Rough Commute

Here’s something that happened to me a while back — around 1983 or so, if memory serves. I was reminded of it a few days ago, and thought it might be worth a post.

During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s I was employed as a staff engineer at Power Station Studios (now called Avatar), a large recording facility on West 53rd Street, near 10th Avenue. Power Station was built inside an old four-story building that had once been a Con Edison substation of some sort (hence the name), and one benefit of working there in those days was that we could pull our cars right into the building and take them up in the hydraulic freight elevator to the mostly empty third floor. (Those days are long gone; that third floor is now completely built out with recording rooms.)

A lot of record-making takes place at night, which means that recording engineers are often making their weary way home long after honest God-fearing citizens are in their beds. On one such occasion I found myself driving home at about three a.m. on a sweltering summer night.

My usual route took me down Eleventh Avenue, which in those days, before the construction of the Javits Center, was a pretty seedy thoroughfare. On hot summer nights it was haunted by a great many prostitutes, who, dressed in almost nothing, marketed themselves rather aggressively to passing motorists.

On the evening in question I was heading home to Brooklyn, quite utterly exhausted from a session that had begun at ten the previous morning. I had the car windows down, and my thoughts were elsewhere. I stopped at a light, and while I was waiting a scantily-clad young woman approached my car from behind, reached in, and grabbed at my crotch. Needless to say, I was startled out of my reverie by such effrontery, and quite unceremoniously yanked her hand away, and drove off.

I had to stop again just a block further on, however, and when I did, several other filles de joie ran up — perhaps in response to some outcry made by their colleague — and immediately began reaching in through the windows. One immediately attacked my face, and managed to dig her nails in quite painfully before I reacted. Another had reached around to the ignition, shut the car off, and was trying to remove the keys. I was also aware of a hand fumbling at my left hip pocket, where, as it happened, I had a large wad of cash, having just picked up my two weeks’ pay.

The situation was, to say the least, rather awkward. At a remove of more than twenty years, the memory is somewhat blurred, but I recall growing more and more concerned as the moments went by without any significant improvement in my position. With my right hand I remember trying to start the engine and put the car in gear, but I was getting nowhere, as every time I’d get the key turned and reach down for the gearshift, a groping hand would turn the ignition off. Meanwhile, my left hand was occupied with both defending my face and eyes, which were under constant attack, and with keeping the other marauding hand out of my cash-stuffed pocket.

I became increasingly agitated. What ought I to do? I had little doubt that if I got out of the car my Hung Gar training and immense physical strength would give me the upper hand against the three or four of them, but then again, these were some pretty tough girls, and there might be concealed weapons to worry about, not to mention the likely presence nearby of a gun-toting pimp or two. It was also reasonable to assume that as soon as I leapt from the car, one of them would hop in and drive away with it. I could have simply taken one of the reaching arms and snapped it in two, but I was reluctant, as I always am, to inflict serious physical injury, and in the back of my mind, I suppose, I didn’t want to provoke any gunfire from any unseen handlers who might be lurking offstage. I just wanted to leave, and as soon as possible.

Something had to happen, though, and quickly, because the situation was deteriorating (I remember looking over and seeing the man in the next car over gaping in horror). One of the young ladies was now trying to yank the door open, so after holding it shut for a moment I flung it open as forcefully as I could manage, sending her staggering back on her heels. Another then attempted to enter through the open door, and I got my palm on her chest and really let her have it (we Hung Gar types can give a mighty shove when the need arises, even if seated). She flew backward, in a gratifying arc, and sat down heavily on her steatopygic bottom. Having bought myself the few seconds I needed, I got the door shut and locked, started the car, and drove away — more than a little shaken, with blood dripping from my scratched face.

When I got home, my wife, who had awakened as I entered, goggled at me in horror. Upon seeing myself in the mirror, I realized why — I looked as if I had just been mauled by a bear. My face was laced with deep, oozing gouges, some of which took weeks to heal.

None of this would be likely to happen now. This little skirmish took place back back in the anything-goes days of the Koch administration, when large tracts of Gotham were essentially lawless. Eleventh Avenue these days is a broad, well-lit boulevard, and the great drifts of near-naked hookers that once beswarmed the area, tottering and jiggling in their platform soles, fishnets, and hotpants, have departed for greener pastures.

The moral of the story? There isn’t one, really, but how about this:

It’s ever so helpful to lock your car doors
If you aren’t in the mood to be set on by whores.
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  1. Kevin Kim says

    I envy you. Things like this never happen to me.


    Posted November 21, 2006 at 8:08 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi Kevin,

    Not exactly beer and skittles, this one. It was actually quite unpleasant.

    Posted November 21, 2006 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  3. Sperwer says

    Been there, although I remember it being worse when the Beamer and the Dink were in charge.

    Posted November 23, 2006 at 6:50 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Hi Sperwer, and thanks for visiting.

    Yes, the city has changed a great deal since those days, mostly for the better, though, of course, opinions may vary. Certainly, at least, the streets are cleaner and safer than they were back then.

    Posted November 23, 2006 at 7:03 pm | Permalink