This past weekend, as we were heading in to the city to catch a movie, my brother and I witnessed a theft on the train. I suppose I shouldn”t have been so surprised by the random nature of the attack, because after all that’s kinda a given with thievery: it’s arbitrary and unexpected and all that. I get it. Still, I couldn’t help but get caught off guard. Most of it happened so quickly, and there were many things about the situation that were unbelievable.
We weren’t that far along into the ride, just a few stops from the Bronx. Everything seemed normal when the train pulled in to the current station (or as normal as it gets here in NYC), but before it would get a chance to pull out and be on its way, we see somebody running a little too fast along side the subway cars. Normally, people run like crazy to catch the train and oftentimes they barely make it inside. But from the inside of the car, you can see these people running towards the doors trying to make it before they close. In this situation however, this strange person was running completely parallel to the train, running towards the last car or something, and that together with the fast speed, caught my attention. My first thought was that this person was running after someone or maybe just dangerously messing around with some friends in the train station. Before I could really process it or take a guess at it, the doors close and I almost immediately forget about it, assuming we were about to move on to the next stop.
And that’s when things really got interesting.
Just a fraction of a second after the doors close, there’s a sudden, incessant banging on the doors. Just, BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! over and over again, and me and my brother and everyone else on the train instantly look at the doors, surprised to find that’s there’s a woman pounding on them with such a force, we would’ve assumed she was the thief at first. I’m like “damn, she really wanted to catch this one, but shit there’s one right behind us, woman needs to wait.” Me. Typical snobby, apathetic New Yorker. But no. This woman had business to take care of. She was banging on the doors like she wanted to knock them down, all the while clearly stating her intent with a loud but powerful voice. Totally calm, or as calm as one could appear in an event like this.
“Hey! Do not move this train! Stop this train! There’s a thief on this train! There’s a thief inside! He stole from me! He stole my purse! I wanna find him! Don’t move this train–I’m going to find him!”
What the fuuuuuck. Oh, my God.
I mean, you couldn’t write better shit for an action movie. Everything you needed for an epic moment on screen, it was all playing out right there. Here’s this badass woman, who’s just been stolen from in one of the worst places you can get robbed, a dirty, dark-ass train station in broad daylight, and she’s going after her attacker, all guns blazing
but not literally, Thank God. I did not question her courage for a second, the way she was trying to open those doors and more importantly, the way she spoke. I’m telling you, the tone in her voice was unreal. This woman had balls. Wow.
So that helped us put 2 and 2 together. This woman got robbed on the platform and the thief fucked up, was totally clumsy about it, ended up running inside a car, and now she’s chasing him inside the train. Trust me, I’m sure that was not what the crook intended; there’s no way this guy wanted to end up trapped inside a train with nowhere to hide instead of running away and escaping with the goods. I think he messed up, I think something happened that threw him off, or he was clumsy and didn’t think the act through enough. I don’t know. Something. But he is seriously fucked. Because it worked. The train did not move. And now the woman he robbed is coming after him and she is in hot pursuit.
Everybody was more or less shot with adrenaline, and somewhat excited. They wanted someone to let her inside and see how this thing was gonna turn out. We all had front row tickets to a crime in progress. And a flood of conversation began as soon as she finished banging on the doors. Until most people began to realize that there was just one problem. . .
There was now a fucking thief trapped on the train with us. We don’t know where he is, what he looks like, or if he’s got an accomplice. If they opened the doors, he would surely try to escape and would have a chance to get away with what he did. But, while these doors remain closed, everyone inside was in some kind of danger. Until somebody who could change the odds in our favor arrived, the MTA people, the cops, Jack Bauer–whoever–we just had to stay put and hope for the best.
And for the most part, everyone stayed put. We didn’t move, it was like someone had secretly yelled “freeze!” and any sudden movement would like throw off the balance in the whole universe or something. Not a peep, just some whispers here and there, and the occasional stretching of a neck or two to try and see through the connecting car doors. And then the 30 minute wait.
Is he or isn’t he? Where is he? Who is he? Wtf does this guy look like? And so on.
Tick, Tock. . .
I can tell my brother is shot full of adrenaline. He wants to act. He wants to help find the thief and contribute in any way. He looks increasingly annoyed as the time goes by and there is no announcement made by the conductor to let us know officially what was going on. That was still missing. We could all speculate, but for all we know that woman could’ve been a psycho and causing a distrubance, also a normal part of riding the NYC MTA. And before he could act, he wanted to know exactly what the matter was. He tells me that someone should have made an announcement and alert everyone on board of the situation. I disagreed emphatically. I was glad that no one came on the speaker and announced anything. If we knew there was a strong chance that a thief was inside the train with us, that would have created a panic, for both the criminal and passengers, and could have even caused unnecessary injury or death. What if this guy was armed, packing heat or something? If he heard himself being put on blast, who’s to say he wouldn’t have acted out of fear and anxiety about getting caught and being singled out? No way. That would have made things much worse. I definitely understood where my bro was coming from; it didn’t surprise me. When he sees someone who needs help and is in trouble, he thinks everyone automatically becomes compelled to act and is willing to step up to the plate like him. He thinks most people are inherently selfless and heroic like him. Bollocks. Hell no. Me? I’m no fool. I know people aren’t wired to react the same way. The way I react and the way he reacts are totally different. And we’re family. So I can only imagine the plethora of responses that exist out there in each person. I think not making an announcement was a good call. And I was “comforted” in the fact that we could see a group of MTA operators on the platform conducting a search for the man on the outside. Then soon enough, the police arrived on seen. Still no open doors or resolution, but I guess seeing more people become involved and especially the presence of the police helped restore some normalcy within.
During this time, regular folks started to fill the platform, as they were carrying about their day trying to get on this train not knowing what was going on. They kept looking insider the cars at us trying to figure it out, and they were quickly told to step back and asked to stand against the wall away from the cars. I don’t know why, but even in the most strangest or dire of situations I always have to make a joke to feel better and to deal. I have to make myself laugh and even greater than that, I have to make the people around me laugh with me, too. I just have to make jokes. It’s a poor defense mechanism, I think. I did that once people on the outside put their hands on doors to look inside and ask what was happening. I stood in front of the nearest doors to me and started to do some lame miming stuff, pretending to be trapped in a box. I suck as a mime, because not only were the movements lame and repetitive, but I was talking as I did it. : : hand gestures : : “We are trapped” : : hand gestures : : I said. And then by the time I showed my brother, it turned into more of a vogue thing. I was kinda worried, but more than that I was annoyed that we were so late for this movie. Me. Typical New Yorker. Snobby and apathetic. “Damn it. I’m hungry. I want some nachos and cheese.” I began to say.
My brother was trying to get an update. Nobody really knew anything more and I didn’t have an update for him so I decided it was time to let him in on my plan for survival. “OK, so this is what’s going to happen, dude. I the thief comes by here and starts shooting, I’m going to throw you in front of me like a shield, and you’re going to take a bullet for me. Maybe two. And that’s it. OK, good talk.” While breaking down the strategy for him we were laughing and before you know it, we caught other people’s jokes near by. It wasn’t funny, but it definitely was, you know? One of those things. Like, we heard this couple joking at how stupid this crook must be: “Yo, if you’re gonna rob somebody, like, why here? You shoulda done it at the next stop cuz it’s a cleaner break. Stupid, yo.” “I’m sayin, here you gotta go up all those steps and then get on the elevator before you reach the exit. My man didn’t think this good enough. He needs to call me up so I can give him some tips, for real.” “They betta catch this pendejo cuz this dude is making me late for work. My boss ain’t never gonna believe this shit. Like, uhhh I got trapped in a robbery.”
And then finally, in the the time it would take to order a fuckin pizza, the thief is apprehended and arrested right before our eyes. The MTA let the cops in to the train via an employee entrance–one of those special doors with a key or whatever–and they swept the train from both sides, until they found him. He was in the car right next to us. A young guy, a teen from what I saw, in handcuffs, the woman following right behind him. The drama came to a close. And I was grateful that it ended so well.
At last the train started moving and we were on our way to the city again. The train filled up before we left and people went on like nothing. Typical day in New York.
The situation put kind of a damper on the afternoon though. I talked about it with my brother and it all seemed so sad. On the one hand, we were glad that this woman stood up for herself and recovered her property. But our focus was mostly on this kid. He got arrested and part of us felt bad for him. I’m not sure the woman had the option of pressing charges for a crime like theft so the crime will be prosecuted. This teenager probably got sent to Rikers while he waits to get a lawyer and/or for his case to go to court. He’ll waste his best years there and it’ll probably end up fucking up his life for good. The chances of him getting back from that aren’t too good and we knew he would become lost in a ugly system. It’s brutal and sad. We know that much.
What we don’t know, and what we’ll always wonder is how this young man got to this point in the first place.