With Douglas doing well, I decided to go back to class today. I’m working on a Master’s Degree in Computer Science at the University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL). My class this semester is the last class I have to take for the degree, so I really want to finish it up, despite all the other stress in our lives. The first class was last Monday, and I missed class on Wednesday because Jenny was in final stages of labor when class happened.
Fortunately, the professor and I know and like each other, so he is giving me a little leeway for missing classes due to the birth and surgeries. What neither of us anticipated was that he’d have to excuse me for missing class due to being punched in the face by an unprovoked stranger in the street!
To get to UMSL from the hospital, I chose to drive through north St. Louis, the poorer, blacker, and notoriously more dangerous part of town. I’ve never had trouble myself there other than a beggar, and I didn’t expect a problem this time, particularly in daylight. Unfortunately, my guess was wrong.
After getting a sandwich at Quizno’s, I tried to get back on the interstate. However, I don’t know well how to get on the interstate from the street I was on, so I missed my ramp. I went to the next street to turn around, and a large black man started yelling at me from a restaurant as I was turning around.
I tried to ignore him as I got in line for the light, but he got to my car before I was able to go. He came to the open driver-side window (Big Mistake #1) and started yelling at me that I should have stopped because he was yelling at me. I said that I didn’t need to stop because I had no idea who he was (nowhere near that politely), and I tried to drive off.
That’s when he punched me in my left eye.
My glasses went flying, and I pulled over to the side to try to make sure I was ok. I wasn’t bleeding, and my glasses amazingly weren’t broken. I reached for my cell phone to call 911, but by then he got to the unlocked passenger-side door (Big Mistake #2) and opened it. He started yelling at me that he just needed a couple bucks for gas, and he pawed through what was on the passenger seat (fortunately, just the wrapper for my sandwich). When he started reaching for my car keys, I honked the horn repeatedly, which scared him off before he could steal anything (if that was his intention). Unfortunately, the honking also brought 3-5 of his friends out of the restaurant towards me.
I reached the 911 dispatcher and drove a half-block away to get away from the attacker, but keep him in sight. Then, the other guys ran towards me. At the dispatcher’s urging, I drove a couple blocks away to a parking lot and waited for the cops. I called my family, but it took a while to get someone because they were all with Douglas. When they finally got to the phone, I had time to say “I’ve been assaulted on the street and am going to make a report to the police, but I’m ok” when the cops showed up and I had to hang up. I’m sure that wasn’t comforting news for my family.
Of course, he and his friends had disappeared by the time the cops and I returned to the scene. They took a report and descriptions, and we drove through a couple of the notorious blocks in the area. They said someone matching the description was reported trying to sell drugs at the gas station across the street, but they had no idea who it was. I highly doubt anything official will ever come of this.
I finally got back to my parents on the phone, and they convinced me to go back to the hospital instead of trying to go to class late, like I was trying to do. I would have resisted, but Jenny wanted me back. They were right, of course, but my instinct was to continue doing what I had been trying to do. I’ll just have two days of class to catch up on.
Back at the hospital, I got a lot of ice, and I had a doctor (a pediatric cardiologist working far outside her specialty) do a quick exam. It doesn’t look like there was any permanent damage except slightly bent glasses, but I’ll have quite a shiner.
I have no idea why the guy hit me. Did he want to sell me drugs? Did I do something wrong other than making a wrong turn in a bad neighborhood (really, the true Big Mistake #1)? Was it racially motivated?
After the past week, this was the last thing we all needed, but we’ll be ok.
Finally, I really thank my friend Eugene Day for talking to me while I drove back to the hospital. It really helped.