I always wear running shoes at work, and this story is the reason.
On a lunch break three summers ago I decided to walk across downtown to my bank. I was wearing dress shoes, which I loathe because they hurt my feet, but there are at least a few guidelines of professional appearance I try to follow.
As I walked along the main downtown street in my city, I daydreamed as usual until I was snapped out of it by a woman yelling for help up ahead.
I then noticed two legs sticking out from a recessed entryway, flailing violently. At that split second, a young man emerged and ran in my direction. The woman appeared from the entryway and yelled, “Stop him! He tried to rob me!”
Without thinking, I lunged at the guy as he ran past but he efficiently swiped my arm out of the way and kept running. Fast.
In retrospect, I did a dumb thing. I gave chase.
It didn’t last long, maybe a couple of city blocks. The guy was much younger and faster, and of course I was wearing my stupid dress shoes. (I’m a 50-ish marathoner, not a young sprinter.) It was only later, when I told people about this incident, that I realized it was a good thing I didn’t catch him.
If this guy has it within him to try to rob a woman — he punched her in the head, by the way — who knows what he’d be capable of doing to me. To the woman’s credit, if it can be called that, she didn’t give up the money bag she was carrying from her store to the bank.
What I should have done, of course, was let him go and attend to the woman. No one else on the busy street bothered to help give chase anyway. After I gave up my abbreviated pursuit, I went back to the scene but she was nowhere to be found.
There is some humor to this story, believe it or not. Since I couldn’t find the victim, I continued on to the bank and then headed back to work. As I walked down the same street, I saw the victim on the street speaking with two police officers. She spotted me coming toward them, pointed and said, “There he is!”
That misunderstanding was cleared up quickly.
I spoke to the officers, and told them I doubted I could give them an accurate description. One of them, sounding rather bored, said they didn’t have much chance of nailing the guy anyway.
I felt bad about the whole incident and what it says about our society. I especially felt sorry for the woman who took a punch to the head to protect a few hundred bucks that wasn’t even hers.
I’m not sure what I hope for as far as the “perp” is concerned. I’m guessing his story involves bad or absent parenting, poverty, drugs and other social ills so common to our cities. I would like to think he’s reformed, seen the error of his ways, found God, whatever. But I’m not optimistic.
Either way, I now wear running shoes all the time, professionalism be damned. If I ever come across a similar incident, I want to be better prepared. I think.