Invasion to One's Personal Space

A few days ago I almost got robbed.

Well, at least that's how I perceived it: I almost got robbed.

It was 11.15 at night (almost midnight). I just parked my car and was about to turn the machine off, when somebody knocked on the car's window.

I lift up my eyes and there was an African American guy, wearing red t-shirt, making gestures with his hand which I interpreted as asking me to get the window down. As I thought that he wanted to ask something (which is not unusual, you know), I made this facial expression while saying, "What's up?".

You see, normally when somebody asks for a help or raises a question, to a stranger, he/she will wait patiently until the other person is fully ready to hear him/her, unless some dead-or-alive matter forces him/her to do otherwise. Right?

He, instead, shouted: "Open the door!"

Shocked, I replied: "No way, man!"

He shouted again, even more loudly: "OPEN THE DOOR!" and stared at me.

I got terrified and yelled my rejection, retreated the car (I had not turned off the machine, remember?) out of the lot and headed to other direction. I remember my thought at that time: what if he didn't move? Will I hit him? Luckily he stepped aside as my car moved. I couldn't get a space near my apartment building, so I went to my friend's (which is next to mine and shares the parking lot), rang him to ask him to accompany me parking. I was afraid that the guy was probably waiting for me to go back there.

I don't need to tell in details what happened next as I managed to return to my own apartment, safe and sound. But that horrifying experience has affected me in this particular way: I lost some part of my self-confidence, became more alert if not a bit paranoid.

It is interesting that when I reported the incident to the police and they asked whether this guy had made threats or pointed any weapon to me, all I could say was: No. Yet his gestures had made me think that he was going to rob me. As I thought about it again later, he could possibly be panicked about something and was actually crying for help. Or, of course, he had this wicked intention but didn't have the chance to go further.

Either one, I learned one thing: we get more and more sensitive about our personal space. We feel invaded quite easily these days. Sometimes, even a soft, innocent touch on our ankle could trigger an anger or fear. Living in cities like Jakarta for several years will surely construct your perception on things. DC is actually a lot more secure, though it was once labeled "the criminal capital" due to its high criminal rate, and in my one and half year of living here, I grew more and more confident of going places myself at unusual hours. But this experience has managed to take away that secure feeling from me. Well, it could be a blessing in disguise: I become more careful. I make sure that I lock the car before I start the machine. When I arrive home late (which is, like, everyday :p) and I can't get a place closest to my apartment, I'll try to find a spot somewhere else that is well illuminated and near Giant or CVS (both are within my apartment's complex).

An impact of the incident that bothers me is that I've started to develop a kind of racial prejudice. Yes, it was my very first annoying encounter with an African-American in which I was really targeted. Before, it was only like me witnessing these people screaming at and cursing each other. I have to admit that now I tend to be suspicious when an African-American guy approaches or is near me at nights when no other people are around. Saddening, isn't it? Despite the fact that I'm head over heels in love with Collin Powell, Denzel Washington and Will Smith.

I look forward to regaining my security, fully. And getting rid of unnecessary paranoia, without sacrificing my cautiousness. I want to be able to see other people the way they are - human, not member of a particular ethnic group with all its stereotypes.

I want my personal space back.

14 comments:

Riyan said...

Alhamdulillah mbak Ellen selamat. Belum tau mbak Ellen tuh, si calon rampok (emang belum ya? hi2) Pengalaman berharga sekali tuh mbak, hampir di rampok di negeri orang :)

Seperti di Melbourne juga, orang-orang yang saya temuin disini sangat ramah dan jujur, sampai saya berpikir gak mungkin penduduk sanggup bisa berbuat jahat. Sampai ada kejadian salah seorang teman saya kecolongan hapenya..di kampus!

Jadi semacam pelajaran buat saya juga bahwa seaman apapun kelihatannya lingkungan tempat kita tinggal, kehati-hatian tetap nggak boleh ditinggalkan.

'ka said...

shit happens... and i totally understand if you become 'more alert' now... but then i hope you can overcome the association to certain particular races.

nananias said...

untung jij tiada mengapa jeng. well yang penting ati-ati.

baru kemaren ini eke sebel karena ditipi ada guyonan soal kecenderungan orang dari berbagai negara, kok ya yang dari afrika digambarkan kanibal. sedangkan yang dari india tukan jualan kain. yang dari indonesia, jagoan bawa piring banyak macam uda dari padang. duh.

lia` said...

Thanks GOD nothing happend to you.
be carefull & take care ya.

sontoloyo said...

makanya jangan pulang malem2 molo...senengannya kok lembur sih ?
untung kaga terjadi apa2.
payah juga nih aju ellen

rd said...

well.. setelah dua kali kecopetan (di KRL dan di taksi Blue Bird.. *ekstrim gak sih*), I gotta tell you this: "only the paranoid survive!" *yee-haa*

But, I myself prevent going out after 10:00 PM. Jakarta hare gene..

yang punya said...

teman2, terima kasih ya atas simpatinya.

riyan: itulah, kita kadang2 keenakan dan take our environment for granted ya... lebih hati2 sekarang lah..

'ka: i'm trying, jeng. 'cause viciousness doesn't only come from a particular group. the security officer of the building (to whom I reported this incident) was a black man too, and he was the one who suggested that I bring this to the police!

nana: weks... afrika kanibal?? bilang sama yang nitipin joke yah, yg kanibal itu bukan cuma orang afrika. suku kita juga, hihihihih...

lia: thanks lia. I will.

sondi: maunya juga gak pulang malem2. tapi kadang2 nanggung.. lagi ngeblog.. lagi chatting.. hihihihi...

dita: kecopetan di blue bird??? is jakarta that bad right now???? *merinding*

Boe said...

Bukannya justru di situ letak sulitnya perjuangan jadi manusia mbak? Untuk senantiasa membuka ruang personal kita buat mereka yang mengetuk tanpa jadi naif dan bodoh? Untuk jadi cerdik seperti ular, tulus bak merpati?
Yang kemarin itu? Cerdik seperti ularkah? Yang sekarang sedang thinking aloud? Merpatikah?
hehehe... biasa, Senin pagi. time to ask questions.. melarikan diri dari rasa sebal kenapa hari kerja mesti mulai lagi.
Dan btw (boe sedang menyebalkan), yang dibahas NGM kan reaksi kimia yang terkait dengan cinta, bukannya sedang mengimplikasikan bahwa cinta itu semata reaksi kimia... :p

itto said...

wah, untung gak papa, kl ngga ntar siapa yg mo traktir gue di bakoel koffie ?? hehe..
racial prejudice is normal, altough i don't think its necessary, g pun bbrp kl prnh ditodong dgn "pri", tp kl g ikutin that prejudice, wahhh g bisa jadi bener2 paranoid and didn't enjoy my life. hanya perlu lbh aware dgn lingkungan. remember, the most important self-defense is your mind, seperti kata bang napi, waspadalah!!!

mita said...

ellen, syukur deh elo gpp :)
sejak tinggal di jkt, salah satu penyesalan terbesarku adalah karena gak bisa bela diri, hehehe ...

Anonymous said...

tetep waspada lain kali ya jeng...*huugs..*

-Okol-

kere kemplu said...

waks! saya dulu pernah baca di national geographic, atau majalah lain gitu, tentang dc lengkap dengan foto. kesimpulan saya: pusat pemerintahan kok gitu. kalo gak salah marion berry (cmimw0, walikotanya tempo dulu, pernah jadi berita di koran karena narkoba :)

Anonymous said...

mbak mbak...
kalau ada yang mencuri hati gimana? :D

-- Belutz --

yang punya said...

Boe, gak tau deh kemarin saya masuk kategori ular atw merpati, hehehe... mungkin bukan dua2nya! dan soal reaksi kimia cinta, thanks 4 d correction ya.

Victor, yup betul, gak perlu jadi rasis karenanya. Untung kamu ngingetin gimana temen2 saya sendiri bisa ngalami diskriminasi ras.

Mita, thanks ya. Kalo soal bela diri.. lucunya saya di Jakarta gak ngerasa perlu. Padahal punya temen yg ngajar di Women's Defense School loh! :)

Okol, makasih jeng. aku pasti hati2 setelah ini. Ada hikmahnya kok, setelah aku ngelapor, patroli keamanan makin digiatkan di sini.

Mas Kere, bener kok. Untungnya sekarang enggak lagi, hehehe...

Belutz, wah.. sayangnya gak adaaaaa.. ! kalo kamu pernah tau, coba tunjukin ke saya! ;)