This is embarrassing. My first trip to Manhattan was in 2008, and I was an attendant of the Travel Channel Academy. That’s not the embarrassing part. What is embarrassing is just how oblivious I was to the situation I stumbled into. When I travel, I am on the eleventh hour, red alert, action stations, type level of alert. The jungles of Brazil, the streets of Mumbai, the alleys of Dubai and pretty much anywhere there is a taxi driver are the areas I always expect trouble. I once prevented a kid from knifing me on a beach in Zanzibar. That’s a story for another time though. The thing is, I let my guard down when we come home. Or I used to, until Tawny and I went to Manhattan six years ago. It was my first trip to the Big Apple and for whatever reason, I had missed the memo that you shouldn’t walk through Central Park at night. (By the way, if you’re new to New York, you shouldn’t walk through Central Park at night.)
Tawny was staying uptown at a local hostel and called me to come pick her up after I got out of class. The Travel Channel Academy was down in Times Square so I had hoped off the subway and was making my way through a very upscale looking neighborhood on the edge of Central Park (I think it was 96th and Central Park West) when it happened. This kid, probably 18 years old, comes up to me and asks if I have the time. Yes, he actually said, “Hey, mister, you got the time?”
It gets worse.
I, now the ultimate yokel, said, “Yeah, of course, it’s 9:18.” It wasn’t though. It was actually time for 8 other guys to appear out of nowhere and surround me. The street I was on went from desolate to crowded really quickly. Here I am, wearing a f*cking blazer, and looking all smug and rich, like I was trying to pick my girlfriend up at a local hostel and now I’m surrounded by a pack of ferrel NYC youth.
“Give me your wallet,” the ring leader said to me. He was a stocky guy, a foot shorter than me, and (like almost everyone) about 15 lbs. up on me. “And the watch,” he added. His posse, looking all around like meerkats, chuckled a little. I started sweating, hard. Then, with out thinking about it I just started walking. I blew past the ring of guys and kept pushing towards Columbus Ave. Not saying a word. It looked like a mile away, but I could see people on Columbus, unlike the block I was on. Here it was just me and nine other guys.
The ring leader ran up and blocked my path, he put his hand up on my chest and said, “Look man, give me your wallet.” His posse circled up again and closed in a little tighter on me. The thing is, I know how this is supposed to go. You give the guy your wallet, you walk away, and you cancel your cards. Within a couple days you get a replacement ID and by the time you’ve filed your police report you’ll have cash from a local bank. Ultimately you’ll just be down the $20 you had in cash. Just hand it over and walk on. Instead though, I blanked out.
A switch went off in my head. Without thinking at all, just purely reacting like an animal. I leaned down to him, locked his eyes and said, “You need to ease up out of my face before I do something f*cking crazy.”
Then I walked away.
I reached Columbus Ave, what felt like an eternity away, and there I got swallowed up in the whir of the lights and the tide of people again. I then began to sh*t my pants a few times.
You’ll never know how you’ll react in these situations, so be careful out there.
Have a mugging story? We would LOVE to hear it.