There's Always Tomorrow to Try Again
Updated: Jun 2
I was standing at a jewelry kiosk in the middle of the mall when I noticed the brewing altercation. Cecily and I were on a quick overnight getaway to Las Vegas and stopped to walk the shops at Miracle Mile mall on the Strip. I followed Cecily to the small jewelry cart kiosk and began aimlessly looking at jewelry when I heard the owner of the kiosk engaged in a tense verbal interaction with another man. I glanced over to see one man with his back to me and the shopkeeper facing me. The shopkeeper was grasping on to the man’s sleeve with one hand and holding a cell phone to his ear in the other. He said “I’m calling the police.” The man I could not see repeatedly asked him not to call the police as he dialed 911. Then it happened: a blur of movement out of the corner of my eye I saw the man lung and punch the shopkeeper, taking him to the ground in an attempt to flee. Cecily told me later that she could tell I was getting ready to do something because I had stopped responding to her questions about jewelry. At some point I had sat down the bag of things I carried in my hand, but I can’t remember when that happened. Apparently I shouted (using what Cecily calls my “serious voice”) as I moved to the man’s back, applying a rear naked choke as I spun him around. I have this odd memory of seeing Cecily’s face as I sunk in the choke in her full view now that I had spun the man around to face her: it was an expression that I’d call a blend of surprised/not surprised. I heard the man gagging as he attempted to throw me forward, forcing me to side step his body and drop my weight to tackle him to the ground. I intended to choke him unconscious, not because I thought it was a good idea but merely as the natural progression of a rear naked choke, but a security officer began running towards us. As he arrived, I assisted in retaining positional control as the officer handcuffed the assailant. At this point I wasn’t really sure what to do. No one said anything to me or asked me any questions. I turned to grab my bag of things I had sat down and walked away with Cecily. She later described seeing the security officer remove a handful of jewelry from the man’s pocket that he had stolen from the kiosk. I never even saw his face. For a million dollars I couldn’t tell you what he looked like, but will always remember the sound of his choking voice.
I’m not going to lie. This is a fun memory of a time when I used an art in which I’ve spent ten years training to assist someone in need. I’m proud of my actions and thankful no one got hurt. Ironically, this stands in juxtaposition with an event that occurred less than twenty-four hours prior.
The evening Cecily and I arrived in Las Vegas, we stopped into the CVS on the Vegas strip to buy food. We are eternal budget shoppers and hate to pay high prices for food on the strip, so we often eat from the grocery store any chance we get. As I was walking the aisles picking up some milk and granola to take back to our hotel room for breakfast, a man in his mid-thirties walked directly in front of me and grabbed an individually wrapped granola bar. He proceeded to slip it into his back pocket, which I thought was an odd way of carrying something to the checkout counter, and then he proceeded to slowly and naturally walk away from me…and literally right out the front door in front of my eyes. I had just watched someone shoplift in broad day light, right in front of me, within arm’s reach. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t try to stop him. I didn’t call out for security or attempt to capture the attention of an employee. I just watched him put it into his pocket and walk out the front door. That evening I wrestled with the experience. Why didn’t I say something? Why didn’t I act? In that moment, I let myself down and regretted whatever it was that held me back from doing what I knew I should do. Thus it’s somewhat ironic that less than a day later I would have a similar opportunity and handled it a different way.
My takeaway from this more-eventful-than-usual trip to Las Vegas was that I don’t always do what I wish I would do. There are days in marriage that I’m not as loving as I’d like to be. There are times with my friends that I’m grumpier than I’d prefer. There are times I haven’t spoken up when I knew it was the right thing to do. But the thing to remember is this: I always have tomorrow to try again.