I got held up on my way to Union Station today. Or at least I think I did.
I had finished up early at court and was heading over to the station to catch the next MARC train, and I was walking through what you could euphemistically call a “transitional” neighborhood near the food kitchen on E Street.
I was sweaty and hot and regretting I hadn’t driven to D.C. that morning when I turned around to see two young men rapidly closing the distance behind me. I don’t think they expected me to turn around so quickly so I may have thrown off their timing a bit. One of the men stopped in his tracks as soon as I turned. The other — a shorter, younger-looking guy wearing a hoodie in 90 degree weather — got up into my face: “Let me hold a dollar for you,” he said. He was doing this head-bobbing thing, while accentuating the ‘hood in his accent.
My wife and I tell our children that if they are ever the victim of a robbery, they are to immediately surrender everything they have. Nothing is worth risking their lives for. As it turns out, that is easier said than done.
It took me a moment to realize what was going on. My first reaction was surprise: Really? You are going to do this in broad daylight with all these people around?
My second reaction was to think: Hey, isn’t that funny? I was just talking to my wife about this. I was telling her that, given how much time I spend around criminals, it is hard for me to be concerned about becoming the victim of a crime. The mystery, the allure, is just gone. I know the terrible things these people can do. I also see them at their most vulnerable.
Finally, with the rush of adrenaline, came anger. Believe me, sir, I told him. You do not want to mess with me today.
And apparently he didn’t. He kept up the chatter but he did back away and when I looked back a couple of minutes later, the two men had disappeared from view.
There was no weapon, and no threat of a weapon, and, for all I know, they may have been pan-handling, not robbing me. But the one thing I do know is this: I have no recollection at all of what the taller guy looked like, and I know I could not pick the other guy out in a line-up. That is, of course, unless they showed me a photo array with only one guy wearing a hoodie. Then I would have him. Then I would know him for sure.