Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Street Crimes

I don’t know if cripples are more susceptible to street crime or not. All I know is I’ve been a victim of a street crime twice. And the second instance was far more traumatizing than the first.

The first might technically be categorized as a zoo crime by those who keep crime statistics. I was at the zoo with my late wife, Anna. We were checking out the Birds of Prey exhibit. I felt someone bump hard against my wheelchair and then a loud voice said, “EXCUUUUUUUUUUSE ME!”

At the time I had a leather tool bag hanging on the side of my chair, the kind people who work with tools hang on their belts. It was a good receptacle for the things I carried around, like pens and writing pads and a comb and gum and stuff like that.

On this day I got careless and tossed a five-dollar bill in there and there it was as plain as day. A male hand reached in and snatched it. Why he felt obliged to politely and loudly excuse himself before stealing from me I don’t know.

The guy took off running. Being that it was only five bucks, I should have just let it go. But when these things happen, you don’t think straight. You feel so insulted and violated.

So I screamed, “STOP HIM! HE TOOK MY MONEY!! And it just so happened there were two nearby guys who must’ve been professional linebackers because they were big and they were fast. They ran after the perpetrator and were closing in fast when he threw down my money, held up his hands to show they were empty, and ran off. One of the linebackers picked up the five, looked at it and then looked at me with a combination of bewilderment, irritation and pity. All that for a lousy five bucks? The way I was screaming like a little girl with her ponytail caught in the car door, you’d think that guy had snatched the Hope Diamond from my tool bag.

The linebacker returned my recovered funds. The end.

The second street crime occurred in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It unfolded in much the same way, except this was more like an assault.

Our hotel doorman warned Anna to hold on tight to her purse since Bourbon Street is infested with pickpockets and snatchers. So Anna stuffed her purse up under her legs and literally sat on it in her wheelchair.

We rolled down Bourbon Street. A man ran toward us through the crowd. We knew we were his target. It all happened so fast, yet it seemed to happen in slow motion. The man reached toward Anna and we were horrified when we saw what he had in his hand! It was a five-dollar bill! He dropped it in Anna’s lap and took off running.

This heinous crime occurs every day somewhere, but it only happens to cripples so nobody keeps statistics on it.  You’re sitting minding your own business when somebody suddenly drops a buck or two in your lap or some change in your coffee cup. They strike without warning. And before you can say, “Hey, I’m not a beggar, dammit!” they’re gone. And the pain of your victimization is accentuated by the fact that it’s always such a pissy little amount of money. Like scoring some spare change is supposed to make your day!  I’m not saying I’m so pure that I don’t have a price. Maybe if someone dropped three or four grand in my lap, I wouldn’t bitch. I’d swallow my pride for the greater good. But the problem is, no one has ever remotely put me to the test. It’s always a pissy little insulting amount.  I’m hoping someone someday will present me with a real moral challenge.

Being that it was only five bucks, I should have just let it go that night on Bourbon Street. But when these things happen, you don’t think straight. You feel so insulted and violated.

So I screamed “STOP HIM! HE GAVE US MONEY!!” But there were no linebackers this time. The perpetrator disappeared into the crowd.

I still haven’t recovered. I know that sicko is probably still out there somewhere, lurking, biding his time, waiting to similarly assault another unsuspecting cripple.


  1. You are so funny! I hate it when people toss money at me - it IS so insulting. Some one did it to me when I had my 4 year old on my lap and I instructed him to throw that coin back! He didn't want to - figured there was a new hot wheels or a good snack in it for him. But I made him anyway.....why do people have to be so damned rude.

  2. I was at Navy Pier for a festival a few (too many) years ago, I was still using the old Canadian Crutches with leg braces to wobble around. I was with a buddy I grew up with, it was sunny out, had on da sunglasses, leaning against a post, my buddy was sitting on a bench about 10 feet away, and we had a Navy Pier overpriced beer in a plastic cup. Next thing you know I have a 'gang' of seniors heading my way and why were they all putting change in my beer, then a lady asked wheres our pencils - my buddy is rolling with laughter, as it took me a few seconds to figure things out. I explained I was resting and drinking the beer, and not begging, then a sweet little old lady said 'can we have our money back then' - so I dug all the change out of my beer, gave it back wet with beer, the 'gang; of seniors hurried away, I looked at the cup with a little beer left and chugged down the warm Navy Pier overpriced beer in a plastic cup. Now that was a crime...

  3. Somebody gave me a quarter once when I was waiting outside a movie theater, standing on my wooden crutches.

  4. Brings back memories of hanging out in Boston with my friend John. John had a brain stem stroke in his mid-30's and was essentially quadriplegic as well as nonverbal, using a letter board to communicate. He liked to say that he had Indigent Magnetism. Street people were inexorably drawn to him. One time I stepped away just for a moment, to buy tickets, and when I returned, a homeless guy was doggedly trying to get John to say his name, not satisfied with the smile and shrug that he was getting. The best one, though was the tiny older woman with mis-matched clothing and knee-high argyle socks who marched up to John, looked his seven thousand dollar power chair up and down, shook her head, and intoned, "You poor thing." With that, she placed a dime on his lap tray and scurried away. That was probably the hardest I ever saw John laugh.

  5. Tell me this is not a true story. Do people take stupid lessons?