Shortly after September 11, when people in New York (and everywhere) were
not quite themselves, I got squirted with pepper spray on the Brooklyn
Bridge. But it wasn’t as simple as that…
I was riding my Coker into Manhattan that afternoon as I do several times
a week. A woman was walking in the cyclist lane, and as I went by her, I
said in a voice softened by the recent events, “You are in the cyclist
lane” or something of that nature. She spewed something venomous, and I
should have realized that there is little to be gained from correcting the
impressions of a loon, but I stupidly decided to talk to her. I got off
the Coker and approached her, intending only to make sure she’d heard me
and to state my case. But as I got nearer, she kept talking like someone
whose medication was WAY off. This was my second clue, and second
opportunity, to get away fast. Instead, I said something like, “Oh, I
didn’t realize that you were nuts,” and I turned to leave.
I wasn’t thinking too clearly myself. Why else would I have enraged a
person already over the edge? And on a Coker – not exactly the best
The short version of the ensuing events: She began threatening me, so I
had to say that if she tried to hurt me, she’d be making a mistake. She
asked if I was going to hit her, and I said, “No, but if you touch me I
will.” Finally it dawned on me that it was time to go. I tried to turn
around and get away again, but as I did so, she pushed the wheel to knock
me off. I tried again to go, and she ran behind me. That’s when she
reached into her fanny pack.
My first guess was that she had a gun, but that really seemed unlikely –
she looked more like an NYU postgrad than a killer. When I saw her little
bottle of pepper spray, I tried to run while carrying the Coker but she
chased me. I got on but couldn’t get any speed. I only found out later
that she had already sprayed me by this point, hitting my neck. As I rode
and she ran, I knew that she could push me over and possibly hurt me if I
fell, so as she got closer, I hopped off, wheeled around, and put the
Coker between us to keep her at least a few feet away, and I shielded my
face with my hand. My next impulse was to attack her. I have taken a
number of self-defense classes, and the best advice I got (ok, the second
best, after, “Always try to avoid the conflict in the first place”) was to
immobilize the weapon. In this case, the weapons were a tiny bottle and
the medium-frame woman holding it.
I ran at her, looking away and continuing to cover my face. I knocked her
onto the ground, took away her little bottle. She said, “I think it’s
empty,” and I and yelled back, “You better hope so” as I rubbed it in her
face. As she tried to hit me, I smacked her head into the Bridge (not too
hard – my phaser was on ‘stun’) and finally found myself in a position to
run away, so I did.
It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realized my left elbow was
burning – and so was my neck. I didn’t see the spray squirt out and
actually believed that the bottle had failed. In fact, it had hit me in a
few places, and now they were burning. As I rode, I read the back of the
bottle and found out that I needed to flush the areas with lots of water.
I was passing a car wash at the time, and they let me use a hose to wash
down my burns, and when I got home, I took a fairly painful shower. The
pain didn’t subside for several hours, and I can only imagine how it would
feel to get it in the eyes. It really didn’t help that this happened on
an extremely bright day. Pepper spray and sun should not mix.
The good news is that my attacker never showed up in my life again (I had
a fear that she’d be stalking the bridge – after all, I am a pretty easy
and conspicuous target).
Moral: Avoid confrontation. Pepper does not mix well with nuts.
Co-founder, Unatics of NY
1st Sunday / 3rd Saturday
@ Central Park Bandshell
1:30 start time after 11/1/01