Workplace Wonderings : Coppers and Robbers, or, how I learned to love my commute

I used to do a LOT of commuting to work using the city bus. Sometimes at night, through areas of town that are… well, don’t go there at night alone.

One thing about me that you should know. I am ALWAYS watching everything when I walk. I look up, I look to the sides, I do a quick owl impression and look behind me both ways. I look at the ground. OH BOY, do I look at the ground.

See, I have two hobbies that are an intrinsic part of my being. I’m a rockhound. And I’m a scavenger. (What does this have to do with the bus? I’m getting there.)

I have many many things that I picked up off the sidewalk or side of the street or meridian while walking. One of those things is a length of copper cable. I have a picture of the same KIND of cable below. My piece is just over a foot long, a couple inches wide. Its very obviously extra that was trimmed from work being done on overhead power lines. It weighs several pounds. I picked it up and went, OOO! Club. And the wire bends a little if you try and bend the whole piece, so its got a bit of give!

a black plastic wrapped length of bundled together copper wires. The wires are about as wide as a pencil, the whole cable is about 2 inches across.

I started carrying it in the bottom of an outside pocket on a laptop bag I was carrying. I thought, its like a blackjack but longer. A nice non lethal piece of protection. I carried it for a couple years thinking this.

One night, I get off the bus, and I’m heading north all by my lonesome. A few other people got off at the same stop, but they were heading south.

There’s a dude who was lounging at the stop, but didn’t get on. Doing my normal owl impression, I realize after a block that he’s following me. And then I see, about 100 feet ahead of me, two OTHER dudes suddenly walk out of an alleyway, and lean against the wall. Waiting for me.

A classic pincher. I’m about to get mugged. So… I reach into the pocket and pull out the copper cable. Now, I’ve practiced swinging it a bit, using cardboard boxes to judge proper wrist action. Note, I’ve only ever actually hit BOXES. This is important in a moment.

I kept walking, and looked at the two guys ahead of me, smiling at them. I started tapping the copper cable piece against the cinder block wall to my right, trying to imitate the classic cop with a nightstick tapping a wall as he walked.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Then I reared back, wrist to opposite elbow, and swung and nice heavy blow, snapping my wrist to get that little extra touch of momentum at the last moment. I’m thinking, nice loud crack sound. Demonstrate that I’m armed, and stronger than I look. They’ll back off and wait for an easier target. Right?

Remember how I said I thought of this impromptu club as a NON lethal weapon?

The cinder block I struck shattered. As in, with a loud crash like a dozen plates all hitting a concrete floor at once. A piece of the wall shot out and bounced off the side of my head. Several more sliced across my arm and legs. I stopped dead, stunned, and looked at the place where I struck. Chunks of broken cinder fell out in a stream, leaving a gaping hole, 6 inches by a foot, as the entire front of the block was just… gone.

Numbly, I realized that blood was trickling down the side of my arm. Looking behind me, the guy following a good 20 feet behind had also stopped, and was walking backwards, his hands held up around his shoulders, palms towards me.

I looked forward to see the asses of the two in front of me vanishing back down the alley. I start walking again, still tapping the cable on the wall. My arm is still bleeding, and it drips a couple times, but I’d rather not worry about it just yet.

I reach the alleyway and look down it. I can see them both, a good 4-5 houses down the alley, standing behind a large trash can, watching me. I smile and salute with the club, tapping the end lightly to my head. Wincing, I realize a bit late that I tapped the sharp end of one of the cut strands of copper cable inside RIGHT to where the flying piece of cinder had hit me.

After another couple blocks, I put the club away, and used a napkin to staunch the blood dripping from my arm. And, when I got home that night, I took the club out and put it in a box. I just imagined what it would look like, had that been the side of someone’s head, and not a cinder block wall. And I knew that those photos would make a self defense plea a LOT harder. A knife would be better, in that regards.

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