Friday, April 27, 2007

The Day I Stopped a Gang War, no, they didn't have knives...or guns

Yesterday afternoon when I went outside to make a quick personal phone call, I got to stop a gang war.

Well, not really, but I had you going for a second there didn't I? *insert chuckle*

Well I did stop something. It wasn’t a gang war per se, but it was about to become a nasty fight (there were about thirty or so young men egging each other on). This is how it happened.

Yesterday afternoon I stepped out of the office to call my Brother-in-Law Nick because my blog was experiencing glitches from the work I'd done the night before. He fixed the problem, (brilliant computer geek that he is) so now in order to get to my blog, you can type into your browser and it will bring you right here. Snazzy huh!

So here I am, minding my own business, walking away from the doors and building construction heading toward the spot where I wanted to make my call when I saw them. About thirty young men, ages twelve to sixteen, milling around the sidewalk. I didn't think much of it, so I whipped out my phone and looked for a place to stand.

I scanned the group wondering if they'd be too loud for me to hear my Brother-in-Law Nick, when I realized that all might not be well on that particular smog choked, overcast, construction dust laden bit of NYC sidewalk. The groups weren't milling, but circling. Then I became aware that there were two protagonists with groups forming around each one. Heckling came from both sides, egging each other on. Oh dear.

All I could only think two things. The first, this isn't happening, they aren't really going to fight. And second, as the only adult standing around, (I work near the park, and had used a side entrance to the building) I couldn't let it happen. Besides can you imagine the headlines? Young boys fight, end up in hospital as "Fill in the Blank" Employee stands idly by, watching, or turns her back, or something...I don't know but it would have been bad I'm sure.

So here I am wading into the fray as soon as the preliminary shoves are over, trying to shout over the din and calm the testosterone induced adrenaline surges. All I could think to yell was "Do I need to call the "Company" Security Guards? Over and over again. One of the would-be fighters glanced down at the Company ID badge I held in my hand and backed off immediately, the intense desire in him to beat the crap out of the other kid dampened. Some small corner of my brain recognized this, so I swung it with vigor at the rest, card in one hand (you know, to look official) and cell phone in the other.

The crowd started to break up, but it took a little while to calm down the other half of the crowd. I vaguely remember gently rubbing the arm of one young man and saying "Settle down, settle down." He was trying to incite the crowd to riot again.

I don't know what I was thinking to have waded into the middle of that crowd, must have been the "I can't let this happen" part of me. In the end it all worked out, the crowd dispersed. Half of it went one way, the other headed off in the opposite direction. Disaster averted.

But there was a moment there when I was in the middle, with my back to the half of the gang I had mostly calmed down when I thought. "Um, this probably isn't a good idea. What If I get jumped from behind?" I suppose it would have been okay eventually....The building has security cameras, they'd eventually see me getting beat up...and later after I'd calmed the boys down, two guys I know from IT walked by. I'm sure they would've played Good Samaritan and scraped me off the pavement.

Just after the IT guys passed by, I finally called my Brother-in-Law Nick. Unfortunately, he had to listen to gibberish for about 15 seconds since my ability to form coherent sentences had fled, by then, the shakes had set in.

So there you have it. The story of how I stopped a gang war. Well it was a large group of boys, and they were about to fight. If that isn't a gang war I don't know what is, I swear it was just like West Side Story. Except there wasn't any singing and dancing, and it was definitely a lot scarier.

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