Reflections on a Mugging

So I`m in Boston at the moment.  I`m here for a conference related to Nursing Research, and have been collaborating with some nurses at one of the hospitals here.  I’ve spent a lot of time in this city, gone on jogs all over it, been out in many different neighborhoods, am very comfortable with the public transit system.  Tonight, I was walking through the Back Bay after doing some shopping, and I got mugged by a homeless guy.

One minute, there was another lady walking on the other side of the street.  Then she turned the corner, and I must have been alone on that little stretch of sidewalk for half a second.  I was half a block away from a street full of traffic.  I was focused on my phone, texting my husband to tell him I was walking back to my hotel.

Bam!!  I’m sure he was waiting for a victim in the alleyway.  Probably camped out there all night ready to pounce.  I had my purse strapped across my chest, from one side to the other to make it more secure.  He just came up behind me as I passed by, ripped my purse off my shoulders, breaking the straps, and ran away down the alleyway.  It took about 5 seconds.  I didn’t even hear him coming.

My first (questionable?) instinct was to chase him.  This was an overweight homeless dude wearing clunky winter boots.  I could easily outrun the guy…  There is no doubt that I can run farther and faster than this dude.  I took off behind him and started screaming…  and then no one answered my screams, and I realized that I was alone in a dark alleyway chasing down a homeless man who is desperate enough to rob me.  I thought twice about chasing him further into a dark alley.  No one can hear me screaming.  Let it go, it’s just a purse.

I gave up and called 911 as I walked back to the street.  I went to the corner and flagged down a very kind man who was in his car waiting at the light, and told him what had happened.  He parked his car and stood on the street with me while I waited for the Cops.

My passport was in my purse.  My credit cards, my cash… my passport was in there.  I’m flying home in two days and some homeless guy just ran off with all of my ID.  I’m trying not to cry in front of this very kind man.  Thank God I still have my phone.

The Cops come, and take my description.  This man is known to Police, I guess he does this all the time.  I explain that I’m from out of town.  I have no ID, no money.  There is a homeless man out there with a bit of American cash, some Canadian cash that he can’t even use, and my entire identity.  I never carry my passport with my other ID, but I had just been on a plane, and I put it in there with my boarding pass…  Uuuuggghhh.

I could see the reality my situation sinking in with the very kind man.  He realized I was alone in a foreign country.  He offered to drive me to my hotel, but the Cop said I’d be getting a ride with him.  He offered to give me his number in case I needed any more help.  I thanked him, but said I thought I’d be ok.  He gave me 40 dollars out of his wallet.  Then he offered me more.  “I have more, take more!  I can give you at least eighty bucks!…”  I started to cry.  I took his 40$.  I told him I couldn’t even explain how much I appreciated it.  Just typing those words brings a tear to my eye.  Those are the only 40$ I have right now.

I call my husband from the back of a Police car.  I apologize, and he tells me to stop apologizing.  This makes me cry, and then I apologize for crying.  I’m sure the Cop thinks I’m a mess.  I get myself together and start problem solving…  I’ll call my bank, I’ll cancel my credit cards.  I have photocopies of all my ID back home.

One thing that I can’t shake…  I keep blaming myself.  How stupid was I to walk alone after dark near a back alley?  Why did I leave my passport in my purse??!  How did I not see the guy coming?  He could have raped me.  No one would have heard me screaming.

I know this wasn’t my fault.  It was 7pm in a busy neighborhood.  I always thought my purse was secure strapped across my body like that.  I never leave my phone in it for this very reason…  my phone is always in my pocket.  There were other people on the street two seconds before I was mugged.  And this guy planned this attack, how could I have seen it coming??!  How do the victims of crimes like this always find ways to blame themselves?

Somewhere out there in Boston tonight, there is a homeless man who has my purse.  I’m sure he needs my money more than I do.  I’m sure he is very desperate and needs more than just a few dollars.  I hope he’s buying himself a hot meal right now.  If I would have seen any of this coming, I would have bought him a meal, a hotel room, and a new outfit, if I could have only kept my passport.  All I can think about tonight is how much I want to go home.  But I have a home to go to, I have a husband who will help me figure out my next move.  I have a hotel room that I’ve already paid for, and a warm shower waiting for me when I get back.  So I’ll be honest, I think I’ve already forgiven the homeless man who stole my purse.

And somewhere out there in Boston tonight is a very kind man.  He waited for the Police with me while I was vulnerable and upset.  He gave me money out of his own pocket.  I don’t know his name, but I hope if he ever needs any help from anyone, another kind person will help him too.

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