Thursday, July 7, 2016

That time I almost got robbed

Walking near Buckingham palace
with my now infamous handbag
Photo cred: Mandy
A couple of weeks ago I had a medical procedure - nothing serious. The result is a bit of cramping and discomfort after the main event. I had already prepped the flat for the things I'd need: popcorn, wine, tea, nerds (important stuff). After I left the hospital, I took an Uber. The walk to the tube station was too much to deal with under such circumstances. Of course I chose Uberpool because who doesn't want to save a few pounds on the off chance you pick up a second passenger which isn't a big deal anyway? We are pulling up to St Pancras station - about a 5 minute walk from my flat - when a second passenger calls. The driver says we'll have to turn back to pick them up cause it makes more sense for the route. Well...5 minutes, yeah, I'll just get out there. I'm walking to the flat with my handbag and a bag of dog food...uncomfortable, but I'll make it...when I see two elderly women walking in front of me as we are passing the McDonalds across from the station.

Luckily I was watching where I was going since I saw the elderlier of the two trip on a shifted bit of concrete, do a scary but quite lovely pirouette, then land hard. First on the ground, then her head bam against the exhaust of a motorcycle parked on the side street. It scared the shit out of me. I immediate ran the few paces forward in a futile effort to catch her before the fall. Instead, her friend and I just grabbed her hands after the impact and lightly pulled her to a sitting position. She was obviously dazed. 

Now, I want to stop here to explain to you that this whole affair is happening across the street from Kings Cross and St Pancras station - likely one of the busiest spots in London. Not one single person stopped to help. Instead, the whole of London was rushing past chatting away or looking at their phones. Yeah, I know.

I'm looking down at her. Her friend can't lift her. There are no knights in shining armor on Euston Road this Thursday afternoon. I set down my dog food and purse just to my right so I can use my legs to get her to a standing position (once I made sure she was ready to stand, of course). My lower abdomen is screaming from the recent hospital visit, but I lift her up all the same. Thank goodness for chair pose and ballet calves because my thighs were not pulling their weight. Just when I get this poor woman to standing, a little git about 17 years old sees an opening, grabs my purse and takes off running. Ok, so, this is not my first time around the block. I lived in central Brooklyn for the better part of a year. I always watch my shit. I saw immediately what he'd done. 

So so lucky I had just got her standing because I was able to start chase seconds after. He turned down the lane towards my flat (rather than continuing up the high street) at the last minute, perhaps thinking I would lose sight. I cut him off and caught up to him just outside a hotel midway down the side street. I tried to grab his shirt with my left hand while running and missed, but I did get a hold of my bag with my right on the upswing. He was surprised. I'm pretty sure he thought I would have to finish with the lady and wouldn't even have ran after him.

He turned, and started to pull my bag back! I couldn't believe it. Again, let me remind you that we are in a very busy place with people everywhere. Yet, still so far no one has helped. Wow.

Surely my handbag was going to rip. What are the odds that I had just taken this leather bag to the shoe repair shop a week before for repair because the handle broke? Lucky me. The screws were held in tight. I remember wishing I had the bag in my left hand, knowing full well a punch with my right would do more damage. Regardless, no doubt my left had was ready to protect my face should things go south.

After a short and still completely shocking back and forth where the kid did nothing more than pull, a man burst from the hotel. He'd obviously witnessed some portion of the exchange and felt compelled to help (dare I say, finally?). He shouted something at the kid that I don't remember, the kid realized he'd lost, let go, ran off, and it was over.

By this time the friend had helped the poor lady waddle over to where we were standing, carrying my dog food. She immediately started telling the story of what had happened back on the high street as the guy (now clearly Australian) stood cursing the kid and assuring me he could still catch him if I thought he should try. I was still in shock but managed to say no. I had my bag and everything was fine. The Aussie helped the lady into the hotel to rest and I started to calm. My body and head were hurting and my flat - just half a block up - was calling to me. I didn't even get the Aussie's info. I know I said thank you but I'm sure I should have done more. 

Home with the pup and resting, in the end
Afterwards, I reflected that I should probably not have chased this kid. He could have been armed in some way, he could have hit me instead of just tugged back and forth on my bag. I could have really been hurt. Is my bag and its contents worth the risk? Who knows...I never even thought about it at the time. In the end, I was more afraid after than during. With likely many more travels in my future, I'm going to use this as a warning that not all purse thieves are as gallant as little Mr. London was. 

And, also, really Brits? Really? No help to the elderly OR the theft victim...the old days of courtesans and knights are certainly over here in London.

Thank goodness for Aussies.

G'day mate