My First 911 Call

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.

19 comments on “My First 911 Call
  1. ruthling says:

    that’s weird and I’m glad it wasn’t worse. Which Star is this?

  2. What the hell was he trying to do, anyway? Steal the bike? Steal the lock? Mug you? Be insane in your general direction?

    (Note how I’m using my non-creepy-eyed icon just for you!)

  3. stormwynd says:

    0.o

    I’m just glad you weren’t hurt.

    Do you have any sort of insurance that would cover this? This is more of an academic question, since the light cost < $30, but I'm curious is there's insurance companies will cover random acts of odd destruction like that.

  4. Nicolas Ward says:

    The one on Mt. Auburn, on the Cambridge/Watertown border.

  5. Nicolas Ward says:

    I honestly thought about just giving him the lock, just to find out what in the hell he wanted, but decided against it (a) because it’s mine and (b) it’s a pretty hefty blunt object. He wasn’t demanding the lock itself, initially; he wanted me to unlock it. Note that this is after I had already unlocked my bike; if he had wanted to grab my bike, he could have.

    If he had really wanted it, he easily could have taken it from me when he had his hand on it. This was a big guy. He was able to break the plastic mounting of the headlight in one pull. If I can carry my bike up and down stairs, he could probably lift it and run off with it.

    I’m going to go with “insane in my general direction”. What I don’t know is if he targeted me when I went in, or if he had inspected my locked up bike while I was in the store. Another cyclist pulled up and locked up after me, but was not yet shopping until I was waiting for the police. If he really wanted a bike lock, there’s an abandoned and stripped bicycle that’s been in that bike rack for several months now.

  6. Nicolas Ward says:

    I have renter’s insurance, but I’m pretty sure that just covers the theft/destruction of stuff in my apartment, and liability if someone hurts themself (really? themself isn’t a word? stupid spellchecker) in my apartment. I suppose there’s no harm in calling my agent and asking, although there is a break-even point where I could spend more time on hold and going through the claim process than would be necessary for me to get paid $30.

    I suppose I could file a report on principle, and to test out the system.

  7. tamias says:

    Jeez. I’m glad _you’re_ okay, anyway!

  8. flurious says:

    of course “themself” isn’t a word, but you have to think about it for a second.

  9. Nicolas Ward says:

    I use they as a 3rd-person singular neuter pronoun, so themself is the equivalent of himself/herself, without specifying gender.

  10. somebodyku says:

    does your cell phone have a camera in it? i might’ve been tempted to get a pic of him (and then run back into the store).

  11. Nicolas Ward says:

    It sucks in low light, and he was already running away by the time I had my phone out. Good idea, though if he had seen me, he probably would have tried to take it.

  12. rabican says:

    Well, I’m glad you’re okay, at least. But yeah, that’s … odd.

  13. wayman says:

    My renter’s insurance covers my possessions anywhere (specifically including in a motor vehicle). It’s definitely worth checking.

  14. wayman says:

    So glad you’re ok!

    IANAL, but I believe “assault” is loosely defined as “menacing behavior giving you cause to believe harm may come to you” and “battery” is loosely defined as “any physical contact which may be intended to cause injury”. I don’t think injury is specifically required to take place. I would guess your incident was likely an assault but very unlikely a battery.

  15. reldnahkram says:

    IANAL either, but I had this explained to me by a law student a while back while waiting for a train. Basically, assault is me threatening to hit you, battery is me hitting you.

  16. Be careful that it doesn’t raise your premium, though. For <$30, I might just eat it.

  17. I actually sometimes leave a cheap light on my bike as sacrificial chaff when I leave it locked up in questionable locales–the idea being that if someone can grab a light off my bike, they’ll probably go for that instead of, say, the seat.

  18. The real question is, though: DOES YOUR CELL PHONE HAVE A LASER CANON?!?!!?

  19. somebodyku says:

    maybe the phone itself is a photon torpedo?

Nurd Up!