No, I’m not trying to make my usually empty LJ interesting. Yes, Mom, I’m fine. But just to prove that Jo is safer in Mali than I am here, I contribute where I can.
Monday night I stopped at my local Star Market on my way home from work to pick up cereal. Noticed a guy smoking and hanging at the NO PARKING sign, wondered why he’d just be there smoking, and thought no more of it. Locked up my bike as usual, went in, made my purchases at the robocheckout, came out as usual. Said guy was now sitting on the bench outside the Star Market side entrance by the bike racks, still smoking. I thought it was odd that he had moved, and I thought about asking him not to smoke near cyclists, but realized that was a ridiculous request. More brain cycles were dedicated to the Libertarian ramifications of that while getting ready to go.
I reattached my bike panniers, unlocked my bike, and he walked up to me, getting intimidatingly close. I figured he wanted to borrow my phone – this has happened before here. Instead, he demanded to see my bike lock. I thought this was a very strange request, and said no. He insisted again. I told him something like “I don’t feel like humoring your request this evening.”, which now that I think about it is really verbose. He actually grabbed the U of the lock (I had already relocked it at this point), and forcefully said “unlock it” repeatedly (unLOCK it, with lots of t+spittle and teeth-gritting). I asked him to let go and leave me alone. He twitched visibly, a couple of times, and I pulled it away from him and put it away. He said something about how it was good it’s not a Kryptonite (it’s not), and I said something geek-trivia about how my lock has a different lock mechanism and that the pen hack can’t work on it. He seemed to give up and walk away…
…and then he turned around, ripped the headlight off of my handlebars (with accompanying plastic-breaking noises), took it across the driveway (I reacted as I would to an elementary school bully, I suppose because that’s my closest referent, asking him to give it back), set it on the sidewalk, and stomped on it twice (during the stomping, I told him I was calling 911), resulting in lots more plastic-breaking noises. He picked up the pieces, and started fast-walking down the sidewalk, by which point I already had my 911 call going through.
This was when I did the stupidest thing, which was to follow him (at a distance, because he was going fast and I was dialing my phone) for maybe 50 feet until he crossed the next street, at which point I turned back to my bike and the 911 call connected. I reported what had happened to the dispatcher, gave a description, and my location (I was flustered enough to say “the Star Market”, requiring a “which Star Market?”). I said that he had been physically intimidating (pulling on the lock, and he also gave me a chest poke), and that he had ripped the headlight off of my bike.
I should add that I wasn’t terribly worried, just annoyed and more than anything confused. I was in a well-lit area, along a busy street, within 20 feet of a bus stop with several people at it. Not that any of them got in the guy’s way when he walked past them, but hey, I probably wouldn’t have either. He was easily 6’4″ and large (not terribly fat, just a very big man).
I had to wait about 10 minutes for a patrol car to show up, gave them the exact time and my contact info. They said they hadn’t seen anyone walking in that direction along the street (I lost track of the guy when I turned to go back to my bike). One of the people at the bus stop asked if I was okay, told me I shouldn’t follow someone like that, estimated his wait, and (I thought it strange) shook my hand. He said he didn’t see where he went either.
I guessed the guy’s age to be 30-35, but I honestly have no idea. Definitely too old to be someone being a jerk for fun.
I decided not to file a report, partially because I didn’t want to take the time to deal with it, and partially because the cop riding shotgun asked me the value of the light (<$30), and I felt that I was in some senses wasting their time. I was in my usual deferent to elders mode (said police officer certainly looked older than my parental units). I guess the thing that surprised me was that, while I have a very clear picture of him in my mind, I was unable to describe him very well (big, white, 5 o'clock shadow, smoking, nice black pea coat). But I have had that problem with most of my past visual arts endeavors, where I have an excellent picture in my head but cannot conduct it to paper. Ah well. I'm guessing that this is because I used my cell phone, but I got routed to the MA state police first, who connected me to Cambridge PD. I thought that was a bit odd that I wouldn't get routed to the PD covering the cell tower I was connected to. I guess not having to dial 911 until you're 24 is a pretty good run. So what do I call this? Unarmed robbery? Vehicle damage? Almost-assault? Any thoughts on what I did wrong/right? I wonder if the Star Market has a camera covering that area, and if so, if it's worth asking for the video. One thing that amused me: while I was talking to the police, a car in the Star Market driveway actually honked at them. Ah, Boston drivers. And, to you, Crazy Bike Accessory Thief: I hope you get whatever meds or therapy you need.