Learning from having your adrenaline switch tested
By Susan Braudy
Thank goodness muggings are pretty much a thing of my past. Some things are getting better—a lot better—in our town. My first mugging took place at dusk on the University of Pennsylvania campus. A man pushed a wad of dollar bills into my coat pocket after showing me the top $100 bill, then invited me back to his hotel room. When I refused, he pushed me down and kicked me toward an open car door.
I felt for the wad of bills in my pocket, pulled off the top bill and shoved the remaining wad up at him. The fat wad was missing its $100 cover, and was all $1 bills. Bewildered, he slowly checked each bill. I picked up my schoolbooks and ran away. In a way I mugged him back.
The second time I was mugged was after a Neil Simon play on Broadway. I stood in the back of the theater (cheap admission charge). After the first act, I always found a single seat down front.
While I walked to the subway on 42nd Street later that evening, a man grabbed my shoulder bag. I swerved into the traffic, dragging him until he let go of my bag. Was I brave or foolhardy?
The third time I was mugged I was talking on a payphone to my boss, the president of Warner Brothers Studios. An impatient man, he’d just reprimanded me for wasting his time with a quick joke. I felt a gentle tugging on my shoulder bag. I whirled around and saw a child with the sweetest brown eyes, his little hand in my pocketbook. My boss was shouting at me for some transgression. I was far more afraid of him than of the brown-eyed child.
“Stop that!” I whispered and smacked the child’s hand. His eyes looked hurt. He ran.
The fourth time I was mugged I was walking with an editor from the New York Times on West 58th Street. He handled arts critics for the paper and was known far and wide for his patience. Two guys in their twenties approached us. I noticed one of them was carrying a creased brown paper bag. He veered purposefully into my friend and we heard the crunch of breaking glass.
The bag holder began to whine.
“Look what you did. You broke three expensive bottles of pills and my mother is really sick. Now she’s going to die. I don’t know what to do. You owe me at least 20 bucks.”
I had one of my scary and unexpected adrenaline surges.
“See here” I said, “I’m going to report you to the police. You’re trying to rob us of—” My friend interrupted me and asked the dastardly duo, soothingly, “Are you sure it’s only $20 worth of medicine? I hope your mother gets better soon. Tell you what, I’ll give you $30 and my apologies.” I was sputtering as he took out his wallet and gave the two guys a $20 and a $10 bill.
The guys looked really embarrassed and slunk off. I guess that’s one of the reasons why my friend is an upper manager and I work alone. My mugging experiences have taught me an important lesson. I am far more afraid of what I will do to a potential mugger than what he or she will do to me.
You don’t know your own adrenaline switch until it’s been turned on several times.
Susan Braudy is the author and journalist whose last book, Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, was nominated for a Pulitzer by publisher Alfred Knopf.
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