Saturday, September 20, 2014

This Service Interruption Sponsored by Crazy

When I was a child, I thought I was invincible. I'd climb tall trees and hold on with one hand. I'd walk rural highways with no concern. I'd throw shade back at jerks because they weren't going to escalate it into a physical throw-down. I've even been in some scrapes on my younger days. I never believed anyone would actually attack me without provocation.

Imagine my surprise when I was attacked by a random woman in at a busy intersection in a nice part of town yesterday morning. I had just finished my chai latte and some reading about small business. I discarded my cup and began the half mile walk to my daily grind. It's usually a nice walk, giving me time to organize my pre-workday thoughts. I head down a main drag before winding my way through neighborhoods where they disregard the lawn watering rules of the LA drought. Kids sell lemonade on street corners and people walk dogs in their J. Crew pajama pants. It's safe. I wasn't on guard like I am in less idyllic neighborhoods.

I was waiting to cross the street and walk to work when a crazy woman walked behind me, yanked my hair, and twisted my head. She was muttering like a crazy person. I didn't provoke her, try staring her down, loudly ask who invited the kook to the corner. I just stood at the corner waiting for that walking man to pop up on the sign. She yanked and yanked while I shouted at her to stop. When she released me, she headed the other way. The light changed and I darted across the street.

Time moves slowly during an attack. There were two people on that part of the corner with me: a woman on a bicycle who got the hell out of there before the light changed, and a man with a child in a stroller. Neither was going to help me. There were more people just down the block, but they were far more shocked than I was. I didn't scream or shout for help. I broke out my Actor Voice and yelled at her to stop.

Taking every bad thing as a lesson, here's what I've learned:
  • When something bad happens, yes, it is actually happening and it is for real. Don't waste valuable time trying to sort that part out like I did. I could have swung around and clocked her with my handbag, taken a photo of her after, and hollered after the motorcycle cop in the area that didn't seem to notice.
  • No one is obligated to help you, and chances are no one will even if you scream or shout. Be prepared to handle the situation yourself. After she went the other direction, the man with the stroller asked if I was okay. I crossed two streets at the intersection, and someone who witnessed it on an opposing corner asked if I was okay. No one was going to dart across a busy intersection to get a crazy woman to disengage.
  • If a man attacks a woman at a busy intersection, people are more likely to get involved. If a woman attacks another woman, it's a different dynamic and doesn't prompt interference. If I was a man, she would never have attacked me like that. An attack can come from anyone, so you sadly must keep up your guard.
  • Report any incidents as soon as possible. In Los Angeles, you are discouraged from tying up 911 when a situation is not posing immediate danger. It's a big city and there are limited resources. If you witness or experience something like this and you're not wounded, you may decide to fill out the anonymous web tip form and submit that. You can also text CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone and begin the message with the letters LAPD. If enough people report the crazies, they may be removed from endangering others before they kill someone.
  • No one has the right to derail your intentions with their crazy. I was on my way to work with a gig at night, and I wasn't seriously injured. (I was just sore and shaken up.) I could've given up and scurried home to hide out and cry, going over and over how I could dare be so vulnerable that something like this could happen to me, canceling everything on my agenda and skulking in my dark bedroom. I pushed through, put in most of a workday, and did my show at night. It was tough. I was pretty fragile until I had a nap, but I didn't give up on getting things done.
  • You have a support network, even if you feel like you don't. One of the marvels of social media is being able to stay connected with people in real time. I've received so much support and many encouraging words because I shared what happened. I was urged by my friends to file a report. I have a friend who teaches self-defense and is trying to sort out the best technique to defend against that exact means of attack. I had offers of help, and I'm working on a growler of comfort beer from a very dear friend. People care about you, even if they don't say it all the time. Keep that in mind.
I ended the workday with an Uber ride home. I use Uber and the bus frequently when my husband has the car. I took an Uber so I could be around a safe stranger. Not everyone is crazy. Not everyone is out to hurt you. It was therapeutic to just be in the same space as someone I didn't know who wasn't going to hurt me.

I hope you never face something like this, but I hope that my experience informs your safety and survival should you ever face a crazy.

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