Well, it finally happened. Nearly four years into my tenure as a Baltimore resident, I finally became the target of a mugging.
Yesterday, while waiting for a bus, a scrawny, 5’7” white guy with thinning hair approached me and began with the typical line of a Baltimore bum looking for a handout.
“Hey man, can I ask you a question?”
I went with my standard response.
I’ve learned that the easiest, simplest way to deal with drifters and deadbeats is to set the expectation early on that this interaction is not going to be a profitable one. Another go-to is my response to:
“Sorry to bother you, but…”
Typically, that’s where the conversation ends. Unfortunately, that was not the case last night at 6:45 in a section of the city not typically known for crime – although, to be fair, it is Baltimore, so I’m grading on a curve in that regard.
Looking back, it was a great strategic move on his part. Everyone expects crimes to be committed at night, in secluded areas, in bad parts of town. Why go after people who are already braced for the encounter? Your chances drastically improve if you catch someone off guard.
After my first attempt to rid myself of the interaction failed, I quickly realized that this individual was crossing the line from annoyance to threat, and quickly. There was something about the way he kept walking toward me while phrasing his first question that subconsciously indicated that he didn’t particularly care what the answer was. It wasn’t a begging tactic – it was an intentional distraction.
“I need six dollars to buy vodka.”
“Sorry man, no cash on me.”
And that’s when it happened. He quickly reached into his pocket and produced a five inch long hunting knife, which he pointed at me as I abandoned my seat on the bench and took several steps toward the street, keeping my eyes locked on his.
“I tried selling this knife for six dollars. It’s a good knife, don’t you think? I need those six dollars. I need to buy vodka now.”
He’s shaking the knife at this point.
Now, this is the scene we’ve all imagined in our heads. How would I react at knifepoint? Would I stand my ground? Take a swing at him? Run like hell while pissing myself? Nearly every man has an idea of how he would react, but hopes to never have to find out.
As I’ve heard before, and now know firsthand, there is no thought process involved. It is purely read-and-react. In this case, my reaction was to keep a safe distance, square my shoulders to his, lock eyes, and calmly continue the conversation.
“Yeah man, that’s a pretty nice knife you have there. I can’t believe you had trouble selling it. See, the thing is, I was telling the truth – I don’t have any cash on me or I’d offer to buy it from you right now. There’s a liquor store a few blocks west of here – I bet you can find someone down that way to give you some cash for that, but I’m sure nothing involving me and that knife is going to be worth your effort, and I’d hate to waste your time.”
The gentleman, apparently taken aback by my calm reaction, placed the weapon back in his pocket and slowly began walking down the street.
“Good luck with the booze, man,” I said.
“Thanks, I’ll need it,” he said as he continued on his way.
Upon reflection, it became clear to me that he never had any intention of stabbing anyone. The plan was simply to display the weapon, demand cash, and collect. I certainly don’t advocate this strategy for anyone else – looking back, I tell myself that I should have run like hell – but it worked for me in this particular situation.
I now have a much better understanding of Mike Adams’ situation and can appreciate why he did what he did. There is no thought process. No time to plan. You go with your gut and hope the blade doesn’t follow suit.
Stay safe out there, everybody, and go Steelers.