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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