I moved to Austin several months ago and got drafted into a few more jobs than I had signed up. July arrived, and all indications of a vacation from work disappeared. I had arrived in the last few days of January and had pretty much worked from there straight through until the middle of October. And then it dawned on me to take a week off while I could, so I did that.
My week off (this week) was not going to be about vacation: it was going to be about every little nuance I would need to do to become an official Texas resident after spending the past four years in California. I needed to register my car, I needed a driver’s license, and I needed a new social security card and birth certificate to do both. My week was becoming the week of proving to Texas that Brian Tunney really existed, and he wasn’t leaving Texas anytime soon.
By Wednesday night, my car had a new self-installed battery along with Texas plates, and I was the proud owner of a paper print out that gave me permission to drive a car in the state of Texas. I was still without an official car title, but my car was legal to drive and I had become a legal resident.
It was a good week. After finalizing my temporary driver’s license and thinking to myself, “This piece of paper is probably best to leave in the car or I’ll lose it or tear it,” I went to get a beer at the coffee shop near my house named Thunderbird.
I parked on the side street adjacent to the coffee shop named Breeze Terrace. My bike was in the back seat of my locked car; I decided to leave it and that it would be okay (something I never would have done in N.J. or L.A.) A few times, I thought, ‘I hope my bike is okay,’ and then went back to thinking that I was being paranoid in an area with students, hipsters, food trucks and a mini ramp across the street from a hipster taco stand. ‘All was well, relax,’ I told myself.
And then I let the coffee shop and started walking to my car when two men approached me from behind in the darkness of a side street.
“Give us your money, your wallet,” shouted the first man.
“Yo son, I’ll pop a cap in your head,” mumbled the second one.
Things slow down during these periods in your life and if you’re lucky to have a memory like me, you remember everything. And if you’re lucky to have been through so much weird shit in your life like me, you stay calm, observe the situation and don’t reach for the over dramatics.
“I don’t really keep money in my wallet,” I said. “And I don’t have a computer. Can I keep my work phone? Wait, and can I keep my work ID and my journal with all of my bike tricks listed in it?”
I wasn’t nervous, but I wasn’t calm either. The men demanded I surrender my backpack and I told them I just needed a few things out of it first; things that were of no worth to them. They agreed to my demands and waited as I haphazardly tried to rifle through the huge open pocket of backpack.
The backpack is from a BMX brand named Odyssey, and I do love it, but the top pocket is singular and it’s pretty easy to lose everything you own amid one solo pocket. In that pocket contained my wallet, my phone, my work ID, my iPod Shuffle, three sets of keys, two Stretch Island Fruit Company fruit strips, a Vega energy bar, an Ollo Clip iPhone attachment, pens, pencils and some Emergen-C packets. It was a mess and I had known that for weeks prior.
“I don’t have cash but I think I have $25 in this pocket if you guys have a second,” I told the robbers.
“Hurry up n-word,” they responded.
I responded with “Everybody calm down,” a phrase I was borrowing from the Quentin Tarantino movie “Django Unchained.” I heard the actor Christophe Waltz saying it in my head as I uttered it.
They didn’t register a response and I continued rooting through the pocket. “Here’s my work ID, I’m gonna need this next week,” I said. “And this is basically a fruit roll-up, are you guys hungry?” I followed with.
“Yo hurry up n-word or I’m gonna bust this cap in your head,” said the second assailant. He pumped the gun and I thought that it sounded like a paintball gun but I couldn’t really tell.
Finally, I reached what I thought was cash, and it was merely a $5 bill. “Ugh, I’m sorry guys, all I can find is five dollars,” I said.
The assailant put his gun down and turned to run away. “Yo n-word, quit wasting our time,” they said. And they ran down the street.
I had wasted about a minute and a half rummaging through that one pocket on my backpack, offering armed robbers fruit roll-ups and trying to find a $20 bill that I don’t think ever existed in my backpack. I watched the two run from the scene and briefly considered chasing them, but I knew the coffee shop was nearby and that younger students often walked down the same street. I called 911 and told them what happened, just so the police could have it on file and hopefully patrol the area in the future.
In the end, nothing was taken, not even the Stretch Island Fruit Company fruit strips I had offered the would-be armed robbers. The police arrived, we conversed for a time about the situation, I filed a report and then I was free to go.
And then I had to laugh: my idiot bumbling through the huge solo pocket of my latest backpack had proven to outsmart two of the dumbest would-be armed robbers in the history of Austin, Texas. I offered them fruit roll-ups and they ended up running and hiding behind a fried chicken stand before disappearing into the night.
My good week continued, despite having a possible paintball gun pointed at my face.