Yesterday afternoon I was walking down Merivale Road, nursing a migraine, when the guy walking in front of me grabbed an election sign out of the grass and tossed it in the ditch. Moments later we were both standing at the intersection of Merivale and Baseline, and I said “You know, you’re not supposed to do that.”
“The wind would have blown it away anyway,” he said.
“Then why not just wait for the wind to blow it away?”
“You’re not supposed to attach an election sign to someone else’s sign,” he said, “And it was leaning on the Conservative sign.”
“No it wasn’t,” I said.
A few more words were exchanged. My final word on the subject was “Bullshit.”
Then the lights started changing. I took my phone out of my pocket.
Suddenly he grabbed my right wrist, the one with the phone in it, and with his other hand he wrenched the phone from my hand.
I told him to let go of me and give me back my phone. He refused. He said I had assaulted him by taking his picture. I hadn’t taken his picture, but even if I had, there’s no law against that. It certainly isn’t assault.
A scuffle ensued. It was surreal. I found myself engaged in a physical fight with a stranger on a busy street corner in broad daylight. He was bigger and stronger and crazier than me, and my attempts to free myself were embarrassingly ineffective. I hope if I’m ever fighting for my life, I’ll fight harder and better and meaner than that.
Meanwhile a couple of cars that were stopped at the red light started honking. But when the light turned green, they drove away. In desperation, I grabbed the guy’s glasses with my free left hand, and he freaked out. I said I’d give them back if he gave me back my phone. He said I’d have to give him his glasses first. I refused. He refused. Then he did something with my phone. I thought he threw it away, but he must have put it in his back pocket or something. He tried to grab his glasses back with his free hand, but I squeezed them hard and the frames crumpled and the lenses popped out.
Suddenly he had my phone in his hand again, and I lunged for it, thinking he was going to destroy it in retribution for breaking his glasses. He still hadn’t let go of me. He said “I’m calling 911!”
And I said “Good, call them.”
Because, you know, when a crazy aggressive stranger is physically overpowering you and stealing your phone, it’s a big fat bonus if he decides to call the cops.
Once he connected with 911, he let go of me. I stood there, listening to him lie to the 911 operator. He said I just came out of nowhere for no reason and started taking pictures of him, and when he tried to put his hand over the lens, I ripped the glasses off his face and broke them. He said he was blind without his glasses. He said he was in pain.
Several times during the 15-minute call, I asked him to return my phone. I asked him to let me talk to 911 and he refused. I found out later that the 911 operator even asked him to hang up and return my phone while waiting for the police, but he refused. Strangers came along on bikes and on foot and asked if everything was okay. I said no. I was too rattled to say much, though. I was on the verge of tears. If I talked, I’d cry.
I was anxious for the police to arrive, but I started worrying I might get charged with assault for breaking his glasses, and what if I got a criminal record over this jerk? A woman on a bike said I should deny breaking his glasses; it would be his word against mine. I told myself to just relax and tell the truth.
And then, finally, the police arrived. One of them interviewed me while the other one interviewed him, on opposite sides of the street. I was fighting back the tears. She told me to take my time. I told her what happened. She then went across the street to talk to her partner.
She came back, gave me my phone, and told me that he wanted to have me charged with assault and mischief. She said that if he persisted with that, they would charge him with assault and mischief. The other officer came back too and said he’d lied to her four times before admitting to what I said happened. Plus he’d gone through my phone and looked at all my photos.
They asked if I wanted assault charges laid against him. I said no, not really.
Nonetheless, he wanted me charged. They told him that just because you’re the one to call 911 doesn’t mean you’re in the right, and I was acting in self defense. He insisted on talking to their supervisor, so the sergeant was on his way over. We all waited.
The guy lay down on the grass, and I called GC and told I’d just been involved in a fight with a stranger on a street corner. He was there within minutes. He saw the guy lying on the grass and wondered if I’d flattened him!
He gave me a big hug and the cop told him he was a good partner.
They said I was free to go, as long as I was sure I didn’t want to lay charges and was ok with letting them resolve it.
Anyway. The whole thing was very weird. It’s just so unsettling that a total stranger can grab you on the street and refuse to let you go. Fortunately he was arrogant and self-righteous enough to also want to call the police while doing that.
The cops were terrific, and it makes me happy to be able to add two more cops to my list of good cops.
As GC lead me away, he asked “How’s your migraine?” and for the first time I realized it was completely gone! Must have been the adrenaline. Or maybe all the blood flowed out of my brain during the fight-or-flight response.
I guess all’s well that end’s well. My only lingering concern is that he went through my phone, so he might now know my name.
GC took me out for gelato afterwards. We decided this would be our new tradition: whenever I get in a street fight, he’ll take me out for gelato after collecting me from the police.