5 Lessons I Learned From Getting Punched In The Face (Literally)
Not too long ago, I was on a train to NYC for a CFA Exam prep class. It was 7 am on a Saturday morning, and the train was packed to the gills. I had gone to bed early and gotten a good night's sleep, so I was in a good mood and had a lot of energy. The young man next to me on the train was reading about a local sports team on his phone that I also root for and I struck up a conversation with him about the team. We had a nice conversation.
Shortly after, a grumpy man came up to me and told me to "SHUT THE FUCK UP." I can understand how he felt. I'm sure that he was hoping to have a quiet, relaxing ride on the train. I acknowledged the man, and replied "I'll be quiet, but please don't raise your voice at me or speak abusively towards me."
Not long after, he sucker punched me in the face. This caught me off guard, and my immediate, gut reaction was to throw a haymaker of my own. Before I did, I checked my face with my hands and didn't feel any real damage. I also didn't feel like anything was wrong with my face. I had taken the man's best shot, and wasn't phased.
Before I threw a haymaker of my own, I thought to myself - "do I really need to escalate this? If I throw a punch, it will probably result in him throwing another punch. And now, I will have gotten myself into a full-blown fight with a stranger that I know nothing about." I've been in fist fights before, and I know that I'm capable of hurting someone. I think Jordan Peterson said it best: "Be a dangerous man, but keep it under control." I probably would get arrested, even though I didn't start the fight, and would then have a court date, where I'd have to explain what happened. Even though the video tape would verify that I wasn't the aggressor, it would still be a lot of time wasted.
Also, if I retaliated with a punch of my own, there's no telling how it would have ended. Maybe his first punch was just a decoy to hide real punching power that could knock me the fuck out. Perhaps the man had a knife in his pocket. He might have had a gun. I could have gotten killed, or an innocent bystander could have gotten hurt/killed.. I'd also miss the CFA class that I had already paid for.
So I decided to hold off on throwing a punch of my own, remaining vigilant and ready to defend myself if he made a second attack on me. I said to him - "Sir, you just committed a crime."
Not surprisingly, no one came to my defense to help. I wasn't injured, but even if I was, I don't think anyone would have. Most people were just thankful that it wasn't them that got punched, and probably were too scared to risk getting punched themselves. After the train reached Penn Station, I followed the man who punched me as he got off the train, trying to get a police officer's attention. I was able to do so, but the man who punched me fled into the ether and lost us. Thankfully, a man who witnessed the attack confirmed to the police officer that I was attacked and was willing to be a witness. I filed a police report, an EMT checked me for injuries (they said I was fine), and then I proceeded to my CFA Exam class.
1. Be mindful of the time and situation.
It was 7 am on a Saturday morning....a crowded train was probably the last place that people wanted to be, and were probably in a grumpy mood. Hearing me chat with someone about a sports team probably was the last thing this guy wanted to hear.
2. Responding to violence with violence only further escalates the cycle of violence.
I'm proud of myself for having the presence of mind to stop, realize that I wasn't injured, and realize that I didn't have to respond to his violence with more violence. Not every battle needs to be fought and won. In my younger years, I know that I wouldn't have had the presence and discipline to do so. I'm happy that I've grown as a person.
3. Don't expect help from strangers
There have been studies that show when someone gets physically attacked in front of others who witness it, most people who witness the attack do nothing. Sure enough, when I got sucker punched, no one came to my immediate defense. I'm grateful to the man who followed me and offered to be a witness to the police officer.
4. Crowded spaces are filled with tension and stress.
In settings like this, it doesn't take much to set someone off. Most people don't want to be in the crowded space, and are probably already in a bad mood.
5. I'm capable of taking a punch
I've been in several fights before, and played contact sports my entire life. It pays to be tough!