Heartfelt praise to two fabulous NYC policemen

October 1980, the usual —  every Saturday the same. Quick breakfast, pretty stroll over to the New York Society Library, where Philip Roth and Barbara Tuchman wrote, too, and where I started digesting Pythagorean Numerology.* Then off to Madison Avenue for a burger and a bit of sight-seeing.

After taking a very thorough workshop on how to survive as a single woman in NYC, I had thought I learned most of the tricks — since I sometimes traveled alone at night,  I understood how important it was to be careful.

1. Walk like a man, cocksure, no invitations to strangers.

2.  When alone on an empty street, if you hear steps, call up to one of the lit windows and act like you’re connecting. (“Sorry I’m so late, I’m practically home!”)

3. If  possible, head over to other people.  Act like old friends and join the flock. Works daytime, too.

I lived by myself in Manhattan from October 1975 till I moved to Oregon, October 1983. Every time my parents visited my apartment, they begged me to move into a building with a doorman.

I’d been followed in daylight a few times. You walk into a store, he’s still across the street licking his lips. Storekeepers called cabs for me when they looked outside and saw the miserable cowards stalking prey — trying at least. I weighed about 110 pounds then on a 5’6″ frame; I was easily vanquished, like a gazelle on the range. But I had a set of eyes on the back of my head — or so I believed.

So… one Saturday about 3pm, I got followed home, when my guard was down. The doorbell rang and the stranger in a janitor uniform called out: “Superintendent.””

My super’s name was Jerry and that’s what he went by — pure and simple.

“What do you want?” I shouted through the transom.

“I need to use your phone…”

“There’s a pay phone on the corner. I’m busy.”

“Come on. I don’t have change. A quick call, I promise.”

“My phone’s in the bedroom — just make it quick!”

He came inside and glanced over at my shelves of books, two desks, a bed, a dresser…

I demanded that he leave! He punched me in the face so hard that I SCREAMED, fell backward onto my kitchen table, spilling my cranberry juice, and when he tore off, I saw the cranberry juice all over my blouse and at first thought it was blood.

Next, I called the police, then Frank, who was polishing up work across town.

Two magnificent NYPD officers were at my door in under 10 minutes!!!  I was a mess — actually, I was fine — no black eye or any marks of a struggle.

But I was terrified to open the door again. Stories of folks dressed up like Halloween policemen … and I was so scared and …

“Miss Gilbert, we’re slipping our IDs under the door. You’re OK now. We’re with you.”

I opened my door to two of the warmest hugs I could ever possibly imagine — but I wasn’t imagining.

“We’ve got three men searching the streets. Janitor’s uniform… You screamed so loudly … they could hear you on Second Avenue. How are you doing?”

“NO!!!  I tried to scream but nothing came out!!!”

They smiled at each other.  Listen, do you have a boy friend or something? You barely escaped getting raped!”

“No, not that –he wanted to rob me!”

“Rob you??? You think he wanted your books? We’re going to need a statement at the station. I’ll leave you the address. Monday AM should give you a chance to rest a little. When’s your boyfriend coming?”

“He’ll be here — soon as he can, he said. He’s taking a cab. I’m OK now.  Just one more hug?”


* Helyn Hitchcock, Helping Yourself With Numerology, Parker Publishing Co., 1972 (A wonderful primer, for sure.)







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