The strangest thing happened to me today.
I was attacked by what I must assume was a crazy lady. Out in public. At a busy intersection. In broad daylight.
As I was minding my own business, leaving the post office and walking toward the farmer's market, a small woman came towards me shouting and then she punched me in the mouth. Out of no where. I was stunned. And so without thinking I yelled at her: What the hell? And then she let rip with a barrage of punches - most of them missing - all the while yelling at me. I can't remember what she was yelling. I half expected her to give me a hard time for looking at her funny (which I wasn't. I was looking at a piece of paper and besides I was wearing dark sunglasses). I sort of think she wanted me to fight her. Instead, I did what was probably not the best defensive tactic (but I was beyond logical thinking at that point) and burst into tears.
I think that might have scared her off. She took off down the street.
The people standing around finally summoned their powers of speech and approached me asking me things like: Are you okay? and Did you know that lady?
One man offered to chase her down while his friend called 911. One lady offered me some water and told me that she almost got accosted by the same crazy lady just a few minutes ago. I heard someone else say that this crazy lady had been seen hitting people before. Someone asked me if I was bleeding and needed paramedics. Other than being in shock, I was fine.
Oh my god. What the hell?
A few minutes later the police arrived and they asked me what I wanted to do. What I wanted most of all was to go home to the safety of my husband and cats. But the nice police officer gave me a bunch of options to choose from (I think he was simplifying everything because I was still in shock and shakey and nervous wondering if someone was going to jump out at any minute and pummel me again). He said that I could have her go to jail. Or because he suspected that she had mental problems, I could have her taken to a psychiatric facility at a hospital. Or, I could request that she be put on a sort of restraining order so that she wouldn't be allowed to come into this neighborhood again. Or, he continued, they found that she had a $15,000 warrant for her arrest as it was so they could just put her in jail anyways.
I was bewildered. And still in shock.
What to do? Mostly I just wanted to make sure she wasn't going to come after me or anyone else (I mean come on! She's been seen doing this before??). And if she needed mental help, which I strongly suspected she did, I think it would be right for her to get that kind of assistance. But I have to be honest. I was feeling a little cynical about The System. And I don't know that much about the local laws to understand what would happen. I mean all the options being offered to me seemed more like temporary solutions.
What happens after she gets out of jail? She's just more mad and more ready to hit random strangers? What happens after the hospital treatment? They give her an allotment of drugs to keep her more or less sane and then what about when she runs out of the drugs? What's the point of putting a restraining order on her to prevent her from entering the Santa Monica neighborhood? Keep the scary crazy people out of the pretty neighborhoods so that they attack the citizens of the ghettos instead?
I know I'm drawing wild conclusions and making sweeping generalizations here, but when you've just been attacked and you're asked to make a decision that seems like it's going to impact someone else's life, it's hard to know what is the right thing to do.
In the short amount of time I had to think about it, I told the police officers that I wanted her to get some kind of psychiatric help. And that I wanted to go home, but I was scared to walk to the parking garage where my car was parked. So they drove me to my car and let me go home.
I called M on the way to my car to see if he was at home. I wanted to see him. We talked about it and concluded that it's really hard to figure out what the right thing to do is in a situation like this. Part of me wished I was better equipped with self-defense skills, not so much so I could punch her back (heavens no! I'm a pacifist! I don't ever want to have to hit someone), but I did worry about her pulling a weapon on me. And there are some martial arts maneuvers where you can neatly deflect someone's attacks and also render them harmless while you collect your thoughts and maybe get someone to help you by calling 911 or helping to hold the person down.
Or I thought about what a crappy athlete I am and how I was wearing flip-flops and so I couldn't have run away to save myself. Well, even in more sensible shoes I wouldn't have had an advantage; I'm a crummy runner.
All in all, we had to chalk it up as being one of those strange things that happen to you, like getting struck by lightning, and hope that it doesn't happen again.
One last thing worth mentioning is how really nice the people were during all of this. By this, I mean the people standing around on the street when I was being attacked. They were a little slow to respond, but probably because they were as stunned as I was. But there was a very nice man who stayed with me after he called 911 to make sure the police showed up and also his friend who followed the crazy woman to make sure the police got the right person. A very large meter maid came over to see if I was okay and said that she was sorry she had been across the street, otherwise she would have come to my rescue and hit the crazy lady back for me. Both police officers were super kind and patient with explaining what my options were. And while I was talking to them, another lady approached us and confirmed that the crazy lady had been caught. She'd made sure to follow as well she declared, and she came back my way to make sure I was okay. I must have looked really sad and shakey cause then she enclosed me in a warm hug and held me for a minute rocking me back and forth and murmuring that it was going to be okay and god bless me. God bless me? God bless the nice lady comforting me and all the kind people who stepped up to help me out.