Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll is thinking about CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. She writes

This is one woman’s experience with crimes against either me personally or my loved ones. I have been very lucky indeed, with only a few incidents in my long life, most against property. But some crimes were serious enough they could have ended in tragedy.


As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s in a small town where people rarely locked their houses and left their keys in their cars. Theft was all but unknown. Daddy dropped me at the junior high one evening to play recreational basketball. I had just turned 12. I put my clothes and my brand new winter coat into a gym locker, and suited up in that always-fetching blue gymsuit. After a post-game shower, I padded moistly to the locker. New green coat bought on Clearance in Dayton’s basement – gone! Of more immediate concern – old slacks and sweatshirt, also gone. I checked every locker. Three times. All my clothes were still gone. Hard feelings about the game and my triple double? Haha. As if.

I loved that coat. My thrifty Mama outfitted me in many hand-me-downs. That coat was new and cool. And though I am a forgiving person famous for holding a grudge no longer than, say, a Hatfield or McCoy, I hope whoever took it is consumed with guilt – and an itchy, disfiguring rash – to this day. The thief was never caught, but the charge should have been attempted murder as I had to run three blocks to meet Daddy in my sweaty gymsuit in Minnesota in January. There were no cellphones then to change plans. My mother cut down a hideous plaid old-lady coat that I had to wear for three long winters. If only I had thought to write a song about it, I could have been another Dolly Parton.


In 1971 in San Francisco, I was a “community organizer” (and hence, my total lack of respect for anyone claiming it as a profession) working in the antiwar movement. At a large, peaceful street march, a crazy druggie with stringy blond hair threatened me and several young teenagers around me with a long, ugly knife. Though not yet a mother, all my Maternal Instincts went into High Gear and I kicked him first in the knee, and then the arm holding the knife which went clattering toward a cop standing nearby. (Just the knife, not the arm, more’s the pity.) When last I saw the guy, he was crying like a little girl and begging the cop for the knife back as it had been “a present from my father.” As DT would Tweet: Sad.


For about seven years I worked at a rather famous comedy club in the Twin Cities. A janitor at the club used to hang around the Green Room periodically. He was a convivial fellow and we didn’t think much about it. One night it seemed that someone had rummaged through my purse while I was onstage. Nothing was obviously missing. I rarely had more than a few bucks. But it turned out something was missing: a deposit slip from my checkbook.

On a Friday night, right before the bank closed, he and his girlfriend tried to “deposit” a fake $500 check into my account, requesting $300 back in cash. I had been banking at that little neighborhood bank for decades. This was long before Rachel Dolezal, so the tellers were pretty sure I had not changed from a short white lady into a tall, attractive black woman. The teller pretended to be called away for a moment, the scammer saw her dial a nine and a one and a one, and she fled. George Burns said the most important advice he ever got about comedy was “Always take your wallet onstage.” Good call, George.


I gave my son my old Saturn when I bought a new one. His then-girlfriend insisted on living in a gritty urban neighborhood. In appreciation, her neighbors used her lawn as an outdoor latrine, tore up her beautiful garden, and stole my son’s car. Twice. Meanwhile, back in suburbia, after 20 years of doing so without incident, I put the flag up on our mailbox for outgoing mail to be picked up and thieves took mail from my box and over a dozen others. They tore open and threw out two birthday cards, but they kept the checks to the utility companies. I had to close my checking account. The bank said pros often hold on to checks for months. Apparently, they can acid wash and change the payee, causing endless grief. A probation officer in the neighborhood said that a lot of our mail ended up in a car owned by a career criminal whose street name was “Snake.”

However, Mr. Snake (as the New York Times would call him), would not be charged for stealing mail – a federal offense, I believe – because the mere presence of a lot of mail without his name on it in his car was nowhere near enough to prove he did it. No “chain” of evidence, doncha know? Snake could have loaned his car to Cockroach or Weasel.


Lastly, in the early ’90s, a family member was carjacked. I will not elaborate on this gang-related crime except to say that the family member reacted as perfectly as one can under the circumstances, and prevailed with minor injuries. The two perpetrators, who were in jail on other crimes when the case reached criminal court, pled that crime down to almost nothing. A few years later, both men were convicted of murder in separate senseless crimes and are currently doing life in prison. Please, God, with at least that same itchy, disfiguring rash as the kid who stole my new coat in 1958.


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