May 27, 2012

Meaning in My Mugging. ~ Jenn Perell

It’s been one week since I wasn’t shot. Nothing is different and everything is different. Nothing is the same and everything is the same. Just like it would be if that hadn’t happened…

So, what happened? To my friends that have asked, but I haven’t had a chance to tell:  rather than keep telling the story over and over again, I’m going to put it out here for you and the world to see.

I understand that there are support groups devoted to telling your story. I don’t feel like I need a support group—but I do feel like stopping people on the street and telling them to pay attention! Be vigilant! You life is at stake! That’s normal, right?

Ha. No, but really, I’m okay.

It was crisp and clear on Tuesday night. I had just finished yoga and was driving home over the Golden Gate Bridge. Starving, (as per usual after a solid power vinyasa class) I remembered my fridge was empty. I needed to grab something to eat on the way home, so I called in a jicama salad and a taco from my favorite Mexican cantina just a couple blocks from my house.

It was cold out so I didn’t want to walk. I was stoked when a spot opened up right in front of the restaurant. There were just a few people out on the streets. I ran in and grabbed my food and popped out just as quickly. I almost j-walked to get back to my car, but saw a police car at the stop sign and thought better of it. Took the crosswalk like a good citizen and hopped back into my car extremely happy at how the night was shaping up. Good class, good parking, good food, ready for a good shower and a cozy night in.

When I pulled up to my driveway, I saw two men on the corner.

My neighborhood can be somewhat annoyingly homogenous; white and predictable. These men did not look like they belonged in my neighborhood.

In order to park my car, I have to get out and unlock the garage and then get back in to pull in.

For half a second it crossed my mind that maybe I should stall and stay in my car but then I chastised myself for stereotyping these young thugs in their baggy pants. I pride myself in seeing everyone in their higher being. Where did that prejudiced thought come from? I shifted my perspective and chose to acknowledge them with a smile. We’re all just people trying to get home on a cold night…

I hopped out and unlocked my garage.

They were getting uncomfortably close and then they were on me. One man grabbed my arm and shoved the gun into my back with his other hand. The other guy started rubbing my body up and down the sides.

I tried to turn to tell them, “Don’t do this. Don’t do this.” Some part of me actually believed I could talk them out of it.

No such luck. “Give me all you got. Give me all you got.” I had just come from yoga. No pockets. No money. No phone to hand over. “I don’t have anything.” But he insisted, “Give us all you got!” After investigating my body further and realizing I really didn’t haven’t anything on me he went to my car. The guy with the gun shoved me into my garage.

My building is a charming old Victorian with a few un-charming little quirks. My garage, for example, can only be opened from the outside with a key. In other words, if the door closed behind this guy, I would be locked in with him, with no possible escape. I was not going to let that happen. As he tried to shove me deeper into the garage, I shoved back. I wasn’t fighting so much as I was unwilling to lose ground.

Regardless, he didn’t like it.

“I’m going to shoot you. I’m going to shoot you,”  he snarled repeatedly to me as he would hold the gun up to my face so that I could see his finger on the trigger of his grey Glock before he shoved it back into my stomach and pushed me deeper into the garage.

Each time he said it, I would look into his eyes and implore, “No you’re not. No you’re not.”

He seemed taken aback by my reaction. Did I not realize he was holding a gun on me? So he would tell me again, squeeze my arm harder, and try to push up against me taking me further from the street and deeper into my garage. “I’m going to shoot you!”

So I started to scream. “Help me!” As soon as I did, the little bit of fear that I had seen in his eyes multiplied. So I screamed louder.

“Shut up! I’m going to shoot you!” As he pushed me further into the garage I screamed and tried to pull away. I pulled my arm out of his tight grip but he still had hold of my sweater. I kept screaming. He yanked on the arm of my sweater to try to pull me back into the garage. When he pulled, I pulled my body in the opposite direction, slipped my other arm out of the sweater, and somehow matrixed myself out of that thing. I ran. I got just past the threshold of the garage before he grabbed me again. I was still screaming “Help me!  Help me!

Now that we were on the sidewalk, we could see his buddy. Buddy could see and hear me loud and clear. He jumped out of the car and started to run back to where they had come from. The guy that had me pulled me in tight and then shoved me to the ground as hard as he could and beat feet. (That’s cop lingo for made a run for it.) I got up and ran after them.

You really never know what you’re going to do in these situations, so please don’t judge me for telling you just how it happened.

I saw them dash around the corner a block down the street. I was in a daze as I made my way back towards my car. People started coming out on their balconies and opening up their windows. “Should I call the police?” Uh, yeah… “What happened?”

I didn’t know what to say. I was alive. I hadn’t been raped. My car was still there. What had happened? “Two guys and a gun.”

“Which way did they go?” (Good thing I had gotten up and watched!) I was able to tell them what they looked like, what they were wearing and which block they had turned on.

I went back to my car and realized my phone was missing from the dash. My center console was open but nothing important had been in there. “Theft. They got my iPhone.” I also noticed that my wallet was still on the front seat—right behind the food I had just picked up. Amateurs.

I shouted out answers to the people in their windows on their phones with the police. A few people were making the same report all at the same time.

I heard one woman saying, “I don’t know how long it was going on. I heard screaming but I was waiting to find out if it was real. It was real.”

It was real. I waited for the police to arrive. The first thing they did was get my tracking info from my phone to try and find the assailants. Yes, I had it turned on. Unfortunately, they had already turned it off.

The rest of the details of the night are pretty inconsequential. The police were very nice. CSI came to take prints but couldn’t get any. The men were not caught.

The men were not caught.  So when I see people casually walking down the street at night–especially women, alone, a little tipsy, texting, paying no attention to the world around them—I just want to shake them and tell them, “Get present! Your life is at stake.”

But then I’d be the girl stopping people in the streets to tell scary stories.

I do not want to live in fear and I sure as heck don’t want to give other people a reason to worry. And we’ve all been that girl. It seems like every other person walking down the street is either on their phone or looking down texting.

I was lucky this day that I was very aware. I had meditated that morning, I had just come from yoga, my head was clear. I was not on the phone. I saw those guys up on the street when I had gone to get my food a few blocks away, I saw them as they walked in front of the cop car I walked behind instead of j-walking, and I recognized them on the corner.

I was paying attention…but I didn’t listen to that little voice that told me to pause. And who knows what would have happened if I had? Maybe nothing would have happened and they would have just kept on walking. Maybe it would have meant a gun to the head instead of the stomach.

Honestly, I can’t live in “what if’s” but I can say, “Pay attention to your life”. Not just for safety either—the world is pretty cool out there if you actually take the time to check it out. Stay observant at home as well. If you hear someone screaming, “Help me, help me,”  just go ahead and call the police.

The police said these kinds of criminals prey on old people and single women. They’ll typically grab your phone and maybe your purse, push you to the ground and run. I asked what I should have done differently or what you are supposed to do in these kinds of situations. Give them what they want. But I didn’t have anything.

If you end up in private with them (like in a dark garage) unsure what they’re after – do everything you can to get away. I asked what the likelihood of actually getting shot was. He said if a man gets involved and the assailants feel threatened it’s much more likely. Men, be cool (not tough) if a gun is involved. I asked about the screaming. He said that that was pretty risky. These young hooligans are not trained to use guns, probably have their finger on the trigger (my guy did) and “accidents” happen.

In my case, the screaming seemed effective—but you never know which way it’s going to go.

I guess you just feel it out. That night, I saw fear in his eyes. Obviously I was scared, but he was too. He was desperate—in need.

I walk away from this situation with a heavy heart but a strong soul. I feel blessed to be alive and blessed to live a life that keeps me typically so far from the kind of desperation I came so very up close and personal with on that night.

These young men found it necessary to threaten my life—for a phone. My heart goes out to them and to the many people living in such hopelessness that they’ll do such terrible things. I send waves of compassion out and hope to find a way that I can make a difference that might help other people from being part of a situation like this on either side. I’d like to allow this to be a call to service—to be a positive influence on kids that could go that way.

The night of the incident, I posted on Facebook a brief description in hopes that we might have a better chance catching them as a community so they wouldn’t just go on and do it again. I was overwhelmed with support. Thank you virtual family!

But I was also disheartened at a couple responses talking about how “Those guys are evil,” and “I hope they both get hit by a bus,” or “I hope they’re caught and tortured.”

I’d just like to say that these guys were human.

I absolutely do not even a little bit condone what happened, but an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind! Perhaps we could reframe it and feel the fear they must be living with in order to go to these extremes.

I’d like to let the fear in his eyes be a call to service and use the energy generated around this to go somewhere that would serve people that could end up there in the future.

I have ideas about what I’m going to do. Do you?

If you’re feeling inspired at all, I urge you to go do some good in the world so we can break the cycle rather than further it.

Will you join me in making meaning of my mugging? I hope so. Peace in. Peace out.

PS. I promise, I am totally fine, feel blessed, and honestly feel more empowered than ever before. Love, love, love…


Jenn Perell is a yoga teacher and life coach passionate about people, the earth, the ocean, and the connections in-between. She graduated with a degree in psychology and her curiosity about humanity has continued to grow. Jenn has had the honor and pleasure of traveling the world as a student and as a teacher, and is continually fascinated by people, life, and energy. After spending time living, working, surfing and paddling in Hawaii she moved to San Francisco to expand the scope of her academic studies. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Holistic Health Education and studying Energy Medicine. She feels her personal energy is best when she is on the water. Her life’s work is to help people create lives of health, happiness, and prosperity. For more about Jenn, please visit: www.LiveWeal.com.


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Editor: April Dawn Ricchuito 

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