Crime and Punishment

Gregg Hubbard Issue: Section:

“I slowed down to make sure our eyes connected, so he could not only see, but feel my contempt for him”

The sun shining and the air crisp, December first was exceptionally beautiful in NYC.
Earlier in the day, after assisting a friend in Soho , I thought I would walk home. I left her building on lower Broadway headed uptown. The Soho area is densely concentrated with upscale boutiques, cafes, NYU students, fashionistas, and many holiday shoppers. The idea of a stroll home seemed pleasant opportunity to stretch my legs and unwind.
Being a visual person, I enjoy people watching, sight seeing, and generally let little go unnoticed. As I began meandering home, I delighted in looking at the fashion statements and accessories of the passers by, the holiday decorations, billboards, open clear sky, and everything in between.
I noticed a sweet looking senior gentleman with a beat up old school leather gym bag from the 70's. It was about then I remembered I had the keys of the friend I had earlier assisted, which meant I had to return to the office.
No big deal, it was such a nice day, who cares?
I didn't.
I turned around, passed the gentleman with the 70's bag, heading in the opposite direction, I noticed a handsome young man, broad shoulders, who seemed like some NYU student running late for class.
Suddenly I heard a scream behind me, which stopped me in my tracks.
To my complete shock and surprise, I turned to see the sweet senior man with the 70's bag laying on his back, on the ground, being mugged by the broad shouldered kid. The gentleman and kid were caught in a scuffle, with the kid desperately trying to take his beaten up gym bag. The man held onto his bag, pleading for help. The kid tugged and pulled the bag without success.
My first thought was " WHAT THE FUCK". It's 1PM in broad daylight in one of the busiest intersections in NYC.
My next thought,
“DO SOMETHING!”
“ANYTHING!”
Without hesitation, or a second thought I found myself wedged between the man and the kid, joining him in holding onto his bag. At the same time several other guys jumped in to help. In the melee, the thief managed to escape, run less than fifty feet to the corner, where he was apprehended by uncover cops. The victim at this point is completely disoriented, shaken up, but not at all hurt.
The cops came to assist him and explain that the kid and several friends were hanging out at the check cashing place, pegged the man as a weak target after he cashed his check, and followed him until they found an opportunity to rob him.
In that moment I saw my dad in this old man, frail but tough during his last days on earth. Having diminished physical strength, but a strong will to survive.
I hung around, gave my contact info as a witness, and then continued on, having still to return the keys to my friend.

As I approached the corner of undercover cops, unmarked cars and curious pedestrians, I saw the snot nosed kid, laying face down, handcuffed.
I was filled with disgust!
How dare he take advantage of an old man? Where was his sense of respect for his elders? His sense of right and wrong? I slowed down to make sure our eyes connected, so he could not only see, but feel my contempt for him. At the point of locking eyes, I honestly wanted to spit on him. Where was this rage coming from?
But I kept my thoughts and spit to my self.
I returned the keys and reported my lunch time good deeds. Everyone I told was shocked that this happened in broad daylight, in this neighborhood.
I then continue on my journey home, retracing my steps, surprised to find the crowd still gathered, the man sitting in an unmarked car, and the kid still face down on the pavement, handcuffed.
But something was different.
Fifteen minutes after all of this occurred, I no longer saw a snot nosed kid, but a lost young man.
I wondered what happened in his life to make him choose this path.
Where were his parents? Who are his role models? When did he become fractured? Was he aware he is writing his future by choosing these unfortunate actions?
Of course I had compassion for the old man, but I also had immense empathy for this young kid, with his entire life in front of him. The man, like his beat up 70's leather old school bag was resilient,
but this kid, I wondered.

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