Thursday, November 24, 2005

a snatchingly bad evening

To my immense disappointment, violin and violate are not etymologically related. I wanted to link them together somehow, make an opaque funny, shake up a little snowglobe of oblique attack on the main topic. But it's not to be. So let me approach this differently. You know those scenes in movies in which the intrepid hero runs down a bicyclist who's just snatched his wife/best gal's purse? I found two nights ago that the movies lie. They lie like apes. It turns out that a guy on a bike who sails by, rips a purse from Schmutzie's shoulder and keeps on going, cannot be caught by me, running flat-out, all 145 out o' shape pounds of me flapping around, screaming after him as he pedals casually around a corner and out of our lives.

From the scattered paragraph above you can deduce that the Schmutz got robbed on Monday night. We were on our way to somewhere decent for supper, just outside our building. I heard the whizzing of a bicycle chain behind us and then he passed on our left, a subtle bump and then a startled "Hey!" from Schmutzie. And then I started running and shouting, my legs kicking up behind me. I ran even when I knew that he was long gone but only a block away. We didn't even see his face.

I have never been robbed like that ( I say 'I' even though it was Schmutzie's purse - call me solipsistic). I've had a jacket stolen after I left it in a Tim Horton's at 3am. I've had people take my wallet when I left it exposed. I even had my identity stolen once, out of the barest scraps of ID. Some kid passed a bunch of bad cheques in my name (the RCMP spent months looking for me and fortunately they found the kid first). But all those things have happened out of my view, and they felt about as relevant as news items about tragedies in foreign countries. I had a laugh with an RCMP officer about the crimiPalinode embezzling in my name and the fact that a warrant briefly existed for my arrest. Schmutzie has a longer and more intimate relationship with violation than I do, having had apartments broken into, backpacks stolen, men pursuing her, but I believe that having her purse suddenly grabbed and gone in an instant, before she had a chance to even understand what she had lost, was new to her as well.

Being mugged suddenly and radically revises your view of things. The mugger breaks into the protective space that you project around yourself, the bit of air that you claim as your own, and demonstrates that the space is not yours at all, that it is part of the outside world, the public world, for better or for worse. You see that you exist in closer relation with the rest of the world than you had thought. Suddenly every stranger and every doorway you see becomes a potential threat, a possible vector of harm. You see your own helplessness, the swarm of possibilities set to divebomb your sense of security. And you suddenly want to ditch almost every sociological argument for crime you've ever heard or repeated, and go stalking the streets with a gun or a bat. Endemic poverty and poor circumstances be damned - you just got victimized and you want to commit some violence. You want to revisit that violation on someone else, break into their space and show them what you just saw. I suddenly understood the kneejerk anger and bigotry of certain people - after being made a victim, especially with such ease, you are diminished, and you rage for the lost mass.

After that initial reaction, though, things got a little better. I know that Schmutzie was and still is pretty shaken up, not least because her purse was new and vintage, her wallet new, and her uber-cool Moleskine notebook full of her writing (Enjoy her poetry, you stupid-ass crystal-meth-smoking soft-toothed motherfucker!). It was that sudden view into helplessness that angered me so much.

***

My browser spat up a popup window this morning that said: "We're sorry, this service is not available in Canada". That's a bit like someone driving across town to tell me I can't have the sandwich they just made at home.

14 comments:

amy said...

I felt similarly when someone stole the radio out of my car. I pictured them sneaking onto my property, knowing I was asleep inside, and pilfering around, etc.

Several years later, someone stole the hood off my car. I didn't feel quite so violated. Just surprised that they felt okay walking around carrying a hood in the middle of the night. My response was very different from the original. In fact, I almost laughed.

Do we become immune to such violations or does our response change over time?

Cheers ~

Mathew said...

how is schmutzie physically? having someone go by and rip off a purse sounds like it would cause some injury to the shoulder.

i've had a few things stolen in my time, and a bit of physical property damage as well, but it's always left me distant from the situation.

schmutzie said...

Thankfully, the whole incident was painless and quiet. The man made no sound and slipped my bag from my shoulder with no more sound the brush of his hand on my coat. The lack of overt violence was astonishing.

abigailroad said...

my goodness, i've heard the story a few times now, thanks to the circle of friends, and i still can't believe that happened. i always thought of purse-snatching as something that happened in the movies, or NYPD Blue....

poor schmutzie. give her a big hug for me!

Anonymous Midwest Girl said...

Oh, poor girl! That's scary and quite traumatizing.

Amy, I had my car broken into and my radio stolen, too, and in the process they just ripped apart the dash and dumped everything out of the glove compartment. Looking at my violated car made ME feel extremely violated, much more so then when I've had my wallet stolen or anything. It was like they raped my car. It's really not a big deal in the scheme of things, and people have gone through MUCH MUCH worse, but I still feel sad when I think about it.

blackbird said...

My mum had her purse stolen, just slipped quietly from her shoulder, by a man dressed as a waiter in a posh restaurant --somehow it was more upsetting than having someone confront you and demand your bag...and I can see that, it's insidious, and I am so sorry.

Chookooloonks said...

Horrid. I hope Schmutzie is feeling better, and they catch the ratbastard who did this to her. There's a special kind of hell...

... hang in there.

K.

palinode said...

A special kind of hell reserved for people who talk in theatres.

Mathew said...

the last time i went to the movies (one week ago to the day) people were chatting well into 5 minutes into the movie. i felt like standing up, screaming 'hulk, smash' tearing off the seats and throwing them into the offending mob, but reason got the better of me and instead they had to deal with my silent fury.

palinode said...

I went to a screening of the movie Taking Lives in Windsor, Ontario. For some reason the theatre was filled with thirteen year old girls who kept screaming "Omigod why'd he just DO that?" and "Omigod she's NAKED OMIGOD".

Anonymous said...

should get a rifle

Ají Dulce said...

The feeling after being mugged is horrible, and i, like schmutzie, have been a victim of several of those kinds of violations.. but to be completely honest, after that feeling has passed i really don't know what is worse: the feeling or the fact that you have lost important things: your IDs, cards, and your MOLESKIN!...
Big hug for Schmutzie, and a kick in the shin for the A-hole who stole her purse

Faithful Lurker said...

How terrible! We walk around so vulnerable all the time, but have to desensitize ourselves or we'd never leave our houses, I suppose. So sorry for the incident, and the inconvenience and loss left in its wake.

Lynn said...

Please tell Schmutzie I am sorry her writing was stolen.