Friday, January 2, 2009

(not so) fictional friday

I've been playing with the idea of making Friday's "Fictional Friday"...but for today, lets stick to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...or in otherwords, lets talk about "Assault with a Deadly Weapon."

It was Hot, Very Hot. 112F or warmer. I had spent the previous 5 weeks or so slowly touring every inch of nearby zipcodes with a GPS system and small handheld computer attached to my car. The purpose was to gather certain data which would be used in the future to develop a navigational system much like GPS, but without the satellites.

In the 5 weeks or more that I had been out collecting this data, I had seen alot. I toured placed of deep contrast. One block would be gang-bangers,drug-dealers, and prostitutes. It was not uncommon to see those prostitutes out strolling a young child to the "sev-ie" or packs of underage boys smoking in that same "sev-ie" parking lot. In an odd way, I felt back "at home", having spent several years of my adult life in a community that was on the rocks, swaying back and forth between prosperity and desperation, this was a world I'd seen before. It was no surprise to me to be confronted with a McMansion of considerable size shortly after rounding the last corner tagged with turf-identifying graffitti. In this neighborhood, everybody protects their property. Some do it with expensive electronic alarm systems, others with illegal weapons and low tech messengers. It really was none of my concern though, this wasn't MY neighborhood. I would be here a short time, do my work and leave. Most would never even know that I had been here.

Then something changed. In part, my assignment changed. I now had a new zip code to scan. This area was much closer to home, and in fact included my home within the scanning area. I was excited and somewhat relieved as gas money was not reimbursed, and this was in the days of well-over-$4.00 a gallon-gas. To be working so much closer to home was a treat. It meant I could throw the kids in the back seat, give them a drink and a bag of crackers, turn on some "kids tunes" and just drive. I love to drive. I love to explore. This was the perfect job for me. We explored our own neighborhood, and nearby neighborhoods and then decided to head out to the more remote areas to be scanned. We saw coyotes, horses, burros, jack-rabbits, enormous Saguaros towering overhead. Sometimes we'd roll down the windows and just enjoy the hot, dry, desert air. It was wonderful, it was fun.

The assignment was drawing near to a close and I hoped to be assigned an additional area following the completion of this scan. I had just a few more neighborhoods to complete and I headed out early on a Saturday morning to get it done and submit the work with a request for a new assignment. Fortunately, for whatever reason, I had chosen to go out by myself that day. I don't know exactly in which ways the event might have been changed had my children been present, but I am glad that they were not.

I had become accustomed while outside of the town limits to seeing long dirt drives marked "private". I generally did not access those drives, it seemed wiser to honor the owner's wishes than to risk the wild-west attitudes of those living on the outskirts. But today, I was driving within the town limits. Today would be smooth sailing, no coyotes, no crazies. Or so I thought.

Enter the kindly folks on 20th st. 20th Street is a dirt road, lined with thickly overgrown brush and vines, broken down trailers and mangy dogs. It has a tall Palm tree in the center of the cul-de-sac which has been taken over by Ivy. Hung up high, at the end of the drive, is a small store bought "keep out" sign. Nobody minding their own business would ever notice the sign. I certainly did not notice any kind of warning sign, private property sign, or keep out sign, so I continued down to the end of the cul-de-sac, circled the large palm, and made my way slowly to the end of the dirt road. As I drew nearer to the entrance of the dead-end street, I saw a man come out to the road. He was shirtless, and unkempt. He had blood smeared all across his abdomen and he was yelling wildly. Certain that he had been assaulted and was signaling for me to help I approached him cautiously. Looking all around me, wanting to be sure I was not going to be attacked, I began to roll down my window to ask how I could help him when I found myself looking down the barrel of a gun. He was yelling and screaming AT me, not FOR me. The man I had approached with the intent of helping, was instead threatening to shoot if I didn't leave immediately. He was flailing his arms around, screaming like a mad man "can't you read, are you stupid? Can't you read?" He used the gun to point at the store-bought sign hung high up in the palm at the end of the road. I looked over my shoulder, saw the sign and then decided to get out!

I reached the end of the road, checked my mirrors, he wasn't following me. I checked my mirrors again, and pulled onto the main road. As soon as I felt I was a safe distance away, I pulled over. I realized I was shaking so hard I couldn't safely drive, much less dial 911. Its funny how the mind works. I sat and debated about calling my husband or calling 911. If I called JP one of two things would happen, he'd either hunt down the crazy man and murder him for threatening his helpless wife, or, he'd tell his fully capable ought-to-be-able to handle everything that comes-her-way wife "what do you want me to do about it?" Neither of those scenarios worked for me, so I opted to call 911. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted out of that either, and frankly, I felt like a tattle tale. I was absolutely certain all they heard on the other end was "Maaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaam Sissy yelled at me and I didn't like that." But, alas, they actually heard "I was just threatened with a gun" and they took me seriously. An officer came out to my location and took a report and that was that. Until they came to my house and told me that they had charged him with disorderly conduct and ticketed him. Now, I am no expert, but I do have a little bit of knowledge in this area ( a tiny little bit) and I know that a ticket for disorderly conduct seemed pretty light. But the officer told me "Yeah, it was just your unlucky day, they've had alot of break-ins over there and all the neighbors got together and decided that the next person to come down that road was getting shot." ITS MY UNLUCKY DAY?! granted, I didn't actually get shot, but I don't care what reasons a person has for slinging a gun in my law-abiding direction, its unacceptable. And the minimum acceptable charge in my mind is Assault with a Deadly Weapon.

Fast Forward 6 months...I have put this incident out of my mind. Or so I think. True, I quit that job and accepted no future assignments from them. True, I went on an eating binge that resulted in 20 lbs gained in 6 months. True, I've become somewhat anti-social and have had a very difficult time making friends. True, I've pretty much refused to go down the main road that 20th st connects too. But I hadn't connected any of those behaviors with the main event. I had been told he got charged with disorderly conduct which is about the same as what a bar-fighter would get slapped with, which is nothing. So I decided if the police think its nothing, then its no big deal and I'll just move on. Have I ever mentioned I also feel this irrational need to "keep up" with my combat veteran husband? I honestly felt weak for having been afraid. I was actually mad at myself for not performing some kind of master-of-hand-to-hand combat maneuvre to relieve the assailant of his weapon. Seriously. I actually was angry with myself for not disarming the man. (hello....that's not right!) If the police said it was no big deal, and my husband couldn't quantify my fear for me, then I was the one who was over-reacting and I just needed to live my life. And so I did. Until the Victims Advocate package came in the mail the beginning of the week, and I learned that the man was charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon. Which not only makes more sense to me, but also sent me into a tail spin of emotions that I had to literally cry out on my husband's shoulder. All of the sudden a simple peice of mail lends legitimacy to my original fear, and at the same time discounts every positive action I had taken to continue living without fear in my new community...because now, there is proof that fear was the rational response afterall. Assault with a Deadly Weapon means much more to me than Disorderly Conduct. In my mind-whether right or wrong-Disorderly conduct is something that is provoked. Its a loss of control on at least one person's part. It probably happens without any plan for the behavior. Assault with a Deadly Weapon however (again, in my mind, whether right or wrong) involves having made a choice in advance to carry the weapon, and the choice to USE the weapon if provoked. It wasn't my fault that the actions of others provoked this man to violence towards me and the original charge of disorderly conduct made me feel as though I were somehow complicit in the event.
So now, I think I'm going to seek out counseling, because I am truly TRULY confused about all of this and even with all of his experience in dealing with whack-o's, poor JP just isn't equipped to tell me what do about any of this. Hopefully, soon the kindly soul on 20th st. will be endicted(sp?) and eventually be found guilty of being a wanna-be-wild-west-vigilante.

And in the meantime, I'll just keep doing what I do. He didn't take my life and I'm certainly not going to give it away.


Kristina P. said...

Lisa, how scary!! I'm glad you're OK!

It sounds like you might have some mild PTSD from all of this, and counseling would be helpful.

I saw a therapist a couple years ago for a mild anxiety issue, and it really, really helped. My anxiety is much more mild, and I could see that by my latest plane ride where I had almost none.

My husband gave me pepper spray which I carry around on my keychain.

Also, when I was really young and stupid, and a DCFS caseworker, I put myself in really stupid, bad situations, and fortunately, I am OK. But I still work in a dangerous field, so I am definitely more aware of my surroundings.

Take care of yourself.

Erin said...

I second everything Kristina said. I've been through therapy twice, my husband has a Ph.D. in psychology, and I know it will help you. How scary for you!

Juracan Family said...

Holy Crap!!! That is so freaking scary! I would agree with the other two (also married to a psychologist) that you definitely need to get some kind of therapy for PTSD. You'd be surprised what emotions or triggers will come up when you least expect them to because of this experience. Plus...therapy's good for all the other crap we deal with too! (FYI, My favorite therapist ( ;-) ) happens to have a blog and would be able to point you in the right direction. There just so happens to be a link on my blog... :-) Hang in there gangsta!

Lara said...

Wow! That is incredibly scary! I am glad that you are coming to terms with some of the feelings that the experience left with you. counseling is always a good thing and I'm sure it will help you immensely! Good luck and ((hugs)).

Tiff said...

Oh my gosh, this is soooo scary!!!
Sorry you had to go through such a traumatic experience, especially with absolutely no fault of your own!
What is a man doing running around in public with blood smeared all over him and waving a gun around anyway?! What is this world coming to?
I'm glad that he was charged with something more than disorderly conduct, your feelings and fears are absolutely valid...

The Sartori's said...

jeez Lisa. That would scare the crap out of me too. You are lucky you didn't try to disarm him. It could have ended up much worse. I keep wondering if I would have even called the cops. I would have called Andy. I'm kinda stupid though and usually think things are my fault and apologize for other people. After reading this though I would totally call the cops. I need to email you a link. It helps you to find LDS therapists that are on you health plan. I had one here for anxiety and it was awesome when she would use the scriptures in my sessions.

Hartson family said...

Yikes Lisa... stay out of trouble down there. I'll be praying for your safety and comfort more often, promise!

Mina said...

I'm catching up slowly with everyone's blogs. Yours is really the only one I have interest in reading back-posts on. Glad I did. That is pretty scary. Therapy could be helpful. You probably wouldn't even need much for this. Call me if you're interested. (Not that I'm a therapist, just that I love you.)