It's one thing to get your ticket punched ...

Chuck Laszewski
Chuck Laszewski, Falcon Heights, is communications director at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. He is a former reporter at the Pioneer Press.
Submitted photo

I was mugged in Minneapolis last week.

Turns out, that's fairly common. At least, that's what I hear. And it's not just a Minneapolis thing.

In the days after the Father's Day assault, I heard of friends who were held up at gunpoint, beaten outside their apartment and confronted on a Honolulu beach; who had sprinted away from a slower-footed assailant and, in one trip, had foiled two robbery attempts in two countries.

I also heard of a couple visiting Spain who had water dumped on them from an apartment window; the friendly folks who rushed to them with towels were pickpockets. Apparently, foreigners take your money with elan, while here in the home of football and muscle cars, we rely on brute force.

Mine followed that pattern. I had two tickets to the afternoon Twins game and I asked my 75-year-old neighbor to come along. We decided to ride the train to the Metrodome. While we were fumbling with the ticket machine on the Lake St. platform, I heard a commotion to my right, where my neighbor was standing. When I turned to look, I was punched under the left eye.

I started throwing punches at my assailant. (I didn't worry about whether he might have a gun or a knife; it's amazing how much you don't think about in such situations. For instance, both of us marveled several days later why we didn't yell, "HELP, HELP, WE'RE BEING MUGGED.")

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The kid who had attacked me backed away and I turned to my neighbor, who had been hit from behind and was on the ground, struggling with a second man. As I got to him, my neighbor was on his feet and suddenly it seemed like many people were running. I remember thinking, "Running. That's a good idea. I should run, too."

We ran south, but the muggers gave chase. I turned and the guy who originally hit me tried to kick me, but missed. I took a swing at him and missed. I knew the other guy was punching my neighbor and I turned to go to him when I heard him say, "What do you want from me?" Our assailants had not spoken a word so far, but his attacker answered, "Your money." My neighbor gave up his wallet and the two fled.

Some things remain vivid. The sound of my glasses hitting the concrete, one lens popping out. How quiet, and yet determined, the muggers were. Other things are foggier, especially who started running and why; why my vision seemed to become so narrow; and where did the handful of people on the platform disappear to?

There was no time to be scared, and I was surprised that afterward I felt no hatred toward the two. I was angry at what they had done to my neighbor. But much of my anger probably dissipated with the punches I threw.

I have been asked: Will I ride public transit again? Of course. I've been riding the bus for 30 years and this is a rarity. Besides, when someone is in a car accident or is mugged in a parking ramp, nobody asks whether the victim will drive again. And that's the way it should be.

I'll be more observant when I'm giving or receiving money in a public area. But we good people must continue to fight our fears and, through our presence, assert control of our public spaces.

The attackers failed to get my money. However, there are hundreds of people at AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, et al., who put a scam in place, and got guys like Sen. Phil Gramm and President Bill Clinton to sign off on it by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act. That cost me, and millions of other Americans, billions of dollars of our savings.

That makes me more angry than getting mugged. When do I get to take a punch at them?

Chuck Laszewski, Falcon Heights, is communications director at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. He is a former reporter at the Pioneer Press.