So, I got mugged yesterday. Sort of. Okay, maybe it wasn't a mugging per se, but it was something. A hard panhandle? You be the judge...
An otherwise unassuming Thursday afternoon in Harlem. I was standing on the northeast corner of 125th and St. Nick, waiting for my sister to arrive on the M60 bus from Laguardia. Mind you, I was standing in BROAD DAYLIGHT in a HEAVILY POPULATED ENVIRONMENT.
I had just finished leaving a message with a friend when a group of kids appeared a few feet away from me. There were definitely four, maybe five, and all of them looked to be between 12 and 15. One of the small ones asked me if I had the time. I looked at my watch and informed him it was 3:20. And then the Big One was all up in--no, check that, on top of--my grill, saying, "It's 3:20? How about gimme all your fuckin' MONEY."
Before my smirk of amusement had even begun to rise, I was surrounded. I looked around, watching cars drive by, watching people walk past only several feet away, and I smirked once again. That's when the Big Guy said, "This muthafucka thinks we kiddin'. We ain't fuckin' kiddin'." I said something like, "Guys, seriously," and then Little Guy reached out, snatched my cell phone, and turned to walk away.
I called out to him, "Man, what are you doing? Give me my phone back." Big Guy said, "Twenty dollars and you can have your fuckin' phone." At this point I considered how much cash I had in my pocket. Sixteen dollars at the most. Not even that much. Anyway, I decided rather quickly that I'd let these fuckers get away with their test and call it a strange encounter, so I said, "Okay, I don't have twenty, though." I reached into my pocket and Big Guy said, "Quick, don't flash it," like we were making a fucking drug deal. So I obeyed. I reached into my pocket, grabbed the cash, and stuffed it in Little Guy's hand. He turned and walked away. I started to appeal to Big Guy to get my phone back, and that's when Little Guy turned around and made an extremely angry beeline for me. "Did you just gimme ONE FUCKIN' DOLLAR???" Whoops! I said, "I told you I didn't have any money, man," and then Big Guy reached out to my left jacket pocket and said, "What else you got?" I pulled out a book--Terry Southern's "Candy"--and dismissively held it out to him. "You want my book?" Clearly, this wasn't the type of booty he was looking for. And that's when shit almost got serious. Right as he asked the following question, I remembered what was in my right pocket. "You got a iPod?" he said, reaching out and lifting the flap on my right pocket. The only visible item was my personal notebook where I jot down all of my brilliant ideas. Just behind it was, you guessed it, my brand new mackadocious iPod. I said, "Seriously, you picked the wrong guy, fellas, I don't have shit," and to prove it, I stupidly reached into my jeans pocket to pull out my stack of cards. Yes, some of which were bank and credit cards. Little Guy's eyes lit up and he tried to snatch them out of my hand, but I held on tight and clicked into Serious Guy mode and said, with authority, "No." Then Big Guy said, "Nah, we can't fuck with that." I looked back to Little Guy as if to say, "See, even he thinks that's a bad idea!" Anyway, at that point, they all turned and started walking away, and that's when I remembered that they still had my phone. I clicked back into Serious Guy mode, like a teacher who had had enough of his students' misbehaving, and I said, "Seriously, man, give me back my phone." At that point, Big Guy walked over to his friend, took the phone from him, and walked it back to me. As I took it out of his hand, I said, quite sarcastically, "Okay, thanks guys, that was a lot of fun, see ya 'round, peace," which Big Guy didn't seem to appreciate. Needless to say, they disappeared--WALKING away, mind you, not running.
Not really comprehending what had just happened, I turned to wander back onto 125th Street, where there would hopefully be less exchanges like this. Rounding the corner, an old man approached me sheepishly. "You okay?" he asked. "I'm fine," I said. It was good to know there was at least one concerned citizen who paid attention to what was going on. Not enough to break it up, of course, or to go get help, but enough to see the scene through to its less-than-exciting conclusion.
Anyway, that was that. I looked down at my phone and saw that I had missed a call from my sister. She called me at the exact time that Little Guy had my phone, which is really funny to me for some reason. I'm glad he didn't pick it up. That would have sent her into cardiac arrest.
So, after writing it out and really thinking about it, I'm sure that it wasn't a mugging. At one point, I honestly considered asking Big Guy if he could show me a weapon or something so I'd have known they were serious, but I somehow managed to keep my mouth shut.
Here's what it was. These kids were fucking around, testing the waters, and when they saw that I was a lackadaisical pushover, they decided to see what they could get away with. Even though Little Guy had my phone in his possession, at no point did I feel like he was going to keep it. I mean, if Big Guy had discovered my iPod, I would have snapped into gear and handled my business. Seriously. But I was never worried that something heavy was going to happen. Then again, neither did that poor girl on Clinton Street a few weeks ago.
Wait a minute, now that I think about it, I'm almost positive that I handed that little fucker more than one dollar. Maybe that was his clever ploy to get more money out of me? But it didn't work. Because I didn't have any more money. Come to think of it, I think it was a dollar.
So, now that I've written about it, I've made my decision. Hard Panhandle, definitely. Not a mugging. Or was it? Post your thoughts below, kind readers. I'd like to hear your feedback. And, please, be careful out there, ya hear?