It was a normal day in the office working late then working out. Today I decided to go for a bike ride down Hains Point, the 3.2-mile loop that juts out into the Washington Channel, and I was feeling on top of the world. Arriving home at ten o’clock was not too terribly late, and I had to make two trips from the car to the house.
I parked in the grass because I only had one parking space in my driveway. I did not want a parking ticket from the district for parking overnight on a D.C street without D.C. plates. As soon as I went to the back, one of my contractors called me which delayed me from the car. So I had to make two trips from the car to the house.
I made my first trip and dropped off my briefcase and went back out to get my bike. I did not lock the door because I would be back in a couple of minutes. From the corner of my eyes, I saw a man walking down the sidewalk twenty feet away. Although I live in a residential neighborhood we get incoming foot traffic from Alabama Avenue in Congress Heights. I then dropped off my briefcase in the foyer. I immediately went back out to retrieve my bike; I saw no need to lock the door because I was only going to be in for less than two minutes.
Some have criticized the program for having the right goals but not the right mindset to carry out the plans. The subdivision that I live in is 24-acres of land once owned by a former slave (Josiah Henson) and more recently consisted of dilapidated buildings and rampant crime (Stanton Terrace).
When the projects was called Stanton Terrace, dealers of crack cocaine called this area home. The projects were infested with rats and roaches and thugs became so brazen they'd go head to head with the MPD. But today, this mixed-income development of well-manicured lawns and tidy townhouses continues to harbor dealers and troublemakers.
Because Hope VI mixes homeowners with renters, there still exists a small but detectable division between both parties. And recently there have been a rash of burglaries (stolen computers), cars broken into and stray bullets through windows and walls, sometimes within inches of homeowners.
“Where’s your money at” he hollered, as he proceeded to reach deep down into my pockets. He did not feel my wallet or find any money; instead what he felt was the pad cushions from my bike shorts I wore under my sweatpants. Then he found my keys.
I wriggled in my pants. I did not like anyone touching me, let alone a perfect stranger.
It didn’t matter whether I was about to take my last breadth. I was uncomfortable and my body twitched sharply.
“Now where is the money at?”
“Don’t turn around, or I’ll blow you away.”
“In my bag. Let me go get it.”
I reached into my briefcase and handed him a wad of cash. A bunch of twenties, some tens, a couple of fives.
“What does he look like?” the dispatcher asked.
“Do you know which direction he headed?”
Questions were asked and questions went through my mind.
Did I do the right thing by not showing him where my car was parked? By taking the robber inside the house. By facing him and insisting that he would not leave with my briefcase.
But the biggest question of all -- why did I have to say Hello to a perfect stranger in the city in the middle of the night something people normally don’t do, something I’ve never done before, and something I would think twice before considering again.