I agonized for weeks over whether I should write this post or not. I almost posted it last week, but then I couldn’t. I didn’t want to re-read it. I didn’t want to relive it. And I wasn’t sure I wanted to even talk about it. Not anymore.
But then the deadline for my bi-weekly Wednesday post came and went, and every time I sat down to write a blog post – about something different – nothing came to me. I’d get up from my computer, frustrated, and walk away, only to come back and start a new task that had nothing to do with writing a blog post.
As Wednesday is upon us yet again, I’ve decide to forge ahead and let you read what I wrote a few weeks ago. Because until I write about that, I can’t seem to write about anything else. As you know, my life is like an open book, and I have trouble not sharing what is real for me at any given moment in my life. I’m honest – perhaps sometimes to a fault – but there it is. That’s me. Love me or leave me.
Here it is:
September 23, 2015
I worked out for the first time today since it happened.
Well, I didn’t so much work out as I put workout clothes on and modified the heck out of everything I normally do. I tried to jog, but that proved to be too much for the contusion that throbbed on the left side of my leg every time my heel struck the pavement, serving as a reminder of just how close I came to something much, much worse.
You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about. Or maybe you already know.
Before I start, you should know that Ted, baby and I are all fine. In fact, we’re more than fine. We’re healthy, alive and grateful to be so (and baby McDonald has taken to doing somersaults in my womb. She’s going to be a gymnast for sure – or at the very least, a triathlete. Ted is already fitting her for her first bike. And a cycling kit. I’m sure you’re not surprised.).
I struggled with writing this post. I wasn’t sure I wanted to relive it. I wasn’t sure I knew what I had to say about it. But in the end (evidently), I decided to go ahead and just do it. If it can help even one person, then reliving the memories will have been worth it. I apologize for any typos. I may be able to write it out, but I really don’t want to re-read it. So forgive me if I misspelled something, misspoke, or left out any details.
Some people have called me and Ted heroes for what happened, though I think that’s overkill. Others have called us bad asses (a title I’m happy to take, though I’m not sure I deserve that one either). And others still think I was stupid for getting involved. Everyone’s opinion is valid, and I honor them all. At the end of the story, you can decide how you feel. And whether you decide to share your opinion with me or not is entirely your choice.
Ok, here we go.
It all went down a week and a half ago. Ted and I had just spent a lovely morning together, getting fresh fruit and veggies at the Farmer’s Market (and trying to ignore the calls of the ridiculously delicious looking almond croissants from the French bakery stand that beckoned to me as I walked by – twice). We explored a new part of LA and had a delicious meal at a new restaurant in Culver City. And then we got some vegan ice cream at my new favorite spot in Venice, the Van Leuwen ice cream truck (thank you, Hannah Bornstein, for introducing me to them in NYC. I’m in love)!
What was the occasion? Well, Sunday is date day, of course! But that day was particularly special. That day, we were celebrating something big. Something really big. The day before had marked Ted’s 22nd year of sobriety. 22 years ago, Ted turned his life around and became the man we all know and love today: the happy-go-lucky, wouldn’t hurt a fly, loves with his whole heart, makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room, crazy, goofy yogi/triathlete who is always trying to squeeze every last drop out of life – and somehow always manages to do so. Arguably, that is who he always was (and, in fact, that is how his friends remember him to be). But now, those qualities aren’t clouded by the haze of substances that altered his state of being, rendering him unable to see and truly experience how wonderful he actually is – even then.
After topping off our lunch with ice cream (for me) and coffee (for Ted), we decided to head home for a nice walk on the beach. While driving to the beach, Ted remarked that the car behind us didn’t stop at the stop sign. I didn’t notice, and wasn’t really concerned about it. But he mentioned that they were following the car really closely, and he seemed a bit concerned. I still wasn’t worried about it, until we rounded the cul-de-sac to park and I looked over at the driver of the car.
It was a woman, clearly in her bathing suit and wanting to enjoy a beach day like we did. But when she accelerated around the bend, her eyes rolled back into her head and her head slammed back against the car seat with the force of the acceleration. Needless to say, she did not look conscious.
“That woman is not ok,” I said to Ted. As Ted went to park, the car narrowly missed ours and the one in front of us, and then disappeared into a spot a few cars down. Ted barely had the car parked before I opened the door to get out.
“Where are you going?” he asked me as I made my way toward the car.
“I’m going to let that woman know that her driving is unacceptable,” I said back to him, matter-of-factly. Probably not the smartest move, but I couldn’t help myself. There were so many kids around – I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. And that’s all I could think about.
“Oh boy!” I’m sure Ted must have muttered under his breath.
When I got to the car, I noticed that the car hadn’t actually parked. The woman had crashed into the curb and ended up in some hedges. The right wheel was wedged up and over the curb, which can only be described as railroad tile (a long wooden block). So once your wheel is over the tile, there is no getting it out.
As I approached the car, the woman opened the door. She was grumbling a bit, and her head and eyes were rolling all over the place as if she were half conscious – or extremely drunk. It turned out to be both: I could smell the booze on her from 4 feet away.
“Excuse me. Have you been drinking?” I asked her. Stupid question. I know.
She moaned a bit and then a man from the front seat asked me, “Excuse me – do you have a problem?”
I hadn’t noticed him until now. Up to that point, I thought it was just two girls having fun in the car.
“I do if she’s been drinking!” I said to the man.
You should know that it was 2:30 in the afternoon. This was a quiet residential street. There were kids riding their bikes everywhere, and surfers coming to and from their cars every now and again. It was much too populated for anyone to be driving under the influence (not that anyone should ever do it, but you know what I mean. The possibility of hitting a child was much too high for me to keep quiet about what I was seeing).
“Did we hit your car?” the man asked me.
“No,” I said.
“Then what’s your problem?” he asked, slurring his speech in his drunken stupor, though not quite as drunk as his lady.
“There are children around here,” I said, “and I have a big problem with drinking and driving. Someone could get hurt.” I replied.
Ted was walking up as the conversation was happening, and I immediately told him to call 911. He did.
The man got in my face as he told his girlfriend to go to the passenger seat. He kept asking me the same question, over and over again, and I kept repeating the same answer, over and over again, knowing I was not talking to a person of sound mind.
After about a minute, Ted was off the phone and the man switched his attention to him.
By this point, the girl was yelling at her boyfriend to stop it and just get back in the car, presumably so they could get the heck out of there.
He wouldn’t listen. Ted kept repeating that he didn’t want any trouble, but that he didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The guy kept challenging Ted, but Ted kept his calm the entire time.
Worried that they might get away and kill someone, Ted told me to take a picture of the license plate. I did. Then he told me to start filming, which I did.
By this point, there were at least 8 people watching what was going on, including 2 people watching from the balcony of their house that sat right in front of the incident.
Not one person stepped in to help.
After a while, the man lost interest in Ted and told his girlfriend to get back in the driver’s seat. He went to the hood of the car and started pushing as she pushed on the gas, trying to release the car.
There were kids riding their bikes all over the place, and had the car actually dislodged from the curb, it would have shot back and killed everyone standing behind it (or at least badly injured them). So Ted was directing kids away from the car, and letting them pass anytime the girl wasn’t pushing on the gas.
Still, 8 people watched, mesmerized, but not one of them tried to help.
I filmed the entire attempt to flee from about 10 feet away.
When they realized their attempts were moot, the man told his girlfriend to walk up the street and away from the situation. He was trying to protect her from the ramifications that would surely be coming for her when the cops finally did arrive.
Where were those freaking cops, anyway? It had already been at least 10 minutes.
As the woman turned to walk up the street, she noticed me filming. She charged at me. I put the phone out to protect myself and baby McDonald. She grabbed it out of my hand and threw the phone against the wall of the house of the people who were watching, still doing nothing (though I think they too called 911).
Miraculously, the phone didn’t break.
The situation was escalating, though. The guy was now pushing Ted, and still, Ted refused to push or hit back.
“This is ridiculous!” I said, “We need to call 911 again! The cops need to get here now before this gets bad!”
With 8 people watching at close proximity, not a single person (they were ALL dudes), stepped in to help Ted diffuse the situation. Not a single one.
I got on the phone with 911 and Ted told me to start walking away – toward the beach. I didn’t want to leave him. I had gotten him into this situation, after all, and I was worried about what the guy would try to do to him.
But I had to protect the baby, so I started walking away slowly. I told the 911 operator that the situation was escalating, and that I was afraid of what was about to happen. She had me stay on the line with her until the cops got there. I was walking toward a group of 4 guys, so I never felt unsafe. My only fear was for Ted.
As I was walking away, the guy took a break from pushing Ted (who kept refusing to push or fight back) and tried to get his girlfriend to flee the scene again. As she started to walk away, she looked over hernshoulder and saw me on the phone with 911. She charged at me. Again. Ted intercepted her about 20-30 feet from me and said, “I’m sorry, you can’t go after my wife. She’s pregnant.”
The girl struggled, but Ted held his grip firm. She tripped and stumbled to the ground, where Ted gently held her down. I walked faster, but again, never felt unsafe because there was a group of 4 guys only a few feet away from me. And I was almost there.
The guy didn’t see Ted intercept his girl, because he had gone back to the car to do something (likely to remove the empty hard liquor bottles that were all over the car). But when he looked up and saw Ted with his hands restraining his woman, all hell broke loose.
He charged at Ted.
None of the witnesses moved. No one came to Ted’s rescue. So Ted had a choice: get his head slammed against the pavement, or let the girl go and fight back.
Thinking that the guys who were so close to me would intercept the girl and protect me, Ted let her go and told me to run.
Try running at 19 weeks pregnant in flip flops. It doesn’t work. It’s more like a waddle.
“Guys!” I screamed out to the boys standing in front of me, “Can you please make sure she doesn’t catch up to me? I’m pregnant and can’t run very fast!”
None of them moved.
A few seconds later, I felt the tug of my hair as the girl grabbed my bun, slammed my head against the pavement, and dragged me a few feet.
I’m not sure if the boys finally moved to get her off me, or if she had decided that her assault was a success: she had gotten me down, and the phone had shattered in my hand. Either way, I rolled to my side and got up, assessing the damage as she ran back to her boyfriend. The phone may have been shattered, but it wasn’t broken (go iPhone!). The 911 operator was still on the line. I told her what she had just heard, and a few seconds later, the sound of the sirens could be heard as they rounded the bend.
But when I looked up, I saw that someone was on the ground ahead of me.
“Please don’t let that be Ted,” I prayed to myself as I walked closer to the scene.
It wasn’t. Ted only fights when he has too, and when he has too, well, watch out. Let’s just say the guy gave up after a few punches, and the only thing that was hurt on Ted was his favorite JCrew shirt, which had been ripped to shreds.
I definitely owe him a new shirt. Sorry about that, husband.
I limped up the street and that’s when Ted and I both realized: I was bleeding. I had a terrible road rash on my left side from where she had dragged me, and when I reached up, I felt blood and a nasty egg starting to form where she had slammed my head to the ground.
The adrenaline in me kept me from feeling any pain. For now.
Very aware of my stomach, I made sure that no part of my torso – not even so much as my shoulder – hit the pavement when she took me down. Baby McDonald was safe.
What ensued from there were two arrests. The girl was charged with assault with a deadly weapon (you are the deadly weapon when you knowingly assault a pregnant woman). The guy was charged with drinking and driving. He was out the next day, and a 5th or 6th DUI was added to his record (seriously??). She wasn’t so lucky.
We gave the cops our statements (though Ted and I were the only ones who would: no one else would give one), and the EMTs checked me out. They checked my pulse and blood pressure. Laughing, the EMT asked me, “Are you a runner?”
“Yes!” I replied. Apparently, that explained things. My vitals represented that of a very calm, centered athlete. Not bad!
Worried about the baby, my head, and the very bloody cut on the side of my left thigh, I asked if they wanted to check it out. They didn’t. They said I should just clean out the cut really well, and that if I felt any dizziness that I could go to the ER later.
I tried to clean out the cut myself at home, but also decided to call the nurse hotline at the hospital to determine if I should go to the ER, even though I wasn’t feeling dizzy and the EMTs didn’t think I needed to go. By 8pm, the nurse told me that even though I sounded ok (I have an exceptionally hard head), I should head to the ER to make sure the baby was ok.
So I spent that night in the ER with Ted, or at least, until about 2:30am. Baby was ok, and kicking up a storm! She must have been pissed at me for taking the law into my own hands.
I don’t blame her.
But something so primal came over me when I saw that woman drinking and driving. I thought of my friends who had lost siblings and children to drinking and driving. I thought of Ted and how he turned his life around. I thought of all the children riding their bikes, and knew that if I didn’t do something to stop them and they ended up hitting someone, then it would have been my fault too.
Besides, I’m not the kind of person who can see something bad happening and not do anything about it. That’s just not how my parents raised me. Sure, I could have just called the cops and left it at that. But then they might have gotten away. They might have even killed someone. And that would have been on me.
Back in the ER, the nurse had to scrub out my cut. I’m hoping that pain is comparable to childbirth, but something tells me that although this will go down as one of the most painful experiences of my life, I’m in for worse! Just over a week later, after nightly routines of cleaning out and dressing the wound with the help of Ted, and then my dad, my sister and my Aunt when I traveled to Toronto and Montreal just days after the assault, I am on the mend. Baby is doing well, and I am healing emotionally and physically.
So, am I stupid for doing what I did? A pregnant woman confronting a drunk person? Probably. But if I saved a life that day, then I’ll take stupid over anything else that could have gone down. Because I would have wanted someone to stand up for my baby and her precious life if they were given the chance too.
And to be clear: if I were alone, if no one else was around and we were in a dark alley somewhere, I never would have approached the car. I felt safe the entire time because there were so many people around us and it was broad daylight. Heck – there was even a security guard a few feet down the road!
But none of those people did anything (except for the security guard when he finally got word of what was happening – thank goodness). Can I fault them for that? No. Do I want to? Yes.
No one needed to fight. That’s not what this was about. This was about protecting the neighborhood, protecting our children, protecting our community. All anyone needed to do was band together and form a circle around these people so they couldn’t be left to their own flawed devices and do the wrong thing.
But why didn’t they do that? Why did they just stand there? What is so wrong with us that we have forgotten how to do the right thing?
What is the right thing? Was it to just stand there? Was it to fight? Was it to stand together as one?
I can’t be the judge of that. I can’t know what level of courage runs through the veins of my peers, and I can’t judge them for whatever that level is.
What I do know is that I would do this again. Sure, maybe I would do it differently. I am pregnant, after all. I do have a child to protect. I know that. And honestly, that’s exactly what I thought I was doing. I thought my community would stand behind me.
But they didn’t. At least, not the ones who were there. We got countless calls from other members of the community later that day who wished they could have been there, because they would have stepped in (and I believe they would have).
As for the girl who did this to me, I’m not mad at her. Not in the slightest. Because if she needs to stoop to such a level as to become so belligerent that she can’t see straight, and that she almost kills herself and others, there is a gaping hole in her heart that she knows no other way to fill. And my heart feels for her. Because my heart is full. My life is rich. I am the luckiest girl in the world. Sure, I have my days when I feel down, I have my challenges, I have my moments. But I have the most adoring family, the most inspiring friends, and the most amazing husband. I have a roof over my head, a job that fulfills my passion, and a baby girl on the way who – based on my track record – is going to come out with her fists in the air as Chariots of Fire plays on the loudspeaker. Or maybe we should play the theme song for Rocky…hm…
The only thing I wish upon the two people who almost altered my life for the worse that fateful day is that they get the rehabilitation they need. That they somehow find a way to love themselves, to feel whole, without the need to turn to something outside of themselves to do it.
Ted did it. And many of my friends did it too, for that matter. And if they can do it, so can these guys.
So all I ask is that you pray. Pray for them. Pray that they find their light. Pray that they turn their lives around. And pray that anyone else battling the same demons comes to their senses before it’s too late.
As for me, baby McDonald and Ted? We’re surrounded by a whole lot of love, and we’re doing great. We’ve got love on our side. And – as I’ve been reminded so many times – love is all you need.
Thanks for listening.
Love, love, love,
Lauren, Ted, & baby McDonald)