Central Park at night is not the dangerous place it used to be. During the winter months running in the park after sunset is the only option for many New Yorker's to get a run in and I am no exception. The police presence is strongly felt and one feels the comfort of 'strength in numbers' from their fellow runner. With crime as low as it is now it is easy to forget that it can still happen, but for over two years of living in this city I had never seen a crime......until now.
My friend Kirk and I were running a full six mile loop around Central Park and we had just passed the Harlem Hill on the north west corner. On the downward hill I ran ahead and stopped near the 102nd street transverse on the west side. As I waited for Kirk I noticed a group of three running toward me coming from the transverse. As they approached I noticed two girls of Asian descent in full running gear and following close behind by another runner that was not female or Asian and not wearing running gear at all. Honestly, I am so naive (see definition: simple and guileless) the only thing I thought to myself as they all passed and turned south on the main loop was 'I don't know what type of workout this guy is going for wearing baggy jeans, and that black down coat has no reflectors... is he asking to be run over?'.
About 45 seconds passed and I saw Kirk approaching from behind me when I hear screaming coming from in front of me. It was a woman's voice yelling "You asshole, you asshole". The next thing I see is the man in the baggy jeans and the black coat running on the inner sidewalk of the park darting for the woods while he was being chased by one of the girls. By this point she was shouting "Help, please help, somebody stop him!!!".
At this point I have no idea what this guy has done so I start running from the main road toward the sidewalk. He starts to dart in to the woods so I look around me on the road and see an unopened can of beans. After quickly checking the wind I let the can of beans fly in to the air effortlessly toward the attacker, the beans strike him on the head knocking him unconscious to the ground. The cheers from the crowd that gathered engulfed me, and as I turned around to address them I tipped my hat and said "G'day mate". Wait..........no that was not me, that was actually Crocodile Dundee. My version was quite different and pathetic.
OK, lets reset the situation. The mugger was being chased on the inner sidewalk by the girl screaming "Help, please help, somebody stop him!". My first reaction actually was to run toward the mugger to try to help. I had no idea what was going on, the ideas of what this guy could have done fueled my adrenaline as he was entering the woods. Then the girl yelled "He stole my I-Pod!". Huh. I-Pod you say. The immediate thought of chasing an assailant in to the woods over an I-Pod caused me to stop my brief pursuit.
So my decision was to do nothing except try to console the victim. So it is official, I am no subway hero Wesley Autry.
A few seconds later Kirk arrived and I explained what had happened. He immediately told me how foolish it would have been to chase this guy down over an I-Pod. How did I know he did not have a knife or a gun. This is true but it does not make me feel better about it. I have told this story to a few people and they all say I did the smart thing considering only an I-Pod was at stake and I knew that. Again, I feel mixed about this. It is true I probably could have caught up to the guy. It is also true I am not Crocodile Dundee and if he would have pulled a knife on me I could not have quipped back "That's not a knife, this is a knife....".
Honestly, what should I have done? I want to know what people think. To be fair to myself I would have had to run in to the woods, with it pitch black out, in the Halem part of Central Park. Yes it would have been dangerous, but wouldn't an obituary that read "Even though the assailant only took an I-Pod, the Samaritan still risked and lost his life to help a stranger, because that's just the guy he was". Nope not me, still here writing a blog. It seems what my obituary will read is "Always lived to run away today, so he could live again to run away another day". I didn't really run away (I stole that from the movie Maverick) but you get the point.