10 things you learn from being mugged in the Virgin Islands.: Written by Ryan Deininger Feat. Joey Rovinsky

November 27, 2014

We just lost at pub trivia. An ominous sign. Ryan and Joey don't lose. Perhaps we should have known it wasn't our night. We tried to walk off the stench of shame on the 45 minute walk back to our house. It turns out - shame and two shots of Cuervo taken under duress smell very similar. They were "prizes" for certain questions... Apparently the joke was on us from the get-go. 


Up to this point during our stay in St. Thomas, neither Joey nor I have had any problems with the locals. Sure, we get asked for handouts all the time because we look like tourists. There's also the cabbies that try to extort a couple extra bucks from us because they assume we don't know any better. But REAL problems... We were starting to think they didn't exist. 


While on our walk home, minding our own business, each eating a comfort bag of potato chips... We got mugged, held-up, and robbed. We got West-Indie'd. 


They literally snuck up behind us. Joey gets tackled from behind by a guy wearing a blue bandana over his face. Another man with a red bandana is in front of me demanding that I empty my pockets. A third man is standing close-by with an UZI (I never asked if it was fake or not, but it was, at least, a very good replica). The fourth scuzz stood a little farther away - he was either the newbie-lookout-thug-in-training or he was the boss because he didn't do much of anything. 


Joey took a couple of toddler-punches from his assailant who picked his pockets. I quickly emptied my pockets on the ground. Then they were gone. The whole assault lasted five seconds. They made off with one debit card and two iPhones. 


Immediately after, Joey picks himself up and his bag, "at least we still got our chips." I wasn't so optimistic. I spiked my bag on the sidewalk just to feel a little less emasculated... I should have ate the chips. I was pissed, shocked, and relieved at the same time that it wasn't worse. But after a few steps toward home, I was still hungry. 



10. It happens too fast to react the way you wish you would have. 


Ryan- Like most instances of being personally violated, the scene replays constantly in your mind over the next few days. But not usually how it actually happened...


The last time I replayed the incident, I throat-kick the guy demanding money from me. Then I major-league a rock at the guy carrying the Uzi before I scroat-kick the guy digging through Joey's pockets. The last guy is too scared to move. I spare him and let him run away to tell all his homeboys what happens to muggers when they screw with the wrong guy. 


In one of my replays, I have an automatic weapon as well. That's one I frequently re-visit. 


But the truth is: we complied quickly and willingly with their demands. Not even one good punch in our defense. In retrospect we handled it correctly, trading our cell phones for our lives - or at least our jaws. 


Joey- "I got punched in the face enough for the both of us. It's funny to me that we both start our replays by throat-kicking the guy that ran up and tackled me. Mine usually ends with my Wolverine claws extended and covered in gore while my Gambit duster billows in the salty night breeze. Nerds get mugged too, guys."


9. There is no way I could ever identify any of the muggers even if I met them tomorrow. 


R- It's pitch dark when it happens. That's why muggers choose their ambush location. I'm a white guy. And it's cliché, but all black guys look the same to me. Especially at night, hiding behind bandanas, Uzis, and Beats headphones. The real world isn't an episode of CSI. No, I didn't notice any tattoos or distinguishing marks. No, I don't know how tall they were - taller than me... most people are. 


If I was shown all four men in a police lineup, there's no way I could pick one of them out. Most people don't carry Uzis into a line-up. 


J- "My description in the police report I tried to fill out with the bitch police officer went something like this...three or four 14-22 year olds, all shorter than me, not muscular, no discernible distinguishing traits other than not being able to pronounce 'three' correctly. From that description, the time-traveling Jackson 5 and any AAU team in the nation could have been my muggers."


R- Charlotte Amalie (downtown St. Thomas) isn't a very big place. It is possible, even likely, that I will brush shoulders with one of the muggers. I could shake his hand tomorrow and never know. Which leads me to...


8. You begin to suspect every single local person you see was one of the attackers. 


R- The public dollar taxis in St. Thomas carry up to 25 people at a time. You hop on and hand the driver a dollar when you reach your stop. Along the way dozens of people are climbing on and climbing off. 


My mugger might be among them. He might be sitting next to me. It could literally be any one of them. It could be ALL of them.




You can't fool me, lady. 



R- I pay attention to everyone's cell phone hoping to see mine among them. Maybe they weren't smart enough to change my picture background. It's a pretty good selfie - I doubt they've changed it. I even try to make eye contact with people hoping they'll betray that they remember me. 


I haven't seen my phone on the taxi yet... But there's a decent chance I have unknowingly seen one of the jerks who took it from me. 


J- "At work the next day, we had a new dishwasher whose height, build, hair, voice, and pronunciation matched the guy who tackled me exactly. He probably thinks I'm being way too nice when I talk to him but really I'm just trying to counter-act the thoughts I can't help but have that my mugger is the guy cutting the potatoes beside me every night."


7. All of your friends back home will tell you how THEY would have handled it or give you useless advice. 


R- "Time to get your concealed-carry permit" - this isn't a thing down here. Plus you don't really have a chance to bust a cap in anyone when their guns are already drawn. It's just something else they can steal from you. 


"Hope you at least got a couple of good swings in." - No, I didn't. And neither would you. Gunshots in St. Thomas are an almost nightly occurrence. It's not Akron, Ohio where you hear about gunfire in the papers or on the radio. You hear gunfire from your bedroom. You don't get a couple of good swings in when you're outnumbered 2:1 by locals with Israeli engineering. 


"You really ought to be more careful..." - Use the buddy system, never walk alone. Don't walk through neighborhoods or shady parts of town. Don't make yourself a target. Check. Check. And check. None of the cardinal sins of street smarts were violated on the night of my assault. Over a long enough timeline, most St. Thomas residents will have a poor run-in with someone. Unfortunately, we couldn't make it even a month. Maybe we could have avoided it somehow...


J- "I was told to carry a knife. I was told to get a gun. Actually, when I said a gun wouldn't have helped, I had no opportunity to draw it, the guy offering the advice got defensive and expounded on why you get a gun: not to protect your wallet but to protect your family's lives. Yea, like I said, there was an Uzi in my face and I had no chance to put my hand over my face let alone draw, aim, and discharge a firearm, but sure, keep quoting the NRA's brochure as if I'm the bad guy."



6. You wonder how it could have been prevented. 


R- Also like most victims, you begin to think it was your fault somehow. Maybe they mugged me because that's the only way they know how to show they really love me?


Unfortunately, walking on the other side of the street is about the only thing that may have helped us. Lord knows I've been working on my tan as much as possible. It's not my board shorts and plain white T-shirt that makes the muggers here see money. 


J- "It was probably my Casper skin and my Express polo shirt. We were on the wrong side of the street. It was about 11:30pm, way later than we should have been out. We had a couple shots of tequila, we weren't exactly sober. Maybe the muggers were drunk too. I never actually said no. I don't remember what I said. Maybe I was asking for it. See where I'm going with this? Victim-blaming is always a dick move."



5. Getting mugged by your cell phone company the next day is almost worse. 


R- When I walked into the phone store, I tell the lady what happened to me and my poor phone. It doesn't matter - they treat me like I hocked my phone for smack. Not eligible for a free upgrade? Too bad. I wasn't getting a replacement iPhone for less than $475. Maybe I could order one online for cheaper? Maybe I could use the "find my phone" app? That might work, since walking up to the door of the man who robbed me with a gun sounds like a good time. 


My old Verizon iPhone still works just fine, can I use that for my AT&T contract? Nope. Locked. Sorry. 


I'm forced to find a store that sells used iPhones for discount prices. I pick the cheapest one in the display case and get a 4S for $250 - I can't help but wondering when my old one will end up alongside the others at this store. 


J- "AT&T says my phone was last used at 2am the night of our mugging. That's two hours and forty-five minutes after the mugging. That's nowhere near enough time to read the stories, quotes, raps, and stand-up bits I had in my notes. It's barely enough time to admire my photography of the people and places I love in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Alaska, Florida, West Virginia, Washington DC, Texas, Montana, Michigan, Idaho, California, Iowa, and Louisiana. Did they even look at the next-level Magic the Gathering theory in my email?!? How many runs of Canabalt could they have played in 2.75 hours? Fuck, I want my phone back. Muggers, I will give you $500 dollars cash for my cracked and dented iPhone 5 with a 3 hour battery life. Oh...maybe that's why they only used it until 2am. Muggers, if you enjoyed what you saw and read, I have a charger I'm not using. Just give the phone back when you're done."


4. Other people are more bent out of shape over it than we are. 


R- I haven't even told my parents it happened yet. They'll find out when they read this article on Facebook. 10:1 odds they call me before they even get here to #4. They're gonna worry about me, which is a parent's job, and it's understandable.


Joey's boss at the restaurant he works at (a football field away from the incident) raised all kinds of cane with every person in authority she's met in her ten years here. Cops. Security guards. Obama... Probably.


They were all REALLY helpful...


R- The bartender at our usual haunt almost cried for us when we told her what happened - we scored two much-needed free drinks each (thanks Ariel!). 


Everyone else seems surprised we both didn't suffer massive strokes from fear. They ask us to move back home. They tell us their mugger-proofing tips. They lecture. They proselytize. They soap-box. Everyone's scared for us and feels sorry for us and wants to help any way they can...


Except the people at the cell phone stores. They suck. 


J- "I've had a lot of people say they don't believe me when I first tell them. That if it had happened I wouldn't be so calm talking about it. My first words after we got mugged were about being glad I still had potato chips. (Kettle-Style Jalapeño) I didn't have the stroke or aneurysm or heart attack that everyone has said they would have had. I just tried to calm us down and keep us from creating a traumatizing memory of it. Then it was easy to talk about later."


3. The iCloud, or whatever it's called, is fantastic. 


R- We weren't just robbed of our iPhones. Pictures, music, anything we've written down in the notes (which is a lot), every phone number for the last three years, etc... They were all taken with the phone. It's more painful than the physical phone being gone. 


I'm not a very tech-y guy and I absolutely hate it when my phone does anything automatic. I try to disable anything that updates automatically, or shares automatically, or corrects automatically. I don't walk into Dick's Sporting Goods to buy a self-dribbling basketball. Where's the fun in that. But the folks at Apple know that I'm an idiot, so they put it all in the cloud for me. Thank you ghost of Steve Jobs. 


My contacts are re-populated, apps are already-paid for, music is ready to be freely re-downloaded, and my notes are back! Unfortunately, my pictures are gone. Me on Everest. Selfie with Putin. The lion I speared on a safari... All gone. And no one believes you. Pics or it didn't happen. First thing I did on my new phone was enable and auto-share everything to the cloud. The life-expectancy of a phone here is worse than a stray poodle in Vietnam. I'll probably need that cloud again. 


J- "My manager gave me a phone to use until I get another one. (Thanks Chuck!) I cannot describe how infuriated I was with the people working at the AT&T and Sprint stores I went to to get it turned on. They gave me dead blank stares the whole time. The AT&T woman wouldn't even try to put the SIM card she had just programmed to my number into the SIM slot she already had opened because there was a Sprint SIM card in it. That 2-second hand motion was too much work for her. The woman at the Sprint store told me they don't unlock phones even though a bill was passed by President Obama that says legally they have to unlock it if requested. The woman at the AT&T support hotline I talked to outright lied about my options for getting a new phone. The muggers are no longer the bad guys in this tragedy."



2. It could have been worse. 


R- It could have been much worse. I don't feel as if this needs much more exposition. From what we've heard, most muggings here end with a pretty bad beating. We have no black eyes, cuts, or injuries from ours. That's a good thing. We didn't get it as bad as some others. 


Also, did we mention the guy had a supposedly-automatic weapon? Well, he didn't use it. So there's that. My old underwear probably should have been thrown away months ago anyways. 


Neither one of us had any serious cash on hand, neither one of us carry wallets (easily seizable items that contain your entire life), neither one of us had Garth Brooks tickets in our pockets. Honestly, I might have gambled on my left-hook if Garth tickets had been involved. 


J- "If you had Garth Brooks tickets, I would have mugged you before we left the apartment."


1. You have to just let it go. 


R- Nothing can un-mug us. 


When we realize that, there's nothing to do but let it go. Not saying we should forget about it, we're certainly going to watch our steps a little more and definitely get more rides home instead of walking. But, we can't live in perpetual fear. 


J- "We got mugged, big whoop. What I got out of the situation was passionate words of concern and caring from friends and family. Friends I've only ever talked about football with talked to me like I was their brother just getting back from the war. My step-mom agreed with my mom that I should come home. Maybe someone should mug Dennis Rodman so North Korea and the USA will agree on something."


R- We can certainly keep telling the story, making sure the gun gets a little bigger each time (not that it needs it). What do you do when you get mugged by 15 Herculean guys who thought it necessary to bring an Abrams tank to the fracas??? You hand them your phone and move on. Although, I still don't know how a tank snuck up on us. 


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