Only In The Tenderloin, Never In Bangkok

First of all, thank you so much for all your wonderful comments and e-mails on the Memorial Day post. Thank you for sharing these personal strands of your history with someone you've never met, for trusting your fragile fragments of family lore to a person who is really, for all intents and purposes, still just a voice inside the computer. I feel like each of you handed me not a story but a four-leaf clover, a bird's nest, a perfectly-formed bubble, and said "here is something precious; look after it." And I will. Thank you all so much again.

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In other news, not to change the subject or anything, but I think you will maybe want to know what happened to me on Friday night. Do you know what happened to me on Friday night? I got mugged!

Well, alright, perhaps "mugged" is not quite the right word---perhaps "quasi-mugged" is better, or "robbed" or maybe even "quasi-robbed." What is the word for when something gets taken from you and it's horrible and alarming and frightening, but the situation doesn't go so far as to involve, you know, the police or violence or weaponry or anything, and the whole thing lasts about ten seconds and you get your stuff back in the end, but you're still sort of shaky afterwards? Is there a word for that? Someone needs to get on that right away. (Also, I would like a word for people who like Diet Coke and even sometimes regular Coke, but hate any kind of Pepsi, even the Diet Pepsi and the Pepsi Max with the hot bungee-jumping dudes on the commercial. Is there a word for that, perchance? Apart from picky?)

Perhaps you would like to know what happened. Here is what happened: Sean went out for drinks with his co-workers after work on Friday night, while I stayed home and researched Puerto Rico. (Thank you, Little White Liar, for convincing me in the comments, with all your talk of cheap rum drinks and Bioluminescence, that this is to be our next vacation destination! You are so going to regret that when I won't stop asking you questions about anything Puerto Rican, up to and including what color shirt I should wear on the plane.)

So there I was on the couch, and I started to get hungry, and when Sean came home around 9pm, I suggested we go to our favorite Thai place. (What? People cook when they are hungry? No. Not on Friday nights. Not when one's refrigerator holds egg whites and pickles and other unpalatable things and one has not yet defrosted all the home-cooked meals one's mother made and left in one's freezer before she left. Then it is definitely a time for Thai.) This Thai place, by the way, is so awesome that I initially wasn't going to link to it. I was all possessive of it, like if I did, the cat would be out of the bag and then Wal-Mart would come and, you know, try and turn it into a franchise or something. But really, I think the people who live in San Francisco---or, indeed, come to San Francisco---should know about Bang San. I think it is their right. So here you are. You are welcome. You should order number 37.

I am getting to the story, I swear. Wow, is it ever going to pale in comparison to this ridiculous build-up.

Onward! We were in Bang San, sitting at one of the three tables---this is not a lie; this place is a hole in the wall---and what do I have on the table next to me? My wallet and my cell phone. For some reason I had no bag, just my wallet and my cell phone, and even though I was eating in what we have established is a hole in the wall in the Tenderloin, I didn't think there was any kind of, you know, safety issue or anything. I just had my wallet and cell phone right there on the table. Like you do. Right?

But the next thing that happens, as we are in the midst of enjoying our incredibly delicious Thai food, is that there is somebody standing next to me. Somebody has flown in the door, lurched the three inches over to our table, and sort of fallen right up close to me on my right. You know how you put your hand out to break a fall? This is what this person did; she sort of staggered over, and fell into the table with her hand out, right next to me on the table. But it happened in about half a second. So I jumped and screamed, because hello, there was suddenly a person right next to me whom I wasn't expecting, and in that very instant my Englishness kicked in and I was suddenly very embarrassed that it was just the waitress refilling my water glass and oh my god, the horror, I had just totally overreacted about nothing. But no! It was not the waitress, it was this crazy woman with no teeth. I believe she may even have been a crack whore, and Internet, you know I am not one to cast aspersions, but sometimes there is just no doubt.

As this woman headed for the door again, and I had about an eighth of a second to process why she had just entered the restaurant, slammed her hand down on my table, and left again, I looked down and saw that my wallet and cellphone were gone. And so I grabbed her arm as she was leaving---man, I am a real force to be reckoned with---and (seriously, why am I so British?) said "um, could I have my stuff back please?"

There followed a second of "I don't have your stuff" and "yes you do, it was just here," and "no, I don't, you crazy white bitch" and "please give it back to me or I will call the police...or, wait, you know what, I would if I had a cell phone," and then I managed to wrestle my wallet from the crazy lady's hand! While this was going on---and I swear, this whole thing happened in about ten seconds---the rest of the restaurant was up in arms, with both Sean and the Thai woman who owned the place trying to simultaneously block the crazy woman's exit and get my stuff back from her, and various other patrons (all four of them) watching the show. As I wrestled my wallet back, the woman bolted, but not before the Thai proprietor had STUCK HER HAND up the crazy woman's sleeve, like all the way up to the elbow---hot pink Razrs cannot hide---and grabbed my phone, passing it to me in one swift movement. (I do not like to dwell, now that it's all over, on the fact that my phone spent five seconds in the sweaty elbow crease of a crack whore. Please do not ever bring it up if we meet. I do not want to be reminded.)

So the woman ran out of the restaurant, having relinquished the goods. But the Thai proprietor had been so swift in getting my phone back that Sean didn't even realize, and he ran out after her into the street, shouting "give me back her stuff!" And the crazy lady was all "I don't have it!" (which at this point was actually true) and Sean chased her down the sidewalk and was all "bullshit, give it back!"---possibly the drinks with co-workers had slowed his senses a little---and then finally the Thai woman came out into the street and shouted "it's okay! We have it!" and Sean sort of turned aournd, backed up, and slunk back in, minorly embarrassed to have been on the losing end of an argument with an insane crack whore. Who, let us not forget, had no teeth.

So the story, thank goodness, ends well, and both my wallet and cellphone are doing absolutely fine. I was rather stunned for the rest of the evening---I've always found the people in the Tenderloin to be a little wacky, a little "hi lady, do you want to go on the spaceship with me and kill the president?" (I declined, though with regret)---but I've never found them to be menacing, to want to steal things from me. So that was something of an eye-opener, I guess. It hasn't changed the way I feel about San Francisco or Bang San or eating in tiny restaurants in sketchy neighborhoods in the first place, but it's made me realize not to place my wallet and cell phone on the table, in plain view of all crooks and crack whores who apparently abound. And you shouldn't do that either, by the way. I might have super crime-fighting powers, but you may not be so lucky.

1
Amanda
May 31, 2007

Aw, the poor lil' toothless crack whore.
Never stood a chance.

2
Eslocura
May 31, 2007

dining out does have it's flaws but you got everything back, a good thing. (btw I live in Puerto Rico if you need a little extra info on the island)

3
Liz
May 31, 2007

Ha! I had a good early morning laugh though I'm sorry that it was at your expense.

4
jill
May 31, 2007

ah, nothing beats the power of thai food... though i must say you scared the living bejesus out of me when i read the "I got mugged!" line. so glad to hear you are unharmed, and smooches to your co-heroes sean and the thai proprietor!

5
meritt
May 31, 2007

I'm totally telling this story to my 16 year old daughter who knows it all and thinks I'm insane that I'm so careful about NOT LEAVING MY BILLFOLD AND CELLPHONE OUT ON THE TABLE WHEN WE ARE IN RESTAURANTS.

Seriously - she leaves right on the end at the food court in the mall too. Very nonchalant about everything... drives me insane. (And yes, she has had her billfold stolen with $50 in it... and it STILL did not teach her).

6
Mir
May 31, 2007

Your life is never boring, Holly. ;)

I know I should be concerned about your well-being, now, but mostly I am just craving Thai food. Because sometimes shallow is deeper than me.

7
Sara
May 31, 2007

"hi lady, do you want to go on the spaceship with me and kill the president?" (I declined, though with regret)BWAHAHAHA!
Glad your quasi-mugging/quasi-robbery turned out well in the end.

8
Rabea
May 31, 2007

wow... scary. but you are so right! thanks for reminding us to take care of our belongings. i am totally like that, always leaving my stuff lying around and not even considering not to trust people. very bad!

9
Carolyn
May 31, 2007

Antibacterial wipes, no wait, bleach wipes. For your phone. What with the crack-whore-elbow mini-vacation it took.

It can't hurt. But some skeevy disease would, I'm guessing.

And no, I'm not a germophobe, but crackwhore germs? I'm phobic about those.

10
Pink Herring
May 31, 2007

I've had this happen to me MULTIPLE times, and sadly I am not quick enough to realize what is happening before the crack whore is long gone with my stuff. Two wallets and a cell phone, never to be seen again. People should also know -- it's not just leaving your stuff on the table that's dangerous. Don't hang your bag on the back of your chair either. My, uh, friend got her whole freaking BAG stolen that way.

11
Thespian Libby
May 31, 2007

I love tuning in each morning in the event that there's a new and exciting episode in "The Amazing Adventures of Wonder Brit!" You never fail us.

12
karen
May 31, 2007

Yeah, the build up to the story was totally deserved. Exactly HOW do you always have these hilarious things happen to you?

13
chirky
May 31, 2007

Did you disinfect your phone when you got home? Please do that before putting it against your face and talking on it while walking to work this morning.

14
elise
May 31, 2007

You grabbed her ARM? That really is something, you know. I imagine that I would have been chasing her out of the restaurant, but that is some kind of ninja reflex to just grab the arm immediately.

Impressed!

15
Joni
May 31, 2007

Oh my gosh- how scary! Yet, in a weird way, don't you somethings think after things like this happen, and you're not hurt of course, about what a great story it's going to be! No? Hmm- perhaps thats just me. I had my wallet taken from my smock pocket in Honduras by this 'sweet' pregnant lady who stopped to chat about my tattoos on my feet. And while it definitely sucked not having any money for awhile, it was one of my favorite stories to tell when I got back home.

Btw- youre going to love Puerto Rico. I went a few years ago and everything about it was blissful. Esp. the rum!

16
aimee
May 31, 2007

Clorox wipe the #$*! out of that phone, yuck.

We are leaving for a week in San Juan, PR in exactly 24 days, yay! We're still working on an itinerary but if you want I'll let you know how it goes. Ahem, and next time I'll book on Travelocity.

17
Daily Tragedies
May 31, 2007

Gosh, Holly, you have all the luck! A ride on a spaceship AND an altercation with a crack whore that ends well? Man, when I'm in the Tenderloin all I get is propositions to [insert lewd act of your choice here]. At 8AM. On a Tuesday. On my way to work.

18
geeky
May 31, 2007

Your story just reminded me of the uhm, mentally handicapped person, that stole my french fries from me at Wendy's. I think I'll blog about it!

19
Clink
May 31, 2007

I am the queen of leaving my wallet and my cell phone on the corner of a table. Also, my bag - when I bring one - dangling on the back of my chair. The fact that what happened to you has never happened to me over here in Manhattan is nothing short of divine intervention.

Lesson learned, thank you.

(Also - how awesome are you for taking matters into your own hands! Like the Pink Power Ranger but with a cuter haircut! I would've just screamed and maybe cried. Kudos.)

20
Catwalker
May 31, 2007

Ms. Bonfire,

I found your blog by way of the Moose, and I feel compelled to warn you that it can happen in the mission too - my bf's sister-in-law and his brother were walking back to our place in the mission after dinner out and that SAME crack whore tried to slip the strap of the sis-in-law's bag right off her shoulder! beware :)

thanks for your story, and if you like Bang San - you should also try Thai House Express on the corner of Larkin and Geary - plus they're open till midnight and after! yum!!

21
Melissa
May 31, 2007

Pure craziness,

But I do agree with you about the anti-pepsi campaign. Growing up, I drank it. Then stopped around 8th grade, and now despise it. I'm also that way about milk. Odd.

And my boyfriend makes fun of me because I always get a craving about once a week for Thai food. I don't live in San Fran - but I will definately go to that place when I visit! There's a small hole in the wall by my house. They're quite popular, and have little seating. They're closed every Tuesday to get fresh ingredients and replenish their supplies...And every Tuesday that's the day I usually decide that I want Thai food....

22
Chiada
May 31, 2007

Holy smokes! What a story that is. No, the story was not all disappointing after all the build up. I must have been all googly-eyed while reading it, I think. The nerve of that toothless lady! Then again she probably doesn't have her wits about her. But still! Yeah, I'd be all shaken and alarmed, too. And then later I'd be all hurt feelings thinking "she called me a crazy white bitch. I'm not a crazy white bitch! She had my stuff!" Poor Sean... at least he was all heroic and protective of you, or your stuff. Love the tag "reasons I'll need therapy". Perfect.

23
little white liar
May 31, 2007

Scream! I'm so glad you're heading over to Puerto Rico. Your mind is going to be blown in the BioBay. I warned my best friend that we might have an extreme out-of-the-way detour in SE Asia just so that I could experience one again. And please, feel free to ask away. Least I could do after hijacking your e-mail and asking everything short of looking at several months' worth of your credit card statements. Here are a few photos of my trip if you're interested: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hyperviolets/sets/72157594248002068/

Aside: first time I read "Bang San" I read "Bang Sean," which made me squeal inside my mouth at work. I suggest you have him hold up a little "E" in front of the sign next visit. 'Cause I'm classy like that.

24
ScottsdaleGirl
May 31, 2007

That phone would have to be boiled in bleach and then run through some sort of clean room process before I would touch it again. You are BRAVE!

25
DM
May 31, 2007

Wow. The bar I go to has its own crack whore. She sells flowers and has no teeth and was caught smoking the crack in the bathroom. We're just guessing about the whore part but you know, one night there were prostitutes (I on vacation and missed them. Dang it). We also get drunk people that dance with ketchup bottles. No one has stolen my wallet yet but I've been yelled at by our karaoke host for leaving my purse out. Now I know better. Thanks!

26
heidikins
May 31, 2007

I am so glad I'm not the only one freaking out about crack-whore elbow germs on pink razr phone (that assumably was then placed back on table, or near food, or near Miss Holly)... do you think it would survive being boiled in bleach? I may run some tests and get back to you on the results. :)

xox

27
Sheila
May 31, 2007

I think you got MUNGLED. That's when someone tries to mug you but bungles it up. Just don't try to use that word in a Scrabble game.

When I first started reading about your mungling, I was thinking "gee, people suck!" but then I just couldn't reconcile that thought with all the beautiful stories from yesterday. So I guess it's just crack whores that suck-- however, even those I feel sorry for. I'm glad your adventure turned out to be nothing more than a great story.

28
Gretchen
May 31, 2007

Girl, you are so much braver than I am. Why don't you move down here to Orange County, where that sort of shit doesn't go on and the housing is even a little cheaper? Or go up to Marin. My God. Too scary. Do you carry pepper spray? Because if not, you totally SHOULD do.

Sean, as always, is an angel.

29
steppingover thejunk
May 31, 2007

You tell your stories so perfectly...I am SO cracking up "GIMME MY STUFF" in a British accent to this crack whore...I have to say, I do that, leave my wallet and phone on the table at a coffee shop or a restaurant next to me and a while ago decided it wasn't good idea imagining something similar to this, but mostly worried I might walk out without them, and now I keep them between my legs or under my legs (I kid you not). Glad you got your stuff back and your man will chase down the streets of San Fran after a crazy crack whore lady with no teeth to get your wallet and pink phone back.

30
ali
May 31, 2007

Oh Holly - you do crack me up. I wish you still lived in Charleston because my sister lives in Charleston and I could visit you while I was visiting her and we could become lifelong friends. But, alas, I don't know anyone in San Francisco.

31
stepblog
May 31, 2007

Do you realize this story totally makes you sound like a super hero? A crime fighting super hero? Aren't you glad to find out that when faced with something scary your relexes are operating on all cylinders? Hair trigger, so to speak? Way to go!

32
Chaos Control
May 31, 2007

Nothing like a little excitement to kick off the weekend, eh?

I'm headed back to the city for a week in early July so I thank you for the link to Bang San! Since it's been five years since I've lived there, I'm sure my ol' favorites are likely long gone by now. Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!

33
notsoccer mom
May 31, 2007

wow, brave moves on your part--i think i would have been stunned into immobility. again, yet another reason why i live 45 minutes south of you and not IN the city!

34
Lori
May 31, 2007

I think the word you were looking for, between mugged and robbed, was "pickpocketed." However, since the items were not actually in your pocket (or pocketbook, like that time I got pickpocketed in London) then maybe you were picktabled?

35
little white liar
Jun 01, 2007

Oh, and I was pickpocketed in Rome. After the devastation, the crying, and the bottle of wine, I realized I had just had the ULTIMATE Roman experience. It's now one of my favorite stories to tell. So yeah, okay, the paint on your pink Razr may go a bit gray soon after the druggie's sweat chemicals seep in, but you'll have a true tale to tell the Verizon guy.

36
Erica
Jun 01, 2007

People who hate pepsi and love COKE are called "Erica" - in that I will ask for iced tea if I order a coke and the waitress/waiter says "Is pepsi okay?" NO! I ordered a COKE! Bleagh! No robbery stories here - I just hate Pepsi.

37
Alice
Jun 01, 2007

Something vaguely similar happened to me at New Year's in a Paris RER station this year; I was coming home from a party with my boyfriend, and we probably shouldn't have even been taking public transport (that's another whole story...) but as we were both exhausted, we just resigned ourselves to it. Except it was super-ass cold (obviously) and I was in heels -- whereas he was walking ahead of me (another sore issue)... So some young kid came up to me and asked if I had cigarettes, and I sort of shook my head quickly and said I don't smoke; next thing I knew he had run off with my clutch in his hand -- I had been carrying a tiny bag with my necessities, mainly just my lipstick, my credit card, my GLASSES and something like 5 Euros in cash... Needless to say, I started screaming and my boy came back down the stairs and tried to run after the guy, but he was long-gone... I was FAR from as courageous as you were! I was a total wuss, let's just put it that way.

But strangely enough, another young guy came running back like 5 minutes later as I tried to settle down and resign myself to the fact that my things had been stolen -- the worst for me was my glasses, because they'd cost more to replace. But I knew I could cancel my credit card, etc. This other kid gave me my bag back! I think they honestly had been a big gang all together, but there was no way to prove it. My boyfrien asked him what the heck was going on, and this kid was all like, hey, I brought your bag back, what's your problem?

And miraculously, the only thing missing was the cash -- like I said, maybe 5 Euros. So talk about a relief! No biggie in the end. But it still shook me up, and I definitely try to be much more vigilant now. Oh, and I really get on my boy's ass about staying with me instead of walking ahead -- that drives me crazy!!

So glad your story turned out OK in the end, too. What a relief!

38

I had my own san francisco quasi-mugging, meaning a gang of teenagers beat me down and kicked me in the chest and head for a while (calling me "nigger"?) they didn't take anything though.

and this is going to sound annoyingly condescending, but I love how everyone in san francisco has a favorite thai restaurant, but nobody's is the same (unless you count all the judds who love thep phenom, those guys are just sheep). it's one of the truly great things about that city--- there are so many restaurants that everyone gets these wonderful little places to be possessive about.

juniper's day care provider's family ran a vietnamese place in part of the tenderloin where I wouldn't leave my wallet out on the table, but it was really, really good. Pagolac, 655 Larkin. Surprisingly clean and subtle. Fuck slanted door.

39
Danielle
Jun 01, 2007

Holly,

I hate to downplay the seriousness of the crackwhore bandit, but the Puerto Rico bit? That caught my attention because, as we speak, I am getting all of my affairs in order to leave TOMORROW on a very tiny plane to go to the island of Vieques, PR. So I figured now would be a good time to come out of lurker-dom.
Hello there! Would you like more stories of bioluminescence? I think you would!
E-mail me if you need more fuel to go. This will be my second time on the island.

40
Heather B.
Jun 01, 2007

A very similar thing happened to a friend of mine while we were eating falafel in Sol in Madrid. We were just sitting there eating and it was the day before our finals and 36 hours before we were to leave. So she had her big school bag with her underneath the seat. She went to get more toppings for her falafel and looked down and her bag was gone. Just like out of nowhere. We went outside and couldn't find the person (this was a HUGE red bag, you could see it from a mile away). And nothing. And there went all of her studying things and her credit cards, etc. right before we were to leave back for the states.

So actually it's not that similar except that we too were in a restaurant and it happened out of the blue.

And that's lovely that you're British and polite, because I'm not British, yet unruly and black and there would have been violence from my end. I would've gotten PISSED.

41
Maya
Jun 02, 2007

Would like to say that a) I'm very happy you and the pink Razr are ok b) extra happy that was you and not me, because my temper has been possibly a weee tiny bit ON! EDGE! lately (what with the $300 getting stolen/lost) and would possibly have *majorly* overreacted and like...I dunno, rammed my chopsticks up her nose, etc.

Puerto Rico? Awesome! PS Costa Rica also very very very very awesome. And cheap. And (more or less) safe, and lots of bi-lingual friendly people.

42
annie
Jun 02, 2007

Wow - good for you and your super British crime fighting powers. I'm seriously impressed. Now as for your new toothless friend....was she wearing red pants? There's a woman in the tenderloin who I passed every day on my way to work and she always wore red pants. Never got close enough to check her dental records though. But the "toothless wallet stealing cell phone talking intruder into your Thai space", in my mind, was wearing red pants.

43
Terri B.
Jun 06, 2007

Glad you got your phone and wallet back!

And thanks for the heads up on Bang San (I have a thing for little whole in the wall restaurants as well as for Thai food). I'm occasionally in SF for meetings. In fact was not too far away from this Thai place just a week ago. Was on my way out to find some Thai food and got swept up with the rest of my group to go to E&O Trading Co. Pricey, but very good. I recommend the lettuce cups.

44
Terri B.
Jun 06, 2007

Yeah, I can spell ... "whole in the wall"? I've also got a "hole" lot of brain fade going on this afternoon. Hah!