I used to ride the N Judah home from work (PC World) every night when I lived in San Francisco. It dropped me off around Noe and I would either walk up 14th Street or, if it was unusually hot and I didn’t feel like sweating, I’d wait for the bus.
On one such night, I was standing at 14th and Noe (pictured above) when I heard a woman scream, “Stop him! Somebody stop him!”
I didn’t see anyone at first, but suddenly, this guy came cruising across 14th and went running past me, down Noe Street.
It wasn’t clear what the guy did or why the woman was screaming, but after a split-second of deciding what I should do, I threw my bag in a bush and went after him.
I didn’t think catching him would be a problem because I was still fairly young, and I had been a sprinter at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before I had caught up to him. He had his hand wrapped around something, so it was clear he had taken something. But now what…?
There was no way of knowing if he had a knife or anything, so I decided to just run next to him and talk to him.
“You know, I can do this all night, so just drop whatever you took, and we can be done,” I said to him. This appeared to resonate, because he immediately dropped what was in his left hand and took off. Seeing the drop, I decided to stop and retrieve – letting him go.
Sure enough, it was a wad of money. When I returned it to the woman who was screaming, I found she worked at a coffee shop. When she opened her register, he pushed her down, took the available cash inside and ran. That’s where I came in.
I’ve always been one to take every opportunity and make mental notes of strange and unusual accomplishments, and so this one was a fun one to have under my belt.
But when I got to work the next day and told everyone, instead of getting positive reactions, I was met with a department full of colleagues telling me how stupid I was.
“You could have been killed. You have no idea what that guy might have done. Don’t ever do something stupid like that again.”
I was a bit surprised, but I guess I could see their point. I was still somewhat fresh from Wisconsin, but they had all been in San Francisco for awhile and were looking at it from a different perspective.
Still, I’m happy I made the choice I did, and if faced with a similar one, am pretty confident I’d do it again. Doing the right thing is the way I was brought up. Maybe it’s a product of being from the Midwest, or maybe it’s just all those Spider-man comics I read growing up.
But after hearing about this tourist who was mugged in front of a group of people who just laughed about it, I’m even more proud that I did the right thing, and would hope that you would, too.
– My name is Jon Friesch, and where ever danger lurks…