Friday, August 27, 2010

Fight Or Flight?

Barbara: If the suspense was killing you since Monday’s post (a little self-aggrandizement, anyone?), here’s the story about when I kicked a car-jacker’s balls. But wait, before I elaborate, I have to add that this is a very handy tale. I can pull it out at get-togethers during awkward moments or to get things rolling. It’s a kind of party-trick.

My story happened several years ago. I had spent the day on the set of a little indie film I was shooting—the film where I met Deb, actually—and I was feeling giddy and excited, but also tired and spent. My husband was out of town and my daughters were still young enough to need a babysitter. As much as I love my girls, I was thinking it might be nice to wait to go home till after they were tucked into bed. Selfish, yes, but I was shooting a movie! It was all about ME for a whole 13 days. It was a glorious time…. But I digress.

I decided to go to the mall and maybe buy myself some sweet something. Yes, lingerie, if you must know, but I would wear it under my costume! I could write it off! So, after shopping and whiling away the time until I was sure the girls would be snug in bed, I headed for my car in the parking lot. And when I say my car, I actually mean my husband’s. And naturally, for the sake of a good story, hubby is a car enthusiast who works in the automotive industry. Suffice it to say, the car was very nice. And, as luck would have it, the producers on the little indie film I was shooting wanted to use his nice car in a scene that day, hence the reason I was driving his car.

It was late—9:00—and dark. My husband’s beautiful car was virtually alone in the vast lot. I approached and noticed that a window was smashed. I was beside myself. Hubby’s beautiful car! My precious me-time ruined! I got on the phone to hubby right away and told him the bad news. We commiserated for a while—bad luck, crappy news, poor me (he was very sympathetic to my ruined me-time), yadda yadda (yadda, yadda). All this to say that I spent a good ten (apparently very vulnerable) minutes surveying the damage and reporting it to him over the phone. I finally got into the driver’s side, left the door open, and (stupidly!) threw my keys on the passenger seat to survey the damage to the interior.

Then through the eerie dark, I hear a low voice: “Give me the car.” I turn to see a masked guy, about 6 feet tall, standing at my open driver’s door. He has one hand on the roof of the car, one on the door, and he’s blocking me in. He didn’t look very old, maybe 18. Nice eyes. I swear, I remember that—eyes like a baby. I stare up into his baby-eyes and he says again, low, deep, like a man: “Give me the car.”

And I lose it. I scream like a banshee on crack. Fight or flight? I guess I got my answer that night. Right or wrong, I am fight. I throw the cell phone down (oh yeah, hubby gets to listen to me screaming insanely while he sits 380 kilometers away in a restaurant with his work colleagues), and I start to kick at this guy’s balls with everything I’ve got. I have this Marx Brother’s image in my mind of me kicking and screaming while this hapless thug bitch-slaps my feet away from his crotch. Felt like hours of terrifying slapstick.

Finally, he looks behind him—and this is the really scary part because he’s looking at someone ELSE—and making his decision for reasons I can only guess at, he turns and leaves. I fumble for the keys—which are somewhere in a pile of broken glass on the passenger’s seat, remember?—and I get the car started and I drive away. But I drive only to the other side of the mall so I can call the police and maybe still catch the fucker.

Long story short, the cops arrive in minutes, the perps are gone (never to be caught), I make my statement, the very nice and helpful cop lectures me on fighting the guy (“It’s just a car, ma’am. Next time, give it to him.” I nodded obediently, knowing all the while that my instincts would be hard-pressed to let me do it.), I drive my broken car home, I assure my panic-stricken husband that I am alive and well, he drives the 380 km in 2 ½ hours (yes, that requires significant speeding), and I get a great story out of a potentially harrowing experience.

I might balk at an open water swim, but when push comes to shove in the right circumstances, I guess I got me some cojones I can jangle.

Deb: I will say that hearing this story again in detail––that I have never really heard fully––made my blood run cold. We were all aghast when Barb showed up on set the next day with frayed nerves and this tale to tell. The part that Barb has forgotten is that the first day on our set was September 11th, 2001. This is the way our film and friendship started. I will not go into details of what we were feeling on that day as I am sure that all of you can share equally the fear and confusion we felt, especially our New York friends. But I do remember, embedded in my brain, the story of Barb trying to fluff off what had happened in that way she has of not taking full credit for her bravery. I also remember the sickening feeling in my stomach when I thought of her beloved husband hearing this happening in real time and yet being powerless to do anything about it. And I remember––and forgive me if I am wrong, Barb––but I do remember you saying that we all felt like such victims on September 11th, and that none of us in the big cities knew what or who would be hit next. And that you said that it was because of just that feeling that you refused to be a victim. You said that you did not know if you may have done quite the same thing otherwise. Am I remembering that correctly? I was so impressed by Barb in this scenario. She went in that moment from being the stunning sweet actress I was getting to know and laugh with to a woman of huge substance. She has not disappointed me since.

Barbara: Deb, I’d totally forgotten that feeling about not wanting to be victimized. Thanks for reminding me of that. Honestly, I have no lingering sense of fear around this event, just a sense of wonder. It made me realize that no matter how well we think we know ourselves, we can’t know how we’ll react in any given moment until we do.


  1. Geez, Barb!! Are you sure you're that same sweet girl that always has such lovely things to say at book club??? That's an amazing story! - Anne

  2. Fantastic story. I was only trying to borrow your car, though. But you taught me a lesson for sure. My goolies were ice-packed for weeks, dammit!

    Baby-faced criminals are never scary. That's why Babyface the gangster was such a mean bastard. Brother's gotta have some respekt, no?

  3. Oh, was that you, M.J.? Next time woo me with chocolate and flowers and maybe I'll lend you the car. Thankfully (for him), my husband knows not to take me by surprise.

    And, Anne, who'd thunk it, huh???

  4. Wow what a really horrible experience. Sorry that you had to go through that.It is great that you were so brave Barb,That is something that I could not have done in a million years. I remember Sept 11. I was in a class room learning Math in school when I heard the news. When we all heard the news,everybody stoped and turned on the tv. It was something that I will never forget.I remember it so well because everybody started to tear up and call their family and friends to make sure they were ok. Anyways. I am glad that everything turned out ok in your situation. I think that guy had everything coming to him that you did to him,plus a whole lot more.

  5. Oh, Barbara. *shiver* The sandwich I had for lunch 4 hours ago just rolled over and did the cha cha in my tummy while I read your horrible story!

    While I understand the cop's position (and agree with it in theory), I also understand (and approve of the fact that) you acted from your gut. You were already pretty far up there on my "cool people" list, but you just shot up to Mt. Everest heights with this story!

    I, too, have a carjacking story, but I wasn't quite as bold as you. It was in 1995, and it was the first cool evening of the fall (South Carolina). I was driving back to my apartment a little after midnight, and I (young & dumb) had my window all the way down. At a stop light, a really, dubious looking guy came at me through my driver's side window. No warning. Just BOOM! scary looking guy reaching into my window at me. I screamed ever bloody murder. Apparently, my scream (it really was a good scream) was epic enough to startle him because he pulled back just enough (and cursed me in a way I'd NEVER heard before - he was repulsively linguistically talented) that I put the gas pedal to the floor, blew the light, and left him staggered and slightly banged up behind me. But, it's not over. As I drove about 75mph in a 30mph zone (I WANTED a cop), all of the sudden dubious man in a BIG pickup truck was coming right up into the back of me and then beside me trying to sideswipe me, pushing me into oncoming lanes (luckily, not much traffic late that night), and raising all hell at me as we raced along. Driving like that was surreal - like I was in an action movie. I was near my apartment, but I wouldn't go home with dubious man following me. I remembered there was a fire station a few blocks from my apartment, and I drove there. As the fire station came into sight, dubious man caught on, and he sped off up to the onramp to the interstate.

    I pulled into the fire dept. parking lot completely shaken. An older woman who had just gotten off work at midnight at the grocery story by the stoplight where it happened had seen him approaching me, heard me scream, saw me get away from him, and saw him coming after me. The dear woman had hurried into her car and followed us down the highway, and she had gotten a good description of his truck and a partial license plate. She approached me in the parking lot, went with me to wake up the firemen, and stayed to give a witness statement to the police. Dear, sweet, precious woman.

    You may wonder why someone who had a truck tried to come in through my driver's side window at me and crash me in my little blue Honda. I found out later that a little while earlier in that immediate area (while I was out on an island), some guys had tried to hijack an ambulance and steal the drug box out of the back. The paramedics had gotten a good look at the guys and their vehicle. The description matched dubious man's truck. They think he was trying to get a different vehicle in order to get away from the city without being spotted.

    I am in awe that you beat up a carjacker, Barbara. Wow. As I mentioned in a comment on an earlier post, please buy and wear some Wonder Woman underoos!

    That said, I ache for your husband as he had to listen to that happen. That has to have been one of the worst agonies of his entire life. Poor, dear man. Poor thing. :(

  6. This is an AMAZING tale! Yes, I'm sure your husband had the worst of it--being so far away and not having any ability to help you or know if you were safe.

    What an intense start of your friendship for the two of you, though! I feel like I know you both better after reading this. Very cool.

  7. Rigel, I have to disagree with you on this one -- I fully find your car-jacking story way more harrowing than my own. Oh my god, Wonder Woman yourself!!

    And, Hart, I really like your comment about knowing us better from this tale -- it's that old adage about actions speak louder than words, isn't it? Others think they know us, we think we know ourselves, and then something crazy happens and it sets the whole picture on its ass. I instantly knew myself better after this event.

  8. Barb, I know how you feel. When something like that happens you go by instinct alone. There is no time for rational thought. Your instinct was to fight to get away, and then get the guy. I unfortunately, get mad and try to go after them.
    I had someone try to force me off the road. I got mad told my passenger to call the cops and floored the peddle to chase him down. When I got close enough I yelled out the license to her and she told the cops.
    Then told me to stop tiring to get us both killed and let the cops handle it.
    I stopped turned around and proceeded to take her home, were we where going in the first place.
    I know it was stupid but I was not thinking of anything but stopping him.
    Oh wait that would mean I WAS thinking...I wasn't.

  9. Barbara -

    For the last few hours, I have NOT been able to stop thinking about your story! I just want to hug you in half! Part of me smiles at you rupturing carjacker testicles (I hope he peed blood for days!), but mostly I just shiver over the whatifs and couldahappeneds!

    Oh, and you are nuts. I drove away fast (fled) encased in thousands of pounds of steel. You engaged in hand to hand combat AND WON. No comparison. You are the superhero goddess chic! I'm just a lucky idiot whose guardian angels have nervous breakdowns.

    I keep thinking about Deb's discussion of your handling of the carjacking being influenced by your reaction to 9/11. You remind me of a news story I read about United 564 in the trepidatious days immediately after 9/11 when passenger flights had barely begun to move again. At the start of the flight when the pilot came on the intercom to introduce himself and do his little spiel, he launched into a rousing set of instructions telling his passengers what to do if anyone started any 9/11 style crap on their flight - to throw stuff at the hijackers faces, fight back, to pull together and RESIST! There was some controversy as to whether he would get in trouble with the airline, but his passengers and cabin crew were fully supportive. They said that the captain's attitude and words made making that flight in the trepidatious days immediately post-9/11 much less scary. It inspired a camaraderie and bravery amongst the passengers and attendants. The story said that after he made the announcement, there were loud cheers and an ovation from the passengers. Barbara, you had this same spirit of resistance and empowerment that night.

    Here, I just found the article I read all those years ago archived by a newspaper:

    Evil will win by default if the fear of evil paralyzes those who would resist. Fearful cowering allows evil to dominate by default. Barbara, you demonstrated inspired inner strength and nobility with your refusal to meekly acquiesce to victimization. I understand the cop's position on your fighting. There's a lot of sense to that, and in the majority of situations with the majority of women, he would be exactly right in his assessment. (And, if you had seen a gun in the carjacker's hand, you should've just given him the car. That said, if he had tried to abduct you --- fight like hell because your chances of survival plunge to near nil once you allow yourself to be moved from the primary location.) But, you subconsciously sized up the situation (i.e. no gun, youthful opponent) and reacted from a place of righteous rage.

    Inspiring, Barbara. Very inspiring.

    (But, I still so, so pity your husband on this one, poor baby. I wonder how long this one showed up in his nightmares. Honestly, I think it was worse for him than for you because he was helpless! Oh, the poor, poor man.)

  10. Wow, Barb, I'm impressed! Isn't it amazing what the reflexes will do when given a gold ole dose of adrenaline? I suspect you're a bit more of a daredevil than you care to admit, or maybe even realize :)

  11. Oh gosh, you ARE brave! I probably would have froze, or cried, or done something stupid (but not brave). And I too sympathize with your husband. Good thing his woman knows how to take care of herself!

  12. TJL, sounds like you had a hairy ride too! And, yeah, instincts do take over, don't they?

    And, I swear girls, it does not feel like courage, more like raw beast. To Rigel's and others' concern, my husband was the one who really felt the brunt of that fear. When he got home that night after a frenzied drive, every muscle in his body was twitching.

  13. No kidding; it must have been excruciating for him.
    I bet he doesn't mess with you though, lady!

  14. I heard those cajones jangling from here. I thought they were wind chimes. :)

    A similar thing happened with my sister and my grandfather years ago in Florida. Only the guys had sawed-off shot guns and wanted his rolex watch not his jaguar. My sister and her friend ran like heck and dove into some bushes, but my grandfather (god love him, he was frail --pacemaker, three heart attacks-- but also seriously cheap)stood and fought them. In the end, they got the watch and left him with a nasty head wound. I'm not sure what the lesson is from this, just figured I would share. :)

  15. Barb - I, like Deb, have heard this story before but never in it's full entirety. Thanks Deb, for putting some perspective to it and adding details. Barb - I've known and loved you and your family for years and know you to be strong and sure of yourself - still, like the others, I marvel at your bravery and rejoice for your safety. Great story. Great outcome. Thank you for sharing!

    Love Sandy


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.