It’s Not Always Sunny In Philadelphia…

I wish I could say it was a dark and stormy night when things went wrong.   In reality, it was a very mild February night at about 8pm.  Derrick and I had just finished dinner, and were walking to the Riverview movie theatre that’s about 15 minutes from our home.  It started off as a very typical Friday night.

It’s mostly quiet.  A few blocks from our house, we pass a group of “young kids” hanging out at one of the less busy streets.   I’d guess 16-20 in age, and about 12 people in total.  A mix of male and female.  To be fair, I don’t really pay all that much attention other than a passing look.  I only remember because of what happened next.

As we move along, I notice the group starts to move.  Okay, but they are a little close.   An odd feeling came over me.  Small at first, but it stays.  I check my bias about “kids these days”, ignore my gut, and carry on our way.   Yet, they are getting closer to us- I could feel it.   Odd becomes uncomfortable.  A man with his dog walk towards us, and I feel the group slow down and stop again.  Okay, not a big deal.  I’m being hyper sensitive.

When the man and the dog pass, I have that feeling again.  Something is off.  I’m a person who walks down back alleys (when I probably shouldn’t), who talks to strangers in the street, and as my mom frets about, I  trust people a little too easily.   I’ve been very grateful that during my 9 years living in Toronto and my one year here Philadelphia, as well as touring the world, I have yet to run into a bad situation.  And that’s what made this scenario feel so … scary.

I look to Derrick and suggest we move a little faster.  We are pushing it to make it to the movie on time anyways.  We gear up into a swift power walk.   I glance over my shoulder, and behind us about 10 feet, the group is keeping pace.  Okay, let’s cross the street.  It’s time to do a gut test.

About 2 seconds after we get to the other side, one of the group members runs across to the side we now are on.  He’s about 20 feet back.   Okay, check bias, clock the situation, breathe Michael.   I look to Derrick, and ask if he thinks we’re being followed.  My whole body is pins and needles, and I can’t ignore it at this point.  He glances back, and doesn’t say anything.   I look back, and notice the guy behind us is walking even faster, with almost a run in his step.   I check in with Derrick again: “Derrick, we’re being followed.  I am really sure we are being followed”.  I look down at my mittens- should I take them off?  Do we stop?  Do we run?  It’s at this point we notice that directly across the street is another guy walking as fast as we are.   He’s broken away from the larger group, which is trailing a little behind.   My mind is present.  I could be overreacting, but I do know that we have one guy on the same side of the street as us, now less than 15 feet away, and another keeping pace with us on the other side of the street, trailing maybe 5 feet.   My entire body is alert.

At the upcoming intersection is a pub called For Pete’s Sake.  It’s a safety beacon that may or may not just be in our range.  30 feet.  20 feet.  I have no interest in finding out what may or may not happen.  We do a we’re-running-a-bit-behind dash to the pub, swing open the door, and tumble inside.

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We turn to out the door.  I’m hoping that the group has continued on, that we were making things up.   Instead, the one guy who had crossed to our side is crossing back to rejoin the larger group.   And they stop on the corner, directly across from the pub.   I finally let the adrenaline out, and acknowledge how shaken I am.    It’s shocking to go from a state of primal fear to a sense of safety in numbers in one moment.

Stephanie, the welcoming server, breaks me out of my frozen state: “Did you want a seat?”   I look up and blurt out, “We were being followed so we came inside to hide.”  She instantly becomes protective of us, and asks us what happened.  We point that the group is still outside, as we shy away from the door, and duck out of sight.  She goes out the door, yells at the group, and they yell back, but do wander off.

We decide to take a seat at the back, and gather our thoughts.  It’s crowded with cheer, and I’m grateful to be able to blend in.   We order a drink, and replay again and again what just happened.   It could have been much worse, and every fiber of my being assures me it would have been.   I’m so thankful we were alert of our surroundings and noticed before it turned for the worse.  The questions pour through me.  Why us? Why tonight? We look rather frumpy tonight- what was it?  What is going on with people?  Were they just trying to scare us, or steal our phones, or hurt us?  We are looking for any justification or explanation.   We play out other possible situations of what the group could have been doing… it was all assumptions.  And thankfully we will never know.

It’s at this point a dessert arrives, and the server gestures to a group of women: “They thought you might want a dessert- it’s on them”.   Then a few moments later, we’re told that a few guys bought us another drink.  The couple next to us starts making small talk, and Derrick, unfiltered, gives them the entire story of what happened.  They offer to drive us home, and even though we live about 5 blocks away, we accept.   On the way out, we thank the women who bought us the dessert, and the guys who bought us the drink. These small gestures make a world of difference.  Thank you for the treat, but more for so showing us we are not alone.

A few minutes later, we’re inside our house.  We look at each other.  And pause.  And cry.  Derrick posts on an online neighborhood board about our situation, and calls the police to make a report.  Although I’ve felt unsure at times, I’ve never felt fear like I did tonight.  We know it could have been much worse.  For tonight, I’m thankful to be home.

The next morning, I look at a picture of the dessert that the women had bought us.  Donuts.  It suddenly brought me back to my very first blog post: Home is Where the Donuts Are.  I’ll take it as a sign. Out of nowhere our Friday night had turned upside down.  It was a reminder that this kind of thing can happen to anyone at anytime anywhere.  But fear can’t, and won’t win.  In this dark moment, we saw the brightest.  A community of strangers did what they could to help us feel a little better in a tough situation.  They listened.  They offered support.  They brought us donuts.

On Sunday night, we walk to the movies.

Song of the Day: Kids (One Republic)

15 comments on “It’s Not Always Sunny In Philadelphia…

  1. This makes me sad for you and scared too … you shouldn’t be made to feel that way and I” sorry that all happened. You’re both strong and amazing people and i” really happy you follows your gut. Xoxoxo

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  2. Very sad. Nobody should fear going out for a walk to movies. Some areas we all know we keep away from. The girl in the pub and people who treated you to a dessert and offered you a drink deserve a thank you. Trusting your gut is wise. Take care my friend, As for the group of kids. Shame on you.

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  3. ARGGGG!! I hate when stuff like that happens! So sorry that happened to you both — I read the post on the QV portal and was angry just thinking about it! (before I knew it was you both) – now ‘m even more angry! If this ever happens again – call 911 ASAP the local 3rd district (on south st) wants to crack down on these punks, Glad you are OK — remind me to tell you the story about what happened with Andrew and the flying brick!

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  4. So sorry to read this guys! I am very glad to read you were aware of everything going on and found a safe place.

    Good, Bad & Ugly out in the world and you obviously found a good place. 👌🏽

    Big hug,
    Brian…

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  5. Glad you are safe and found refuge in the goodness of people in your neighbourhood. Everyone needs to be aware of their surroundings especially at night. Keep your heads up out there and don’t hesitate to call 911 if necessary.

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  6. I’ve been in this position before – and it’s gut churning. I’m so sorry you experienced that, and I’m so glad you’re safe. I’m also glad to hear about the wonderful people looking out for you there. Despite the folks who followed you, sounds like you found a wonderful community!

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  7. Oh my gosh! I had read your blog and had to respond . Of course I have music playing within the tv, my Smart TV, and guess what song is playing… well how could you guess that… chuckle chuckle….. the song is “It’s Raining Men”… Oh my gosh! It’s just so befitting for you! It’s too bad it wasn’t raining men during the time of your demise. I only have a smile as large as the moon because of the coincidental moment I am experiencing right now. I love you guys so much!
    Mike , your writing is so vivid. I was right there with you feeling everything you must have felt . I was on the edge of my seat as I read your “dire straits”.
    Call it a “gut feeling” or intuition, yours was definitely on par. Certainly gives a whole new meaning to “Kids on the Block”. Would you like to hire a body guard? I am so availlable to you.
    I hate how people just take to the streets like that and try to intimidate others.
    They are lost souls without any destination or regard for decency. They ARE our troubled youth whom obviously have had no direction. Well maybe they just decided to rebel for their own reasons.
    It’s sad to think that we can’t even go for a walk as quick as 15 minutes to enjoy a “Date Night”. I am so sorry that my “Boyz” had such an awful encounter. It truly makes me sad and scared for you. I am however very grateful that you found a safe haven. It’s absurd that you had to endure such a horrific moment. I am so sorry that you couldn’t enjoy your leisurely walk to the movies.
    I feel that that saying… ” Love in Philly” holds strong and was surely represented in the little neighbourhood pub/tavern. The uncanny part was that of the donuts. You say ‘Home is where the donuts are’; what a feeling you must have felt when those donuts arrived. You have found your “home away from home”. I am sure that pub will hold a special place in your heart from here on in. I am so relieved that nothing came of this; I mean being shaken as you both were , can’t be claimed as nothing , that moment will be embedded in your being for quite some time. I hope you don’t let this get the better of you. You “Boyz” are awesome and I know that you can overcome this. You are strong. You make a difference in this world.
    Never doubt your gut/intuitions. I firmly believe that our bodies have that mechanism and
    entitles us to know when things aren’t quite right, no matter what the situation is, and to react accordingly.. Never doubt it as there may be no time to think twice.
    I love you Mike and Derrick so please stay safe.
    Your Legend of the Seas Gurl,
    Jennie xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo…. to inifinity

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    • Your comment Jennie is yet another bright beautiful spot that this situation brought us! There must be dark to see the stars 🙂 I’ll take “Raining Men” at anytime!
      Thanks for reading, and the feedback- that’s definitely my goal with my writing- bring you right there with me, so we can all share the experience, and that maybe you/the readers share theirs.
      A bodyguard- I am accepting applications! 🙂
      Your energy and love sparkles here Jennie! I agree- our guts are there for a reason. Much love your way!

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  8. I am so relieved to hear that you both are ok. No one should be made to feel this way. As soon as the part about the donuts came I teared up right away and immediately thought Grand-maman was there with you and comforting you both. Much love to you both.
    Jennifer xo

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  9. So glad you are ok! This is so shocking and scary. Always be careful and listen to your instincts. I have tears thinking of all the good, caring people who helped you. Thank goodness there are still far more good people than punks. Stay safe & healthy & happy. Love you guys!
    Kathy
    Big hugs!

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