Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Vigilantes R Us

Well, it was like this.

Yesterday evening I was out in the old studio in the back garden, helping Joel with his cello practice. As we came back into the house I heard a noise and headed down the corridor, and saw a man standing just inside the front door. The lights were off and it was still light outside so I couldn't get a good look at him. I said, with increasing volume, "Who are you? What are you doing in my house?" whereupon he froze, then turned and ran. Without thinking, I set off after him (in my socks) screaming at the top of my voice, "Stop that man! Thief! Burglar! Stop him!" He was much younger and running much faster than I could, and he crossed the road in the middle of the traffic, and headed towards the city. I didn't see anyone rushing out of the caf├ęs and take-away places to grab him, and almost gave up, but since I'd stopped outside the pizza place, I asked them to phone the police.

There are always a couple of Italian boys hanging around La Sera, and I think they must have headed off after him. I was still on the phone when someone came back to say the guy had been caught, so I told the police and then within 5 minutes I could see the flashing blue lights of the police car, several blocks down. They told me later there were 3 or 4 groups of people who had grabbed the guy and were just holding him till the police arrived, and who have made witness statements. The cops then came back to our place, and examined where he had just shouldered the old wooden door (there is a security door, but because we were "home" it was open). We then went down to Fitzroy and made a statement, and the man has been arrested and charged.

What went through my mind? Nothing. It was a case of sheer maternal protective instinct. My house and my child were at risk, and Paul wasn't home: if I didn't do anything, nothing would have been done. I don't know what I would have done if I had caught him, but I am really thrilled that people on the street (it is a main road) stepped up and helped me. I remembered a story my parents told me about being at Victoria market one day and hearing all the stall-holders yelling out in chorus "thief! thief! thief!" as a man ran down one of the aisles until someone grabbed him. Honestly, it felt downright neighbourly around our inner-urban neck of the woods last night.

When I was on the phone, the constable said repeatedly, "Don't put yourself in danger", but my heroics were over by then. And the senior constable, and the constable who took my statement both said they normally counsel you not to get involved, but in fact they said "well done!" and "good on you" and gave me the thumbs up, so I was very pleased. I was also pleased I was able to shout. It's always my fear that if I'm attacked I wouldn't be able to shout or scream, but I was so angry that it was easy.

Joel was quite rattled, though, and so was I. We called in on a family who live a block away from the police station, just to make contact with friends, with warmth and food and a cup of tea. Thanks D and S: you are life-savers!!

Of course, as a textual scholar, I was intrigued by the production of text. The constable sat in front of a computer and asked me questions, and typed up "my" statement. Reading it, you'd think I was a completely coherent subject, whereas in fact Joel and I were full of nervous asides and doubts as we were talking. (I could see how medieval inquisitorial testimonies might be produced.) She asked me to look it over — we'd already had the obligatory conversation about her English teacher — and it was really terrific. Oh dear, though: I did correct a "were" for a "where". Oh well. I made up for that today by going on line to the Victoria police website and registering a "compliment" to the cops.

I'm going to nip down to La Sera tonight and thank them, too. What do you take the owners of a pizza place to show your gratitude?

9 comments:

Pavlov's Cat said...

*Shrieks*

Great story; horrid episode. I'm very glad you are both all right.

(Word verification: drcct!)

Jeffrey J Cohen said...

Wow! I'll never cross you in a scholarly panel; you're fierce!

Seriously though, what a violation of your home space. I'm happy everything is OK.

Dr. Virago said...

Wow, that's really scary. I'm glad you and your family are safe and sound.

David Thornby said...

I'm glad he chose to run when confronted! And that all ended up OK. I imagine you've got conflicting feelings of violation, 'what if', and the warm squishiness of a community that turns out (contrary to expectations derived at least partially from the media) to be really pretty damned nice.

Mel said...

Had he stolen anything from your house?

Stephanie Trigg said...

Thanks, all, for good wishes.

No, nothing stolen: I think he had just come through the front door as we came in the back.

In retrospect, I probably should have gone out the back again and into our neighbour's house (we have a little gate in the fence) and called the police from there. We might not have caught him, but I think it would have been less upsetting for my son than the dramatic confrontation in the house.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Possibly -- but I have at least two very clear memories of both you and his father resolutely refraining from being overprotective of J when he was little, and of being filled with admiration for that. It may have upset him to have seen the confrontation, but he will also have seen (a) you being fearless, (b) the neighbours rallying round, (c) the cops being goodies, and (d) justice being done: all good. And he is a very mature and well-adjusted kid.

Ampersand Duck said...

Wow! How excitement! I was trying to tell my son the other day (probably the same day this happened) about how fear can freeze people up, and how the trick to being brave is to get ANGRY. Nothing like a maternal instinct to get you angry enough to act! Onya!

Stephanie Trigg said...

Yeah... I like to think that if I had caught him, I would have been able to subdue him with my well-chosen words of anger.

Dreaming on...