Mugged on a Date in The Big City— Well, Almost

​Finding a parking place downtown San Francisco on a Saturday night is never easy, but as I cruised down Market Street with my date alongside, it was clear I’d have to search the side streets quickly to make our show in time. Turning, I drove slowly down the nearest one and disappeared soon into the darkness amid bars, porn shops, and massage parlors.

Mugged on a date

​Nervously, I checked my watch and then at last, a welcome gap appeared ahead in the line of parked cars. We’ll just walk fast and get out of here quick, I told myself as I pulled into the space and glanced at my date—now peering anxiously out her side window.

​“Well,” I declared, hastily adjusting my tie, “at last we found a place!”

Mugged on a Date…Well, Almost

Not waiting for her response, I hopped out of the car; immediately, the heavy odor of beer and urine leapt out and seized me as amped-up guitar and drums blared from a nearby bar. A few feet from the car, a man covered in rags sat slumping on the sidewalk against an alleyway, clutching a small paper bag.

​I looked again at my watch and realized there was no turning back; we’d have to hurry to make the show. I stepped around to my date’s door and opened it for her.

​Catching the aroma and noise, she drew back and paused uncertain, then looked up at me. “Do you think this is…, I mean, is it OK to park here?”

​Mustering my most confident smile, I reached out a hand. “It’s not that far from the theater,”

I reassured her—and myself. “If we hurry we’ll be there in no time.”

With a measured sigh, she reached out her manicured hand to mine with a gesture that charged, OK, you’re the man here, so I’m trusting you to protect me!

​I helped her out firmly, if not cautiously—hoping to communicate great strength; as her white heels leaned unsteadily on the splotchy, cracked sidewalk, I drew her to me. “OK, let’s go!”

​Walking deliberately, fast enough to get us to the theater on time but not enough to draw attention, I pulled her ahead as quickly as her heels would allow. Above us, a bare-breasted woman flashed in yellow neon as a large martini glass teetered back and forth beside her. I pressed ahead, focusing on the sidewalk.

It’s only another block or two, I told myself. We’ll be there in no…“HEY, YOU!”

Startled, I looked up mid-stride as a man much larger than myself lurched out of the bar and seized my shoulder with an iron grip.

​“Wh—what?” I blurted out, wincing. Startled, I shifted to keep standing as my date gripped my other arm fearfully.

​“Yeah, I mean YOU!” the man shouted, careening from side to side. “An’ I mean I’m gonna beat the sh-t outta you!”

In a flash, I knew this fellow was no neon sign, but as real as the beer sloshing over his other hand. My date wobbled as her heels caught a crack in the sidewalk; desperately, I held my balance as she grasped me in terror.

​“Y’HEAR ME?” the man shouted, eyes flaming as he shoved me again toward the street, and staggered closer.

​“Uh, yeah…, yeah, I hear you…” I managed, struggling desperately to stay standing. “And, uh, you know what?” I heard myself saying, “you’re right!”

​To my surprise, the words flowed out of me: “I mean, you’re so big and strong! Wow—you could beat the sh-t out of me in a minute, alright. Look how tough you are! You must be the toughest guy around here—I’m no match for a big man like you!”

Confused, my assailant drew up—and released his grip on my shoulder. Breaking out in a sneer, he steadied himself, then bent down and glared at me. “You…b-betcher ass!” he snarled.

With a contemptuous snort, he lifted his head high, then turned and stumbled back into the bar, swallowed by its darkness.

I stood fixed to the sidewalk, stunned—my heart thumping along with the punk band inside the bar. In that moment, all shame dissolved in adrenaline and yielded to thanksgiving.

Gingerly, I brushed off my sport coat and flexed my shoulder.

​I exhaled deeply, then caught myself and turned to my date—frozen wide-eyed and still gripping my arm. Straightening up, I lifted my head high and smiled thinly. “Let’s go,” I said, patting her hand decisively. “We can still make the show if we hurry.”

Gordon Dalbey is the author of Fight like a Man: A New Manhood for a New Warfare. See for his other books, podcasts, and mp3 downloads.

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