Are you talking to me?

The following took place a couple of weeks ago: I’m walking home from the metro listening to Amadou and Mariam, having an uneventful time of it. So I cruise by the all the nice houses decked out in Christmas lights, I favor the white lights for the record, and all is swell. So I make my turn off of New Hampshire Ave and all is good until I get to my house.

I’m really rocking out now doing my best to sing along in French with Amadou and Mariam (a really good African duo influenced by Manu Chao) when a guy jumps out from nowhere while my keys are literally in the door. So I turn around and, and… I froze. I was so stunned and oblivious, just totally taken by surprise. I mean it was ridiculous. I always thought I’d have a Robert DeNiro moment and say “are you talking to me?”. Suffice it to say I reacted in just about the exact opposite way – I just stood there with my mouth hanging open, thinking Oh God this is it.

So, he actually says to me “don’t worry I’m not going to rob you.” Whew well that is a relief. I don’t know you tell me, when I guy jumps out of the bushes right in front of your house, how do you react? I fucking froze. Sorry, I repeat myself. So the guy who is clearly homeless pulls the whole “hey I don’t have enough money to get on the metro scam.” I must have a certain look because this has been used on me at least a dozen times. Ok, I’m sure at some point people really don’t have enough money to get on the metro but I live like a half a mile from the Metro! Incidentally, what brutal increase WMATA is contemplating.

Anyway, so there I am keys hanging out of the door, ipod blaring, and this homeless guy asking for money. Ready for the anticlimactic moment? Well, I gave him the change in my pocket and he left. But it is bullshit. Because I wasn’t prepared, because I was taken by surprise, I simply didn’t react at all and as a result I felt intimidated and powerless. What if I had said no? I guess I really do just read the Metro section to often. What I would have liked to have said was, “what the mother fuck are you jumping out of the bushes at 7 o’clock at night, you bastard!?” Now, listen I was raised properly I give money to charities and to the homeless for that matter but at that moment I felt like I had no choice.

Now, what if I told him to fuck off? He knows where I live etc. etc. So I gave him the change in my pocket but he took a lot more than the change in my pocket. So where does the real tragedy lie? I no longer listen to my ipod on my walks home. I mean I am one alert mother fucking panther when I walk home now. Which sucks, because I loved rocking out to my tunes on the walk home. This is the price we pay for being cautious and living in the City I suppose. So my warning to all, this could have been a lot worse, it was a reality check wake up call for me – be alert on your walks home. Don’t be oblivious listening to your ipod or talking on the phone or you’ll get surprised and I can assure you it is not a pleasant feeling.

4 Comment

  • Oh Mighty Prince of Petworth,

    You’re a former New Yorker – Do we New Yorkers ever REALLY let down our guard??? I could be in the middle of Idaho and I would still lock my car doors and look over my shoulder for fear that one of the cows may seek that moment for revenge for tipping them while they were sleeping!

    Be careful out there. Even though most businesses close by 5 or 6 PM here and the metro does NOT run 24 hours a day, don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. This is still THE CITY.

  • Roger that Wanda. Lesson learned. We are still in the City and Thank God for that! I’ve started carrying my mugging wallet again but on the other hand I recently saw a development complex out in Maryland and when I got back to Petworth I kissed the ground I was so happy to be back.

  • As a former resident of the area, and a law enforcement officer, it actually amazes me how many people walk around at night on the streets talking away on their cell phones or with sound-blocking headphones on their heads. Not everyone will be a victim, but why open yourself up to it? You can do those things and walk, but just be aware of your surroundings. Listen to your ipod, just don’t turn the volume up so much. You can do like I used to, put in one headphone and leave the other ear open.

  • Community policing isn’t new. It’s been Ramsey’s stated approach since he got here. How well has it been implemented? Not that that great, or at least not properly. It’s hard to police a community when the officers don’t know the community and the community doesn’t know its officers. Officers and officials (at least at the Sgt and Lt levels) on a city-wide basis have to know their neighborhoods. They need to get out of their cars. It’s just that simple. You don’t have to have every officer on a footbeat, or on footbeat all the time. Maybe park the car and walk the block a couple of times in random order, talk to people, go into businesses and meet the owners, keep a record of the information for your beat of people you meet. That way when something bad happens, you know who to go to ask, and you know who the trouble makers are, and the residents and business owners care that something happened in their neighborhood. That’s community policing.
    It’s the type of policing MPD needs to not only state as their approach, but really plan out and implement. This takes committment from officers and especially from their supervisors. Don’t get me wrong, there are a whole lot of officers and officials who work hard with their communities, but it’s not consistent enough, especially in the neighborhoods that need it the most. Now that I’ve called out officers, there is the flip side to this coin, the community itself. Members of the community are the other and equally important piece to this puzzle. Simply saying there’s nothing you can do about it, it’s the police’s problem, not much I can do, keeps community policing from really being a success. A person doesn’t have to be a police officer to police their community, there are plenty of other ways to be part of this process and I encourage everyone to find a way that fits them, and if nothing matches with you, start something new. Granted this is easier in some neighborhoods than others of course, but there is always a way to do something that contributes to the larger effort of public safety.

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