I won’t be a hero.
I won’t. I checked.
Recently, I was winding through the old part of town, hurrying on foot to a volunteer commitment, when a guy who had just been talking to a security guard obstructed my path, got right in my face, and said “What do you f***in’ got that I can get?”
Honestly, whatever instantaneous reaction I might have had to a threat was delayed by the fact that it took several moments for me to parse his grammar well enough to understand what he was even talking about.
By the time I got around to it, all I had time to think was “Aw, man. I stopped walking and will definitely be late to the volunteer thing now.”
Just then, the security guard poked his head around the corner and yelled at the guy, who took off.
“Are you okay?” the guard called to me.
“Yeah. I don’t know what provoked that,” I said, not stopping to think that the guard, who hadn’t seen the whole interaction, probably didn’t even know what that I was referring to.
We both shrugged.
I turned on my heel and walked off along the most direct route toward my destination, unfortunately the same route my would-be thief had left by. Would he be waiting for me up ahead, beyond the reach of the security guard? What would I do if he were? What would I have done if the security guard hadn’t been there to break up our interaction? Would I be injured right now? Short a watch and wallet?
In the moment, those concerns took a back seat to another:
If I hurried, could I still be on time to the volunteer thing?
The measure of my non-heroism is not what happened in the moment, since there was hardly a moment to react in. The measure of my non-heroism is that, even in debriefing this matter to myself afterward and considering what I would have done without the security guard’s intervention, before I got to other possibilities like…
- maybe there was some way I could have defended myself
- maybe he didn’t have a weapon
- maybe I don’t necessarily have to hand over everything in my possession upon anyone’s demand
- maybe he was just a punk trying his luck, not a violent thief
- maybe I could have just said “nothing” and walked on
- maybe I could have called out for help
- maybe I could have run
… my first thought was that the sensible thing, going forward, would be to never carry anything of value on my person, and instead fill my pockets with things so unexpected that they would elicit laughter from even the most hardened of would-be criminals.
Imagine being held up and producing, instead of a wallet, a giant foam Oreo cookie! Or reaching for your phone and car keys and having them be these. Or going into your pocket for your watch and coming out with way too many watches, one after another, until the thief’s hands overflow with watches and he’s thoroughly confused about where they’re all coming from and why you would have been carrying so many in the first place.
If it was unexpected enough, wouldn’t he fall down laughing and end up taking nothing from you?
Well, maybe. Maybe not. (Probably not.)
But it’s telling what you go to first, isn’t it?
My first solution to possible robbery is non-sequitur sight gags.
I’ll never be a hero.