October 21, 2012

Last week, I was making my way back to my hotel in San Francisco, when some one jumped me and tried to grab my bag. I struggled (and screamed, a lot) for a minute and then the person got off me and ran away. My glasses had gotten flung off and bent during the scuffle, but otherwise I was and am 100% ok.


The only thing I’ve lost is the sense of being invincible. I love cities and I love walking in them. On foot, my favorite cities unfold like Ellen Page’s imagination in Inception and I feel like each neighborhood, each block, each store and each person is new, even if it’s the opposite of. Some blocks are less shiny than others. Before last week, I thought: I’m not exactly posh myself, just be smart, stay alert and it’ll be fine.

In recounting this story, furrowed brows consistently clear up as soon as I mention that I was walking in the Tenderloin. (“Where?! Hyde Street…ah.”). Before last week, I was the San Francisco Tenderloin evangelist. It’s cheap. Great food. Beautiful architecture. Just don’t fuck with the crackheads and they won’t fuck with you.

I hate, hate, hate being proven wrong on this.

I’m not unduly traumatized (not dead, injured or raped after all) but the truth is: I’m a bit less confident and a bit more afraid. In retrospect, I don’t think the guy was out to hurt me, but in the moment I was scared out of my mind. There was no thought in my head, no life-flashing-before-my-eyes, no way (despite supportive suggestions from friends the next day) I would have had the presence of mind to pepper spray or knife or key anyone.

The next day instead of heading out when it was just getting light, I waited till more people filled out the streets. A shabbily-dressed man greeted me cheerfully and I turned away. Next week I’m heading to San Francisco again and I’ve booked a room in a “nicer” part of town for 3x the price. I won’t venture out to the Tenderloin again on my own, not even to get the best sandwich in the city. I’ll likely say “yes, please” when a Man offers to walk me home.

What’s behind all this is that I can’t think of anything I did stupidly other than be there. It was just after 7 pm and the street was well lit. I made sure that I was on streets where there were other people. When I was knocked down, half a dozen people were in a 10 foot radius; over the guy’s shoulder I could see two standing around like they didn’t see. When it was over, no one responded to my begging for help to find my glasses until a shopkeeper who had heard me screaming came running.

That good and decent man found them for me and walked me back to my hotel. And here I am, 100% ok and happy about it.

But not invincible. I won’t walk the city — any city — the same way again.