same with the kids: “Be polite” “Don’t talk to strangers” “Look adults in the eye” “Never get in the car with someone you don’t know…I send mixed messages unintentionally, just like the messages my brain was sending when that happened.

      Thanks for the read and sweet comment, Stella!

  12. Sixth sense? Interesting stuff.

    When I was a little boy – and I was a little boy, so God knows how I ended up the behemoth I am now: my dear old Mum, who came not quite up to my shoulder used to pay my chest and murmur “You grew into a very BIG boy, didn’t you? – I was walking down the road to Langland Bay near Swansea, walking my tiny Norfolk Terrier. Mum was off at some party in the big house up the street. In those days no one paid never-no-mind to a nine year old wandering off with a dog for hours on end. After all, I knew not to talk to strange men …

    Which is all very well, until a completely ordinary, friendly, well spoken fellow who doesn’t strike one as at all strange cheerfully says hello to a polite, rather shy boy halfway down the hill and compliments you on your nice dog and isn’t it a nice day and I don’t think I know you are you not from around here are you that’s an English accent isn’t it and I love walking down to the beach here … And everything seems perfectly polite and ordinary and not at all threatening.

    Except … Except … The little terrier suddenly starts snarling and snapping and growling and straining at the end of his leash, as if he was fit to fly at the polite stranger and rip his throat out … And then its all I’m terribly sorry, Sir, I don’t know what’s got into him, he’s never like this, he’s such a friendly dog normally.

    And then we’re at the bottom of the hill, by the big grey cement public lavatory block that services the whole beach so it looks exactky like a German pillbox, and the nice man is asking solicitously if I’d like to go into the toilets with him, into the big, cavernous oh-so-quiet toilets, and the little dog is looking fit to burst, and I say no Sir I don’t need to thank you, and he says well I will, so in he goes, and the dog stops barking and looks at me and i know bad things happen in public toilets even though i am not quite sure what exactly, so back off up the hill we run as fast as six very small legs will carry us. And sure enough, in a very short space of time, not nearly long enough to do a wee even, the nice man comes out of the toilets and starts hunting backwards and forwards, looking for us, obviously annoyed and looking hither and thither on the beach, except we’re not on the beach are we, we’re back up the hill by now and running for the big house, where we will crash through the front door in floods of tears to be cosseted and understood and calmed.

    Interesting stuff, sixth sense. Definitely not limited to humans.

    • Wow. Reading about your experience gave me chills (and not just the hair standing on end kind).

      That you remember the encounter so vividly is a huge testimony to why we should listen to any time our little voice won’t shut up. Cheers to your little terrier for being so big that day too.

      Thanks for reading and sharing, Yolly. So glad your story has a happy ending….=)

  13. I’m not so sure you made a big mistake, Stacie. You learned from the experience, and what you learned will no doubt keep you safer for the rest of your life. What if you’d managed to avoid the guy, completely averting the incident? I imagine you would have either begun second-guessing yourself and feeling guilty, or more likely, forgotten about the whole thing because, really, nothing happened. With the lesson not learned, the next similar situation might have turned out far worse.

    This reminds me of another excellent post you did a while ago, the one about the little boy and the older man in the supermarket. These are difficult experiences, I know, but the little voice inside your head says a lot of smart things. Your ability to reflect on what you see and feel, and then to write about them in such insightful and humorous ways, helps all of us to learn.

    I can’t wait to hear that your son is in the Cubs’ starting lineup. (And speaking of the Cubs, they were 27th in batting average this past season, and 28th in runs scored. Maybe a tee wouldn’t be such a bad idea.) (Please don’t hate me for that.)

    • You make a good point, Charles. Considering that I got out of the encounter relatively unscathed, I’ve used it as a life lesson, and it’s served me well in that regard. Thanks for pointing out the positives. =)

      As for the Cubs? I was at the playoff game in 2003 when Steve Bartman caught that foul ball. Whether it’s bad luck or a bad line-up, our destiny seems to be pre-determined every season. It’s a good thing I live in Denver now, though, because the Rockies lit it up this year.

  14. I completely agree. I’ve heard amazing stories of survival from people who listened to that little voice. And then there are stories like the Starbucks barrista in Oregon who was murdered by her neighbor who asked her for a ride. I bet she had that little voice, but she wanted to be nice. I know exactly how she feels. Hubs has no problem being an a-hole to someone he doesn’t trust. It’s harder for women.

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