"Yeah?" I answered, thinking he'd forgotten to tell me some detail about his many adventures in love we analyze on a regular basis.
"Are you online? Sophia just sent an email," he blurted out breathlessly. (Ed. Note: My sister is an email queen, so getting an email from her does not usually necessitate a special call.)
"Um, no," I replied, somewhat annoyed. I was, after all, right in the middle of my DVR-ed episode of Grey's Anatomy.
"Go check it. She just emailed us. Papa got mugged down in Santiago and he got hurt. I'm on my way home right now, she says she'll be on Skype," he said, before hanging up.
First thought that came to mind: Shit.
So I dashed over to my laptop, read the email and sat there in utter shock. What else could I do? My dad is not "old" by any measure (he'll be 60 in a few months) ... but he's ol-der. And the thought of someone taking advantage of a situation to steal a few dollars from an old man pisses me off to no end. I chatted with Sophia via Skype and learned that she was with my dad when it happened.
According to her:
"We went to the store to buy groceries for the long bus ride and were walking back to the hotel in the middle of the day. Everyone was around. A guy reached into his pocket and took a wad of money, Papa turned around, yelled and started running after him. At this point three guys blocked his way, tripped him and pushed him into the ground. I was so confused because then they started helping us with our groceries. He got up and had blood running down his face. We started walking, and you know him, he was so embarrassed already not being able to catch the guy. That's when I saw that his pinky had been dislocated and pushed the wrong way, so he popped it back into position. It looked like he'd gone into shock, and he thought he'd broken his nose. I knew he'd need stitches because the gash was so deep in his forehead and I knew he'd broken his finger so I made him go to the hospital. He'd fallen flat on his face; his hands didn't break his fall because the guys that pushed him down were also holding his arms and hands back. He was so helpless. "Not the type of "wish you were here" sentiment I was expecting from my parents' adventure abroad. After I talked to my sis, my dad then got on Skype a short while later. He told us it wasn't a big deal and true-to-form tried to downplay it all, but I saw his bandaged hand and the stitches on his forehead, and it broke my heart. This was my dad, whom I'd grown up viewing as the protector in our family. He always has been. And I know that no one could have prevented this and he couldn't have stopped it (even if he was 30 and not 60), but it killed me to see him be embarrassed about it, helpless.
I think he chalks it up to gray hair and old age, but I told him that he simply doesn't blend in and that's probably why it happened to him in a giant crowd of people. Luckily, I also pointed out, they didn't pull out a gun or knife on him and that at least he was safe. "I wish I could have caught them, though," he said. "No, you don't," I replied.
I reminded him that I've had handfuls of friends mugged right here in DC either at knife- or gun-point, and it didn't always end so pretty (one person, while being mugged, watched her mugger shoot a guy in the head right in front of her). It's a dangerous world, and no place is really "safe" anymore. My dad's attack, along with the countless other attacks I've heard happen to friends in the last couple years here, reaffirms that fact.
So the thieves ended up stealing $800 in cash from my dad who was carrying it because there were no ATMs where they planned to be. Though there is a special place in hell for people like this, I can't help but feel sorry for them too. Poverty drives people to great lengths, and I can only imagine what kind of daily lives they lead when we take for granted how we have flushable toilets and abundant food. So, $800 sucks to lose, but he'll survive. There's really no price tag for that.
Bottom line: Go invest in some pepper spray, kiddies. I have a pink cartridge I keep on my keychain, which I often hold on to in my jacket pocket if I feel a certain street is sketchy (I know, so Kill Bill, all I need now is a Hattori Hanzo sword). It (the pepper spray, not the sword) only costs about $10 and is better than nothing ... unless, of course, your attacker has a gun. At that point I -- like a mutual friend recently did when faced with the gun scenario -- would start running. Nine times out of 10 they don't actually want to shoot you, they just want to rob you ... unless they're batshit crazy. But that's a whole other story.