“Gimme your phone.”
I had just turned up 127th Street from Lenox Avenue after getting a sandwich from Subway. About an 1/8th into the block, a few feet away from a church, a kid about six feet tall wearing a half ski mask started walking alongside me. He said something to me that I didn’t hear because I was listening to my iPod. I thought (hoped) he had just asked me for change.
“Gimme your phone,” he repeated.
Without missing a beat, I replied, “Um, no.”
In his section of The Original Kings of Comedy, Cedric The Entertainer discusses “The Wish Factor.” Instead of hoping things will work out for the best, Cedric opines that African-Americans take a different, more confrontational approach like “I wish a motherfucker would (fill in the blank).” For example, I wish a motherfucker would ask for my iPod. Many times, I had imagined that if someone (without a visible weapon) had threateningly asked for my wallet, iPod or anything I was carrying that I had no desire to part with, I would simply reply “No.” I rationalized it as a game of poker. If I called his bluff, the hypothetical thief would either move on to easier prey or we’d fight. If you’re going to rob me, you’re going to rob me. Don’t expect me to make it easier for you.
At least, that’s how it played out in my mind.
In reality, I kept walking and he was keeping up with me step for step.
“What?”, he said sounding more annoyed than angry.
“Oh word, son?”
I kept walking and he slowed up. I forgot how long West 127th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenue was until tonight. It felt like I had been walking forever but I wasn’t even halfway up the block yet. I still felt him following me, about ten paces behind. I walked faster. He walked faster. Even though it was only around 7:30 PM, there wasn’t another person on the sidewalk that I could see in front of me.
I turned around to see how close he was only to discover he wasn’t alone. Now to the right of the ski-masked inquisitor were three other kids. Two had cornrows. None of them could have been older than 16. I stopped walking and they stopped. This freaked them out a little bit.
Thoughts going through my head at this moment:
- Really? All this for my iPhone?
- I wish I had just gotten a McRib on 125th Street.
- I’m bigger than three of these kids and I like my odds in a fight.
- I’ll be really pissed if someone breaks my glasses
I raised my hands indicating I was prepared to fight and they did the same although they were clearly more scared than I might have been. We stared at each other for about ten seconds waiting for someone to make the first move. I took one step backwards and then they started to charge. Me, my ten pound gym bag and my Subway Club sandwich wanted no part of this. In a flash, I was gone up the block. I’m not particularly fast but, by the time they had stopped chasing, I was a good five yards ahead of them.
I made it to the corner of Fifth Avenue and there were a few people on the corner who were probably freaked out by me running up behind them. I looked back down the block and the kids were gone. Maybe they went back to the corner to try to get someone else’s cell phone. Maybe they went back to the drawing board. Who knows? I walked back to my apartment looking over my shoulder until I got to my room. After my heart stopped racing, I was able to laugh about the whole thing and send out the following tweet: