Thursday, January 27, 2005

My Big Fat Geek Assault and Robbery

The long and short of why I'm in my funk: I was robbed two weeks ago. This is the last time I'll talk about this in as much detail, because it needs to be put down somewhere and somebody other than the cops has to know.

The Long Way Home
It was my last day at work for a Makati-based firm, and I had taken the usual roundabout route home-- eating with my boss at the UP and then going to his house in Project 8, where I could get a jeep-ride home. I'd just gotten paid and I was raring to buy the enhancements I needed for my laptop... which I was carrying in one of my bags, (a nondescript gray and black backpack) along with my other portable electronics.

My bald boss, you see, is also my martial arts instructor and my good friend. As per our routine, we discuss work plus visual and martial arts matters over the dinner at the UP. After that, we proceed to his house where we exchange computer files, or --on a Sunday-- watch real (old) arnis masters and real (cute) Tai Chi sword form practitioners on VCD, and then part ways. I then take the Quiapo-bound jeepneys or cabs that pass directly by his house.

Obviously, my roundabout route consumed a lot of time. The job ended at around 17:00-18:00 (five to six p.m.) and my training at the Hotel Intercon branch of Red Corner began promptly at 19:00 (seven p.m.) and ended at 21:00 (nine).

We'd rush to catch the last of the north-bound electric trains, get off at Quezon Avenue and proceed to dinner at the UP Arcade: the mideastern food place catering to the needs of the foreign students at the UP International Center. We'd get there at 22:00 and finish dinner and work-talk an hour before midnight of the following day.

And so it was that my boss and I found ourselves hailing a Quiapo-bound jeepney in front of his house in Project 8 in the middle of the night.

Something Off
It's trite to say so, but I did feel that something was off. I had a strong desire to take a cab and I had the money to do so. But I also had debts to pay and I didn't want to bleed any more money than I already did on a regular basis. So I got on the jeepney, thinking I could take a nap and daydreaming of how the USB scanner I was to buy was going to complete my portable graphic design and rendering office.

I sat complacently in the passenger compartment near the front of the vehicle. I had started to nod off when the jackass beside me pulled out his knife and announced the holdup. I vaguely heard another voice repeating the announcement, because my world had constricted to include only myself and the jerk next to me trying to alternately take my bags and poke me with his knife.

Vulcan Logic
Time slowed and I was able to determine that--

1. the knife was old, had probably seen action in a war, to judge by the number of nicks;
2. the knife had two dull edges-- not a significant slashing threat-- and a diamond profile;
3. the knife was at least six inches long-- definite stabbing threat.

He had tried to intimidate me, tried to stab me (I blocked with my bag), tried to show me the logic of letting go of my stuff. Powerful reasoning, but in that primal moment, my mind was racing, trying to multitask between keeping hold of my bag, not getting stabbed and finding a non-violent solution that would allow me to keep my laptop.

If found it intellectually satisfying to discover that my initial analysis about the knives was sound. Bag-Grabber had managed, with a stabbing motion, to open a wound in my right arm, but the knife was just too dull to make the desired cut as bloody as he would have liked. Still, all that needed to happen for him to be sate his battle gods --his machismo and his typical Filipino pride-- was for one of the knives to wind up deep enough in any of the soft-but-vital areas on my person that were still unprotected.

Reality Bites
It was then that I fully noticed the jackass's friend-- the guy seated in front of me, pressing the same type of knife on the jeepney driver's nape. The words "No Win" sounded in my head.

I had a silly mental image of myself as Robotech flying ace Rick Hunter--Captain by the time the novels got to this point-- caught between his duty to sequester a Zentraedi sizing chamber for the government and an angry crowd being stirred up by his civilian nemesis, Lynn-Kyle.

I let go of the backpack and the jerk in front of me hit me in the face for being stubborn. He also tried to stab me-- I'm uncertain of where exactly he was aiming, but I angled my body at the last second (I think that's what happened) and the knife made a heroic, if futile, effort to bury itself in my shoulder. Bag-Grabber had then begun a lecture on the futility of being matigas-- standing up to him and his ilk.

"Do You Betray Me With a Kiss?"
It's funny, but Face-Puncher looked a lot like my friend Pacs. It wasn't him of course. Pacs had fuller lips. I'd been betrayed by friends before, but even the "Judases" in my life never stooped to open and unfair physical aggression.

I tongued my teeth behind my upper jaw and was surprised that none were even loose. I'd seen stars when Evil Pacs-clone launched a sraight punch to my face, but I was surprised that there was very little pain. I was keyed for a fight, perhaps? Maybe if he'd hit me in the nose there'd be a different story.

Still, and I will get up on a mountain peak and shout it out for the world to hear:
Pacs-clone punched like a girl.

Departure
There were four robbers, I saw, when my world had finally expanded to encompass the jeepney, the other frightened passengers, the night. I was still in terrible danger because I'd seen the mugs on Pacs-clone and Bag-Grabber. Still, they were satisfied with their haul... or would be, once they'd open my bag to find a portable graphic designer's office among my personal effects. They ordered the jeepney to turn into a side street and promptly got off, admonishing us in dire tones not to look back at them.They disappeared into the night.

Cops
The other passengers got the driver to bring them to a lonely police outpost somewhere near the robbers's escape point. It was just too bad there was only one cop manning the desk. He called up the neighborhood watch, who arrived in a mobile unit and we made a futile search for lawbreakers on-the-run. We returned to the Bahay Toro outpost, where the incident was put on the blotter.

Remind me not to vote for the city officials who decreed that the nearest viable police station should be miles away from Bahay Toro. The lone officer manning the desk had told us, that was where we had to go to file a complaint and make a statement. We all lost the stomach for further pursuit, knowing that we had to travel dark roads again to get there and risk another assault and robbery.

The other passengers went home. I called my house-- I didn't memorize Honey's cellular phone numbers, and her home phone had just been changed-- and very, very, very reluctantly spoke with Mom.

I still had my money--four thousand hard-earned bucks--but I'd lost so much more. This had become a cop matter, and as with all things cop, Mom had to be told.

You'd think surviving your first knife fight would have slaked your own battle gods and fed your ego, but having to run back under Mom's iron skirt told me I still had a long way to go before I could fully consider myself a man.

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