I'm scared of being killed by criminals
A few years back, I was driving home from North Houston when I stopped to get some gas on the frontage road of I-45. It was almost midnight but the summer heat still lingered. As I stepped out of the car and into Houston's trademark humidity, my glasses immediately fogged up. I took them off to give the lenses a wipe and, when I put my glasses back on, I discovered that there was a dude standing directly in front of me, his faces inches from my own.
I had my wallet in my hands and I assumed he was going to ask for some change. I was ready to show him the leather pouch's empty contents as proof that I had no cash when, instead, he handed me a CD. As it turns out, the dude was trying to sell me his reggae album. I showed him my empty wallet and made an awkward joke about whether he had a Square Card reader. Instead, he told me to keep the CD - it was his gift for me. Just as quickly as he appeared, this would-be Bob Marley disappeared into the night.
As I pumped my gas I began to consider what the scam was. There had to be a scam. What did this guy get out of me accepting his CD? It makes no business sense to hang out in a gas station parking lot on a Sunday night and give people free copies of your CD - especially people who look like me. I couldn't look more square if I tried. I was obviously not the target demo for reggae music and there's no way this dude thought I was some high-powered record executive. Why, then, did he give me his CD?
And then it hit me - the guy was a master criminal, one step down the ladder from a supervillain. The CD - burned onto a CD-R disc - in actuality didn't contain any music. Most people, after all, don't have traditional CD players. When's the last time you popped a CD in your Discman and hit "Play"? Nowadays if you want to listen to a CD, you put it in your computer and rip the songs to iTunes - where you can then transfer the music to an MP3 player or some kind of streaming service. This faux-reggae musician was, in actuality, a master hacker. He was passing out CDs that, to the untrained eye, appeared to be a burnt demo recording but, when inserted into a computer, would auto-install a devious program that could hack into your banking account and wire all your funds to this conman's off-shore holdings. I was so sure of this fact in the moment that I pulled over at a McDonald's drive-thru and tossed the CD into a garbage can, least I took it home, set it on a desk, and accidentally pop it into my computer, mistaking it for my CD-R collection of vintage radio grindhouse ads.
This whole experience showed me two things about myself - A) I have a pretty good head for coming up with devious criminal schemes (If anybody is out there with the experience to build auto-install programs that can hack bank accounts, reach out to me - I'm willing to bring you in on this get-rich-quick scheme 50/50) and B) I have a pretty hard time trusting people.
I'm a scaredy-cat. I'm the guy who once decided he didn't need to go into the CVS pharmacy one night because there was a homeless guy hanging around the trashcan and I feared he would break into my car while I was buying toilet paper. My inherent fear of the underprivileged led to me wiping my butt with a sock that night. A sock! What the hell is wrong with me?
I once walked three miles through downtown Philadelphia - through the parts of town I can only assume Will Smith was rapping about when he explained why he was sent to live in Bel-Air. I was sweating buckets the entire time, positive that around every corner lurked danger. I once ate at a Chinese restaurant - wolfing down my food so I could leave early because I was sure the men in business suits eating in the private dining room were members of some kind of lethal Asian street gang. I know this all sounds like casual racism but I assure you that I also get really nervous around white people and their gun-shaped bulges in windbreakers. I don't judge based on skin color or social-political background - if I see you, I assume you're trying to kill me. When it comes down to it, I fear that, in the grand scheme of things, I'm the type of person who will get murdered by a violent criminal.
In most good '80s action films there are two types of people - those that bust criminals and those that get murdered by the criminals so that heroes have someone to bust. I'm not a hero - I'm the dead body in the alley that the hero pokes at with a stick - searching for fingerprints on my bruised neck and hair under my fingernails. I'm the cadaver in the opening scene of any LAW AND ORDER episode. I'm a victim waiting to happen - all pudge, weak muscles, and an inherent inability to charm a criminal into letting me go.
And it's not like I don't have good reason to be afraid of criminals. While living in College Station, I was once attacked by two sex workers!
While employed at the local newspaper after college, I became nocturnal. Coming home from work after midnight, I'd stay up until four in the morning. One night, in particular, I was playing video games at 3 a.m. when I heard a knock at my door. Assuming my TV was too loud and an angry neighbor had come to complain, I looked for a pair of shorts to put on so that I could open the door.
As I shuffled about in search of pants, the knocks at my door grew in their frequency. Soon, the knocks had turned into pounding and, when I had still not opened the door, the pounding at the door became banging at my window. Unsure of what, exactly, was going on, I opened the door with caution. Standing outside were two ratty women, their faces plastered with too much makeup and their skimpy clothes reeking of cigarettes. As I stared at my nocturnal visitors, they stared right back at me.
“We’re here to see your nephew,” one of the women said.
“I don’t have any nephews,” I replied and began to close the door.
Before I could shut the door all the way, one of the women shoved her hand in the way and, with surprising strength, pulled the door back open.
“Uh uh,” she said. “We were here last week with your nephew. Where is he?”
“You’ve got the wrong apartment,” I said, now kind of tense about what was going on. The woman holding the door was exerting real strength in trying to pull it open even wider.
I started to panic as I began to play tug-a-war with them over my door. Luckily, I had a dog and she must have sensed my unease because, out of nowhere, she appeared between my legs, her hair standing straight up. Letting loose a growl that would make Benji proud, Foxy quickly attracted the attention of the two women. Their eyes drawn to the visibly upset dog standing in the doorway, the two jumped back just enough for me to gain the upper hand in our match of strength. I closed the door and locked it.
While I went to the nearest window and peered out, my dog continued to growl at the woman through the closed door. They stayed on my porch for ten more minutes, smoking a succession of cigarettes. Foxy, god love her, continued to growl the entire night, never backing down. Eventually, the woman disappeared into the alley behind my apartment, leaving me to attempt sleep and now possessing a newly acquired fear of the fairer sex.
The next day I went to McDonald's and bought my dog the biggest hamburger I could buy for a dollar. While she may not have associated the reward with her actions the previous night, I felt the need to shower my dog with a gift. One of these days I'm going to be killed by a lady of the night but that day has not yet come.
In the meantime, I'll continue to watch my back - and continue to look a gift reggae CD in the mouth.