Three minutes to a carjacking?
Tonight I took a friend to dinner -- well, more accurately, we met at a restaurant in Bay Plaza (in the north Bronx). Afterward she took me for a lengthy spin in her beautiful SUV, white and conspicuously brand new. When she brought us back, she parked in the same spot, right next to my car. Since hers is her new pride and joy, she had wanted us to park away from everyone else. The restaurant is at the edge of that part of the plaza, and we parked about five stores away from the restaurant, several rows deep in the lot. Because all other businesses were closed for the night, an empty row separated us from the other cars. That may not have been as good as we thought.
We were starting to get tired, so we reclined our seats for a little refresher snooze before driving home, maybe just 10 minutes. It turned out to be a good thing we're each naturally talkative, and watch out for our synergetic silliness when we're with each other. So we couldn't nap, and we put our seats back up to continue talking. Then my friend started to get annoyed that a particular van, parked two rows away with all the other vehicles (closer to the restaurant), was directly facing us with its lights on. Initially, the rudeness of maintaining lights right in our eyes bothered my friend more than anything. Then she started to feel uncomfortable upon realizing it had been there for several minutes, motionless. Thank goodness she did, because I admittedly was so focused on the conversation and didn't even notice.
My friend pulled out of our space, turned right and kept moving. I was looking at her and not intentionally trying to determine anything about our possible stalker(s), but once the van's lights were no longer in our faces, I noticed a tell-tale light indicating that someone was in the driver's seat and using a cell phone. We drove to the edge of the parking lot opposite from the restaurant (perpendicular to the exit) and did a slow, large U-turn to test their intentions. The van also started moving shortly after we did, but it didn't follow. We proceeded toward the exit (where we had parked was several rows deep within the lot) and found the van just before us in turning toward the exit. They must have driven even more slowly -- watching us? Coincidentally leaving at the same time? With our lights shining on them for a moment, we saw there was at least one passenger, who was hearing a "hoodie."
We drove around the neighborhood for several minutes, ensuring we weren't being followed, then circled back to my car and talked it over. It just didn't feel right. The van was the quintessential criminal type: an old full-sized model, beat-up, red/brown with a mismatched white passenger door. It had windows only for the driver and front passenger: no others on the side, or on the back, so for all we know there could have been two, four or six others inside.
I really think we were a few minutes away from being carjacked, and quite possibly worse. Such a nice new SUV can be a prime mark, and if we really were in danger, our would-be attackers were watching and waiting for the right moment. Maybe "Antoine" and "DeWayne" were ready to tell "Tyrone" and "Jamal" when to jump out the back doors, perhaps if my friend and I looked like we were making out and thus distracted. She and I realized we were pretty stupid to make it so easy: though the lot had lights, only the restaurant was open, nobody could have seen us from it, and nobody else was around.
And, we weren't paying much attention, either to our specific circumstances or that we were, well, in the Bronx. (It's not as bad as it used to be, but its crime rate still isn't zero.) With our talking and laughing, a couple of guys could have come from the van, maybe after pulling up closer, then did whatever they wanted to us. So my friend may have literally saved my life tonight. She was alert, maybe just by chance since the lights were bothering her more than the circumstances, and maybe even more by chance that she made a wisecrack, but each little thing led to our increased suspicions.
Had we failed to be sufficiently vigilant, however, exercising our God-given right to bear firearms would at least have had a chance of deterring the crime. In fact, carjackers are thwarted in any jurisdiction merely by the possibility that citizens have potent means of defending themselves. But as it stands, New York City has some of the toughest gun control laws anywhere, reducing my friend and I to easy prey for whoever wants to violate our possessions and bodies. Worse, once any peaceable, law-abiding citizen enters the five boroughs while in possession of any handgun sans an NYC handgun permit, he automatically becomes a criminal. If I thwarted carjackers, I would be going to jail myself once the NYPD realized I was using an "illegal weapon."
So, Führer Bloomberg, God damn you. I mean that literally: God damn you for your perennial quest to keep the people as sheep. Every time during your administration that an innocent victim has been hurt because he or she couldn't defend himself, may that blood be upon your hands. And God damn you for forcing people to run in fear, as my friend and I did tonight. Know this: when the people tire of being victimized by criminals from both the street and government, they will no longer pardon the shepherd who failed them.