Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Brief Mugging : How I Regained My Faith in Humanity

"I woke up and didn't see him here, figured he was having a good night." she said.  I was laying down in the bed next to hers at a dingy hostel in Brooklyn, NY.  What she didn't know is that I was still awake.  I then sat up and said, "I was mugged last night, I just got in."  Herself, a wonderful girl (20 yo) from Australia, and a amazing guy from Germany shuttered.  Out of all the things I could have said, that was the most unexpected.

I was partying the night before and was pretty drunk.  I was trying to find the subway at 3am in the lower east-side of Manhattan alone.  Someone came up to me off of the street and led me down a side-street (something a step up from a alley and a step down from a actual street).  After venturing in way to far (especially in my inebriated state), a knife was pulled and pure silence ensued as he patted me down for a 36 hr old iPhone6s and my wallet.  A push, a shove, and he ran off, in a instant the man melded back into the night.  Like a drop of water melding back into a ocean.  

I stumble up and walk around disoriented, lost of my Metro card I suddenly realize I don't have anything, I mean ANYTHING on me.  I find two of NYC's "finest" who give me a 'Wow. That sucks.' attitude.  One of them starts giving me instructions back to the subway while the other pieces it together.  "Wow man, you don't have a metcard do you?"  I shake my head no.  "You'll have to walk back to Brooklyn.  Closest bridge is Williamsburg down there.  Good luck to ya."

I walk down towards the bridge and cross.  I figure that if I turn left I might see some street I recognize.  Unfortunately it wasn't quite that simple.  I turned left and mistook a street as east/west, while it was actually north/south.  I walked for hours.  Finally finding a subway stop that I knew off of the (L).  I'd figure that the road I was on was the subway line (looking for the 6 exhaust grates), I'd then walk 2 blocks and scan the area looking for the next stop.  I'd be wrong from time to time, but was able to retrace my way back to the hostel.  Arrived at 8:30 AM, 5 1/2 hours later.  What should have been a 5 mile walk turned into 10 from my mis-directions.  

But this story is not about an attack, it's not about an assailant, nor is it about those cops.  It's about everyone else.


The Australian and German are stunned.  It was then that I realized that the loss was bad, but having a flight back to LA and no ID was going to be a big problem.  I can get another phone, I can replace the cards, but how do I live here in the city with nothing for 2 more days.  I look up in tears, "I don't know what to do, I have nothing.  I'm supposed to be on a plane in 2 days.  I can't stay here."  And something incredible started happening...

The Australian girl gave me literally every penny she had.  The German gave me what he could.  All in all I'm at $21 now.  Plus the Australian gave me her Metro card with 2 days left (she was meeting her aunt and didn't need it anymore) which would get me around town and to JFK on train.  Which I already accepted was going to be another walk (checking my map now, I realize that was a 15 mile hike I was adverted {if I knew how to get there, and I didn't... No phone = no map.}).

I hug both of them in tears.  Then I go down to the front desk and ask for a phone to borrow.  I grab my laptop and start calling credit cards and my bank, etc etc... I'm back in the kitchen area stressed out dealing with my banks.  The German reappears, hands me all his food he had on him.  Cereal, cottage cheese, bagels.. Loads of great high calorie and sustaining foods that'll keep me fed for at least these 2 days.  If you're keeping tally that's 2 days of food, $21, and a transit card.  I'm doing pretty good.  He gets yet another teary hug.

My mother found about the incident off of facebook.  I happened to be logged in, as that was my only way to communicate with anyone.  My mother ends up speaking with a "Mia" from JetBlue Airlines.  Whom did everything in her power to find some solution for me to get onto a plane.  My mom asks if I'd want to leave tonight.  "I can get to JFK tonight." I tell her.  She says that I need a police report to show authorities at the airport.  I look it up and get directions to the closest Police Station.  I say bye to my mom and shut my laptop.  With one move I sever my connection to anyone outside.  And head out blind.  Again, no phone = no map.

I end up at a Police Station, one officer does end up speaking with me and tells me unfortunately that I must report to Manhattan Police, 9th Precinct.  He give me basic directions.  "It's on 5th street between 1st and 2nd ave."  That was enough for me to find.  And I felt ok about getting back over there and finding it. 

I walk into Manhattan's 9th and up to the desk police officer to file.  I fill out a report and explain what happened.  She was getting really bureaucratic (not a fan of that) and I finally just told her: "I know you aren't going to catch the guy, like that'll ever happen... All I want is a police report so I can get on a plane and get the hell out of here."  Another officer listening in chimed in, "There is no way in the world they are going to let you on a plane without any ID."  That's when the weight of the situation really hit me.  Thoughts going through my head, You mean I'm not going home?  I can't stay here, no money, no room, some food but it's not going to last.  I'll be on the streets.  I started crying in the middle of the precinct.  I just didn't know what in the world I was going to do.

Here is a critical moment that happened...

The second cop started chatting with another officer.  "Hey Pauli!  What's the number to the TSA?  THE TSA!  AT JFK!"  He gets on the phone and the dialogue is something like this: 

"I've got a guy here who got mugged and has nothing now but is on a flight with you guys. What's he do?  That's right, no cards, no ID, no nothing.  Are you not listening to me!  MUGGED!  What kind of world do you live in?  I want to visit that world where muggers give back your ID and some spending cash back.  Maybe even a bank card..   YOU GO DO THAT!  GO GET YOUR SUPERVISOR!  GET SOMEONE ON THIS PHONE THAT KNOWS WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OVER THERE...."

...long pause...

"WHAT!  Who are you!  'Kay.... Hmmmm............... What are they called?    Ok.... Alright........  That it?  Alright.  He'll be there tonight."

He stands up, approaches me.

"Alright guy, here's the plan... You're going to go down there and find the TSA TDCs.  They are called The Document Checkers.  Those are the TSA workers who check the ID and name on the boarding pass, around their area will be two workers dressed in blue TSA uniforms, they are the supervisors.  Talk with them.  They'll need to escalate to do something called a 'IBCC'.  That will get you verified and on that plane."  

I'm barely able to speak I'm so happy... "Thank you sir."  And I leave back to the hostel.  Once back there I turn on my laptop and immediately get a message from my mother who already worked something out with JetBlue.  I'm booked on a flight tonight.  I say thank you mom and again, shut my laptop.  No more contact and off to the airport.  It's around 4pm and the flight is at 10:30pm.  But dealing with security?  Who knows how long that'll take, so I head out immediately.  I race down to the front desk and kind of check out... "I don't know if I'll be back, I just don't know what's going on right now."  He looks back (already knowing what's going on) "It's completely fine, don't worry about it.  You'll still have a bed here if you need it.  Good luck."  I leave with the best hopes in mind.

I hop on the (L) to transfer over to the (A) towards Howard Beach.... Train stops at Myrtle-Myckoff, 3 stops before Broadway Jnt, my stop.  Everyone starts getting off the train.  Announcement "THIS IS THE LAST STOP, EVERYONE PLEASE EXIT THE TRAIN"  I'm losing my mind.  No phone, no maps, no idea what to do in a area of Brooklyn I've never been.  There's signs "ALL STOPS BETWEEN MYRTLE-MYCKOFF AND LIVONIA DOWN FOR CONSTRUCTION".  Great... I follow the group of people out, there appears to be a train shuttle to make up the segments.  'Awesome!' I think to myself and hop on the shuttle.

The shuttle appears to drive to the 'area' of the connecting stations, but not the stations themselves.  One gentleman gets off of the bus, "Where's the station?!" he belts back to the driver.  She shrugs, "I don't know, this is the first time I've done this route."  He turns, "Oh my god. I don't know...." Door shuts and bus moves on.  I'm losing my mind now.  

"Broadway Junction?!"  I yell out halfway into the bus.  Everyone turns, but could care less.  One rider looks at me, "I got'cha mate.  That's my stop too."  I look at him with a intense worry in my eye, "I need to get to JFK. Please help me."  Calmly he says, "It's ok, I'll get you there."  

Many bus stops later he and I get off of shuttle and I follow him to the train station.  At the station is a team of transit cops with a basket.  My new friend looks over at me, "Where's your transfer slip?".  Oh shit, I think to myself.  "You were supposed to get a slip off of the bus....  Don't worry, I'll vouch for ya.  Just follow me...."  We walk up and through the door.  "IN THE BOX!  PUT SLIPS IN THE BOX! WHERE'S YOUR SLIP!!!!" the cop belts out.... my friend: "He doesn't have one, he was with me on the (L), I'll vouch for him."  "PUT THE SLIP IN THE BOX!  NO SLIP NO PASS!!!!", "HE DOESN'T HAVE THE SLIP!!!! HE WAS ON THE (L) WHAT'S THE PROBLEM!"  ..... Cop then... "Ahhhhhh...." and brushes us off.  I'm in!  I've got access to the (A) to Howard Beach.  ONE STEP CLOSER!  My friend turns and points me in the right direction, then starts to leave towards his train.  I stop him and explain everything that's happened.  He's stunned, like I told him his alcoholic sister died.  Hugged him.  "Thank you. You have no idea how much you've helped me my friend."  Off to the (A).

It's a long train ride, very somber and reflective. A subway performer comes through the door from an adjacent car. He has a bongo and plays "Let it Be" for everyone. "It doesn't matter who you are, or what has happened in your life.... We are all in this together everyone.", he preaches to us all.  The crowd in the car, for one moment, all came together... They put away their iWhatevers and we were of one people. I'm glad I was there to share that moment. 

I make it to Howard Beach and run to the AirTrain to get to the terminal as soon as I can.  I run into the train station and see a omniscient sign on the AirTrain turnstiles: "AIR TRAIN UNAVAILABLE, FREE SHUTTLES AVAILABLE."  Wow... Really?!  More shuttles?  I follow the signs...  I end up on the street and there's a single shuttle.  That's one small bus.... at JFK.... at the busiest entry point... where 6 car AirTrains would be packed.... ONE bus is there.... O.N.E.

Chaos erupts.

But somehow I'm able to find a seat and we start to head out.  We travel maybe 100 yards.... bus stops and the driver pulls out his phone.... "Hey Carl?  How do I get to the terminals?"  Lady behind me, eyes as big as dinner plates: "I'm not hearing this right now."  We'll stop at a terminal and others will be there wanting to get back to Howard Beach.  The lady behind me formed a small militia, and is keeping anyone else from getting onto the bus, "JUST KEEP DRIVING DRIVER!" "NO! THERE IS NO MORE ROOM ON THIS BUS!!!!"  It takes forever but does end up getting us over to Terminal 5.  It's 8:30pm, 2 hours later than what I wanted to be, but I'm here.  There's one final hurdle to me getting home, the largest one... the TSA.

I get into the terminal and walk up to the TSA "supervisors", I'm a wreak.  Explain what happened and what my situation is.  And..... surprisingly..... They could not have been more accommodating.  They tell me to get a boarding pass and get into the security line.  I do.  End up at the TDC station where they take over.  I filled out a form and then we have a call with... "Virginia", like as in 'the state'... What ever that means.  We proceed to have a pop-quiz on my life.  Failure = No ticket home.

Time happens....

"Virginia" called some code.  The TSA officer looks down and checks a box.[Verified] it said.... I nearly collapsed.  The last hurdle.  I will be going home tonight!  The officer said that I would have to go through extra screening before getting in.  I didn't care if they handcuffed me to the chair.  Whatever.  The line for screening was hours long (from the AirTrain debacle, and everyone being really late).  The TSA officer barked at the crowd, "OUT OF THE WAY!!! COMING THORUGH.... MOVE MOVE MOVE!"  He literally walked me though hours of security lines.  One guy was walking into the X-RAY machine and he was pulled out.  TSA officer motioned to me to go in his place.  Then met up with another TSA officer who did a full pat-down and went through all my luggage (expected).  Nicest guy in the world, told me jokes the whole time.  Once I actually started going through security (after verification) it took around 10 minutes.

He turns to me with my boarding pass, "You're approved.  Have a good flight." 

I'm floored.  I enter the terminal, now able to board a plane and get back home.  I am starving, but had to junk all of the food German guy gave me through security.  I realized I haven't eaten for a long long time and it was starting to hit me.  I setup a basecamp and start on my first mission... Food. The easiest is finding food that people haven't finished and eat that.  When you're in survival mode, these things aren't all that 'foreign' at all.  Funny how much changes in life.  After I get some stuff to eat... Mainly some french fries and some discarded bread from a hamburger.  I setup my laptop and get to my next mission, getting from LAX to home.

I open up my laptop and a friend who wants to by me dinner chimes in... "Have them call me and I'll pay for it over the phone.  Just find a restaurant, here's my number"...  I'm floored.  I do find a restaurat but they won't do a over-the-phone credit card charge.  While the manager was explaining why to me he said, "Hang on a sec..... Stay here...", then he left for a bit.... Came back with a chicken tender meal and fries.....  "Here, no worries, it's on the house."  I inhale it.  Absolutely in tears.

After eating a real hot meal, I get back on my laptop (after finding a quit corner with some level of internet access) after a few hours I find some friends who are ok with meeting me at LAX at around 3am.  I close my laptop and head over to gate 19.  I sit down and I'm just 'there', still replaying the events of the last 24hrs.  There's some girl sitting across from me, I'm assuming some celebrity pop culture someone (don't know, don't care), as she had two girls around her as an obvious entourage.  They were sneak-snaping some photos of me and giggling.  I'm sure I looked unreal.  Part of me felt a need to tell her, but most of me didn't care.  It was kinda a fitting image before heading back home.  That you never really know someones story.

They opened for boarding and we all got onto the plane.  The plane was an hour late, so they even made all the movies free.  :') 5 hours later I walk outside LAX, and within 30 sec (not kidding) my friends pull up.  [Was literally the first car I saw]

I'm now at my house in LA drafting this experience.  And wanted to note something really important.  At each of these moments, every. single. person had to opportunity to stop this epilogue and hijack my entire experience.  But that's not what happened.  I just happened to come across the right people at the right time.  Or the universe just happened to place these people into my life when I needed them the most.

Either way, I'm home.

I have no way to truly thank these people to the degree they deserve to be thanked.  From the Australian and German, to the 9th Precinct, to "Mia", my family, to that stranger on the (L), those especially understanding TSA supervisors, the husband and wife who gave me their food, the manager of NewYorkSportsBar, and my friends who picked me up from LAX at 3am that night.

Thank you...

With the up most gratitude... 

--Paul Jacob Evans

1 comment:

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