Mug or Chug

Canada Day Fireworks
Above Québec City
QUÉBEC, Canada
July 2, 2012

There was no doubt about it. I was about to get mugged.

It must have all taken place in just a minute. Yet so many details of everything that happened remain so vivid.

They were probably out specifically looking for somebody to jump. The moment I realized something was about to go down was when I noticed the two guys crossing the street diagonally to come up ahead of me. They were on a direct path to intercept me.

"Maybe they just happen to be crossing the road at the same time," I thought wishfully. Though, it was clear from their pace and trajectory that they were making a beeline right to the same point where I was headed.

My mind automatically launched into a quick inventory of what I had on my person. The first thing I knew I was going to lose was my phone. That would be a significant loss. The second thing that registered was my wallet. On top of all my various bankcards and ID there was also about $300 cash in various currencies inside. I was wearing my wristwatch; my camera was dangling from a pouch hanging off my shoulder.

"Why is this happening here now?", was my next thought. "I've walked through the hearts of many larger, sketchier cities around the globe at much later hours--yet never been jumped on the street like this before." Sadly, I next realized that--quaint Québec City or no--being out at a few minutes to midnight along any dark stretch of road with nobody else around means being in prime location for getting robbed.

The two guys were both around my size. Both looked to be around 19 or 20 years old. There would be no point in turning to run. Even from afar I could tell they were built and in far better shape than I was. They arrived onto a point on the sidewalk ahead of me just a few seconds before I did. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder facing me, blocking my path.

Without any other option I just kept on walking right up to them. I yanked the earbuds out of my ears to speak--though doubted there was to be much conversation. Now wasn't the time for some teaching moment to practice my classroom conjugations. I looked each of them square in the face and barked out the first thing that popped into my mind:

"Hey guys! What's up?"

David Stands Outside
Québec City Citadel
They paused, clearly not expecting to be addressed in English. One of them muttered something in such a low voice that I probably wouldn't have understood even if my French was fluent. The second guy reached slowly into the bag he was carrying, drew something out, and thrust it just inches away from me.

It was a cold bottle of Budweiser with the cap still on.

"Oh, you guys are giving out beers! Excellent!", I hooted at them as if we'd all just met up at some party. I accepted the bottle and thrust my other hand out to shake with the same guy who had just handed over a beer. He misunderstood the intent of my action and placed a second bottle into my hand.

"Nah, nah, nah--I don't need another. I'm just saying thanks," I said, shaking hands with both of them and carrying on down the road past them. "Happy Canada Day!", I called out turning my head over one shoulder to continue yelling back in English as they stood on behind me.

Had I completely misread the situation? Possibly. Maybe they really were just a couple of generous revelers who had meant to offer me their excess beer from the very start. Though, the way they were zeroing in on me from across the street, not calling out beforehand, standing silently blocking my path until we were face-to-face along a dark, deserted stretch of road... I wonder if it would have all ended the same if I hadn't walked right up to them and started blathering loudly the way I did.

Half an hour farther down along the Grande Allée I arrived back home. I popped the cap off the bottle and took a sip. A cold beer was just the thing I needed.