This won’t be your typical clothing tip, or even blog post, but it will probably be the most important one that I share with you… one that can save your life or someone you love.
Hang in there, because this is a tough one to relive as I get it all out, but I am confident it needs to be heard.
I was visiting Memphis last month and had the experience every woman dreads… two men tried to mug me… my life was on the line. As I relive the few moments that felt like hours in my head, I can’t help but be so grateful for the women who poured all their protective tips over me as a child and a teen. You, like me, might have heard these words and thought “that will never happen to me, but okay, I’ll listen”
So here I was a single mom in downtown Memphis. I had dinner at a restaurant that was 800 feet from my hotel and ended up staying late chatting it up with the wait staff. I left around midnight to go back to my hotel and knew the area well, after having grown up in the town. I knew I’d be walking alone to and from the restaurant, so I took several precautions leading up to it:
- I took a picture of myself and sent it to a friend before heading out. Think about what the police ask for when a child goes missing – what were they wearing? I wanted someone to know how to identify me.
- I picked a restaurant that was super close… again, 800 feet from my hotel.
- I made sure I had on shoes that wouldn’t hinder my movement- chose wedges over heels. I could run if needed.
- I even carried my body bag verses a clutch so I could have my hands free. Plus, it is harder to try to grab a cross body than a clutch out of someone’s hands.
- I made sure to be modest with my drinks, only having 2 cocktails in a 4 hours span.
As I was leaving, there was no one going my direction, so I screen-shotted the map going back to my hotel and sent it to a friend. I also got on the phone with my friend, so someone knew my every step.
All of a sudden, two men were walking behind me and started making vulgar comments about my appearance. I immediately remembered my grandmother’s words: “It is more important to know who is behind you than in front of you." I was still on the phone with my friend so they could hear the events, and made sure to look these men in the eyeballs, letting them know I was aware and unafraid (even if my insides felt different)
I boldly told them “good night gentlemen” and proceeded to give my friend a play by play of my every move… “I’m on x street, passing x”
As I passed a bank, there were people inside talking to a security officer. They looked shook up. Another security officer stepped out and asked if I saw 2 kids giving a specific description. I informed him yes, that they were following right behind me.
They must have a track record, (or so I thought) because he called them BY NAME and told them the cops had been called (I assumed by the other scared folks inside the bank). I was sure to tell them I was not the ones to call the cops, in hopes of avoiding a retaliation.
I took the first right I could and hid in the shadows of an old pillar to see if they continued to pursue me. Sure enough, here they came. I jumped out to scare them:
“I am not playing”… I spoke in my toughest momma bear voice, as if they were threatening my kids. Which in reality, they were, as my life was on the line. Then they began to demand money. I was still on the phone with my friend at this time, making sure the conversation was heard.
“I don’t have money” I replied. All the while, I KEPT MOVING CLOSER TO MY DESTINATION. I didn’t stop. All I could think was just put one foot in front of the other. Just keep moving.
One of the men took the threat level up several notches… “Give me your money or I’ll beat you up” in a way more R vs PG way, if you catch my drift.
My friend panicked over the phone and hung up to call 911. I also dialed 911 leaving it on just long enough that they might get a pin drop of my location. Then I knew it was time to have my hands free. My life depended on it. I dropped my phone in my purse, so I would have both hands. I continued walking and staring them in the eyes. Thank you, Oprah, for this training years ago.
“I am not afraid – you picked the wrong woman to mess with. If you want to go, let’s go. I called 911” all the adrenaline I had was kicking in in this moment. (This is also a PG version of what I said. I feel real confident I'm forgiven for that profanity.) As I got closer to the hotel, the security office from earlier showed up telling the boys to leave me alone. They finally ran off.
It wasn’t over… at this point the security officer insists that I get into his truck and that he will help me get back to my hotel. He began to pull me towards his vehicle. I now realized he was in on the deal. He was crooked. That's how he knew the other two men's name.
I pulled back, remembering the words of my friend’s mom, Ms. Pam:
“If it’s between getting in the car or getting shot in the parking lot, don’t get in the car, no matter what! Take your chances” I resisted and kept walking. Finally, I was approaching the Peabody hotel and noticed sirens… I can truly say, I’ve never been so happy to see police lights in my life. I could breathe.
When the police questioned me about the suspects, I knew every last detail – they originally were told the boys had dreads, but I corrected them letting them know they were twists. And that would be my final piece of advice: search them up and down – look them in the eye- know every single detail possible. Even the smallest details matter … because of my thorough description, the police were able to catch them within minutes.
As I play the scenario over, again and again in my head, again I can’t help but feel so grateful for the women who poured so much lifesaving advice into me. I may have rolled my eyes at the time, but it was each and every one of their words that allows me to type these words out today. So don’t delay in sharing… teach your daughters and their daughters… your nieces, your goddaughters, your best friends’ daughters. It may save their life, just as mine was saved.