Strangest thing happened today.
Okay, maybe not that strange, given that our precious little privileged subset of Venice is surrounded by territory that's largely considered gang territory, but still -- strange for me.
I stopped a burglary.
Not a big burglary. There were no jewels or cars or government secrets involved. It was a bike. My wife's bike, actually, a gift I'd given her a few years back. A cool pink beach cruiser that sits near the opening of our garage -- a garage which, as a rule is always closed unless we're actually going in or out of it.
Except for today.
The kids were napping, and as the garage sits directly below our 3 year-old's room, my wife opted to leave it open until she went out to the market, as the opening/closing of the garage door can be a little noisy. She actually said to me, "it's okay, right -- it's probably safe, don't you think?" And my answer was yes. Because our neighborhood is safe. Our neighbors leave their garage doors open all the time as we come and go out of our homes.
And then she said it again, a little later: "it's safe, right?"
And it was at that moment that I actually heard something moving in the garage -- something I assumed was the postman dropping off the mail, or a kid leaving a flyer or something. Which was why our dog Leona was standing at the door making noises -- it was probably nothing, right?
I open the door and there's a guy stealing my wife's bike.
I flipped. Or, rather, a switch inside me did, because in that moment I became someone I didn't know existed. The litany of obscenities that erupted from within me were coming from a place so deep inside that it was acting without any interference whatsoever from my conscious brain. There was a "what the fuck do you think you're doing?"
The guy dropped the bike and took off running.
And I took off after him.
And the obscenities continued.
"You think you can fucking steal from me, you piece of shit? I'm going kick your fucking ass!" I heard myself scream as the guy sprinted away from me.
I could see he was about my age, maybe a little older, and was likely a transient -- I picked that up from the black pack on his back that held a rolled up blanked on its side.
I was gaining on him, so he decided to drop the pack, mid-run. I kept running past it.
"Oh, you think you're fast, huh motherfucker?" Clearly, I was still not myself.
And I was gaining on him. Quickly.
And then it happend: I caught him. Or up to him, which he sensed and just stopped -- and surrendered, cowering as I raised my fists -- which seemed like the right thing to do in the moment, though as I stood facing the guy, saying "I'm going to beat the fucking shit out of you," it seemed like overkill. The guy said, "I'm sorry... I'm sorry..." and then, "I'm hungry."
He clearly didn't want a fight, which left me sort of confused, despite the fact that I really didn't want one, either. My dukes were, after all, up.
But what was I gonna do? Beat the shit out of him because he almost stole the bike? I guess I could have, he clearly wasn't going to put up much resistance.
Instead, I just walked away. I think I yelled, "I've got your stuff, asshole." As he scurried away. And he really did scurry -- like a cockroach, suddenly caught in the kitchen light.
I felt a little defeated having let him walk away. I second-guessed that right afterward, thinking, "I should have made him come back, I should have forced him to stick around."
But, as it turns out, I made the right decision. Our local security patrol phoned in to the LAPD who wanted us to call them. They had no interest in an attempted robbery. If we wanted to report it, we were to call the non-emergency line. They weren't even going to send an officer over.
The security guy told me some stories that made it pretty clear: had I hit the guy, it would have been me that would've been in trouble, not him. Had I detained him, he would have just been let go, since once again, it wasn't a robbery, as nothing had successfully been taken.
The security guy looked through his pack, which yielded nothing beyond some clothing -- no ID, nothing to indicate who the guy was at all, outside of down on his luck.
He took the pack and told us he was going to set it out on the corner, in case the guy came back, as it might help avert any potential retribution.
"Retribution?" I thought. "The guy was trying to steal from us -- but we're making sure he doesn't have any hard feelings about it?" Christ.
My wife left a while later for the store. The pack was still on the corner.
By the time she returned, it was gone.