Pepper Sprayed in Oakland: Aftermath

11 April 2013 | commentary | Tags: , , ,

In no particular order, reflections on what happened to me on Monday night / Tuesday morning:

Pepper spray SUCKS. Oh man. I am truly grateful for the experience, because now I know how awful it is. I bet you really could asphyxiate if you got enough of it in your sinuses. I got just enough of it to feel like I was going to choke.

Pepper spray suuuuuckkks. I mean it’s no bullet-in-the-face, but the effects really linger. This stuff is sticky and tenacious. 48 hours and 6 full-body shampooings with Bronner’s got 99% of it out. That last 1% is still hanging around behind my ears and under my nails, aerosolizing in the shower, making me cough.

Those muggers: That was a coordinated, well-planned attack, not just a crime of opportunity. They made no vocalizations through the whole thing, and the girl who pepper sprayed me stepped in at just the right moment — quick enough to disable me before I could even understand what was happening, but not so quickly that her accomplices would experience even an iota of pepper shrapnel.

Transportation: what a bitch. Because of this crap I have to rethink basically my whole approach to what I do and how late I do it, because 20th and Broadway is… was… a major transit nexus for me. I don’t want a car — that’s just replacing one set of anxieties and risks with another set. And apparently bike-bound muggings also happen with enough regularity to make cycling not really a “safer” bet. Ugh. This Bay Area problem makes me so tired.

Self-Defense: I put myself in the LEAST defensible position humanly possible that night. I was sitting in the corner seat in a bus shelter, meaning I had absolutely no ability to run away. Sitting also meant that my kick would be at its least powerful, mechanically speaking — I would have been better off lying on the ground. And it’s pretty damn hard to make punches effective from a seated position when your attackers are all above you and far more mobile.

Glasses: I wouldn’t have suffered so badly if I’d been wearing my glasses. I always take them off when I don’t need them, because it keeps my prescription from drifting worse. But I will start wearing them at night no matter what. Who knows, maybe attackers with pepper spray won’t even make passes at girls who wear glasses.

Life: Going back to the office was harder than I thought it would be. I couldn’t take people asking me about what happened, because I had to refer them to the blog post, but after I’d done that, things felt touchy, like people couldn’t talk to me at all. Great, that’s worse. Reminding me that I am not very emotionally intelligent.

Healing: I’m going to spend some time at the Zen Meditation Center and talking to friends.

I’m also going to start taking combat-oriented martial arts again. Not because I think I could have beaten my attackers, but because I remember being far more perceptive and, well, FAST when I was taking karate three days a week.

All talk of victim-blaming aside, I fully believe that I put myself in a very vulnerable position that definitely increased my likelihood both of being attacked and of being at a severe disadvantage in defending myself (including just running away). And as any martial arts master will tell you, the best way to win a fight is to avoid getting in one.

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  • Jonahan a.k.a. Snail Quail

    Whoa! what a bummer. I totally understand your pain ): Might I recommend taking Krav Maga? I took it for 2 years and it was VERY helpful. It’s a fighting SYSTEM (not art) based on instinctual movements meaning it can be learned quickly and mastered over time. It also teaches techniques directly related to urban situations and weapons (guns, knives, etc.) and situational awareness (chaos drills). It’s great and can’t recommend it highly enough!

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