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He turned ALL of his cheeks, repeatedly
March 28, 2008 10:30 AM   Subscribe

"I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It's as simple as it gets in this complicated world."

This story's making the rounds today, for a very, very good reason: A Victim Treats His Mugger Right
posted by chinese_fashion (203 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, you're a better man than I am, Julio Diaz.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:37 AM on March 28, 2008 [12 favorites]


that. is. the greatest. story. ever.

I sincerely hope it's not a hoax.
posted by shmegegge at 10:40 AM on March 28, 2008


What a wonderfully powerful story. My faith in humanity as a whole is not fully restored, but as long as there are people like Mr. Diaz in the world, there is surely some hope.
posted by chara at 10:40 AM on March 28, 2008


As I read this to my wife with tears in my eyes, she said "I don't think I believe that."
posted by nevercalm at 10:42 AM on March 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ” —Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You Mister Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine
posted by Toekneesan at 10:45 AM on March 28, 2008 [16 favorites]


What a stupid fucking story.
posted by interrobang at 10:48 AM on March 28, 2008 [19 favorites]


How did his story get there? If he put it up himself, that makes me feel a little uncomfortable. (I prefer my saints modest?)
posted by prefpara at 10:49 AM on March 28, 2008


Well you've convinced me, interrobang.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:50 AM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's absolutely no evidence this actually happened, and what's the point of altruism if you report your good deeds to NPR? What the hell?
posted by interrobang at 10:50 AM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I heard this on the radio (after my wife, who'd heard it before I got up, alerted me to the replay). Great story, and I believe it—I have a friend who had a similar experience. People really are unpredictable, and genuine benevolence really can work.

*ignores troll*
posted by languagehat at 10:50 AM on March 28, 2008


How did his story get there?

There are booths set up where people can go in and tell stories; NPR selects some of them for broadcast.

interrobang, you've made your point, such as it is, twice now; perhaps you have somewhere else to hang out?
posted by languagehat at 10:52 AM on March 28, 2008 [9 favorites]


For some reason this story sounds very familiar, yet all the Google results seem to have today's date.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:52 AM on March 28, 2008


I prefer to live in a world where my victim/mugger reconciliation stories end with the the victim gently asking the mugger for the knife, and getting stabbed with it.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:53 AM on March 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


Good on you, Mr. Diaz.

Brief, odd story of my own mugging. I was walking from work to the bus stop about 5 or 6 years ago, plugged into my CD player, and I didn't even notice the 3 teenagers until they had me surrounded. I'm a big dude, but there were three of them, and after the hit me a few times, one of them pulled the "I've got something in my pocket...probably my hand, but I'm telling you it's a gun" trick. You'd never think that you'd fall for it, but when your jaw is aching from being punched a few times and you're shoved up against a fence, it suddenly seems all too plausible.

One of them yanked the CD player out of my pocked & stashed it in his hoodie. The one with the "gun" demanded my wallet. I took out my wallet, pulled out the $50 or so in small bills in it, and calmly (I don't know how I managed to have the nerve to do this) put the wallet back in my pocket. My mind was racing at the moment, but one though rang out..."It is going to be a colossal pain in the ass to get new bank cards/ID/a bus pass if you hand over your wallet."

I told them, "Look, I need my wallet, OK?" They all looked at me oddly, and then took off running.

It's strange how in such an intense moment...a moment where you're being victimized...you can still manage to think and act rationally. I knew these kids didn't want my wallet. It was a Friday night & they were probably looking for some quick money for beer/weed/whatever.

My hats off to Julio for being able to take that several steps further, and for helping out a fellow human being who needed a willing ear and a kind heart.
posted by ekstasis23 at 10:54 AM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


what's the point of altruism if you report your good deeds...?

I agree with you that there is far more merit in just doing something good then putting it away in your memories rather than blabbing about it to make yourself seem virtuous. However, that doesn't negate the act entirely. Sometimes, though, people just talk about the events of their day with others and it spirals from there. Perhaps, true or not, this might stick in someone else's mind in a similar situation. Then again, if someone remembers this and goes against their defensive instincts and tries to be a saint then they might get stuck with something more real like a mugger's knife.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:54 AM on March 28, 2008


That is just the kind of thing I needed to see today, thanks.
posted by triggerfinger at 10:55 AM on March 28, 2008


I hate to be a cynic but if he'd ended up getting stabbed we'd a) not have heard about this at all or b) debating about how stupid he was for confronting his mugger.

Yeah, it's a feel good story and all that but he was pretty lucky he found the one kid in the city who reacted that way.

I sincerely hope people don’t need stories like this to remind them to be kind to people. Humans are pretty good overall, I think. Except, of course, the ones who suck.
posted by bondcliff at 10:56 AM on March 28, 2008


what's the point of altruism if you report your good deeds

His point was not "Look at how great I am," his point was "being nice to people can work." That's what he was telling the mugger, and that's what he's telling us. If all you can hear is "I'm so great," that says more about you than it does about him.
posted by languagehat at 10:57 AM on March 28, 2008 [54 favorites]


There's absolutely no evidence this actually happened

I don't think that word means what you think it means.
posted by The World Famous at 10:58 AM on March 28, 2008


Interrobang, I sincerely hope you never, ever say the phrase "gosh, all the media ever reports is bad news" for the rest of your natural-born life. It's not like this guy was like, running around with a trumpet and a banner. He was invited to tell a good story, and happened to have one. If this dude was a fame and glory-hog, he sure wouldn't have chosen a career as a social worker.
posted by chinese_fashion at 10:59 AM on March 28, 2008


Yeah, wtf cynicism? It's a morality tale on kindness. You two need a mirror and a hug.
posted by cavalier at 10:59 AM on March 28, 2008


I was really hoping that the punchline would be: The kid was actually rich and only mugged people for fun, so when the guy was so nice to him the kid decided to give him a million dollars.
posted by mullingitover at 11:00 AM on March 28, 2008 [8 favorites]


Thanks for this. I try to continue to work on the premise that people are basically decent and kind, despite an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary. This makes it a little easier.
posted by teleri025 at 11:02 AM on March 28, 2008


Oh, and this story is another example of how Maslow was right: people are spontaneously good when their food, shelter, safety and belonging needs are taken care of.
posted by mullingitover at 11:02 AM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


If all you can hear is "I'm so great," that says more about you than it does about him.

Perhaps it's a huge sense of self-righteousness you and the story's subject share that inclines you to buy this story.

Interrobang, I sincerely hope you never, ever say the phrase "gosh, all the media ever reports is bad news" for the rest of your natural-born life.

I can't remember saying that even a single time in my natural-born life.
posted by interrobang at 11:06 AM on March 28, 2008


ND¢ says he asked for something in return — the teen's knife — "and he gave it to me, and then I stabbed that fucker right in his fucking eye."
posted by ND¢ at 11:13 AM on March 28, 2008 [13 favorites]


I don't think that word this world means what you I think it means.
posted by xod at 11:19 AM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


While I applaud skepticism, I'm not really sure this is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary proof. It's great the guy helped that kid, but he is after all a social worker. Not that I'm belittling what he did, I'm just saying it isn't out of character or supernatural.
posted by DU at 11:20 AM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


This kindness is tearing us apart!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:20 AM on March 28, 2008 [11 favorites]


Heck of a story. Gives me some hope for people, especially given the recent events in Greater Vancouver, like when a 13- and a 15-year old brutally beat two old men with baseball bats, one of them to death.

I'm all for rehabilitating young offenders, but some of them are just bad seeds. Sounds like the kid in this story was okay though.
posted by illiad at 11:20 AM on March 28, 2008


stupidsexyFlanders - That's how I'd write it.
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on March 28, 2008


And the great ending to the story was that, once Julio had the mugger's knife, Julio could go on and steal lots more wallets.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:24 AM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, you're right, World Famous. That's pretty embarrassing.

How about an apology then? Someone comments on a news story, and you attack them personally by wishing them dead. I think that deserves an apology. But don't mind me, I'm just another social worker.
posted by OmieWise at 11:26 AM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Without crapping on the post, because I am glad that I saw it, and without crapping on those who are moved by this, because I applaud the STORY here, and think it says good things and the idea is a sound one, is it possible to say that I also, perhaps somewhat ashamedly, doubt the factual accuracy of this story?

It seems contrived. It reads like "The Cross and the Switchblade". It just, to my ears, doesn't ring true. Not because I don't think that kindness can break through lot's of things - I do. I just think the story here doesn't work. Neither character is acting true to what I believe their motivations to be. Particularly the kid.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:31 AM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Go, Julio. It does make a hell of a difference in kids' lives if they're exposed to adults who act with decency. (I'm thinking less of the giving the kid a coat, and more of the kid getting to see how people in the diner react to Julio being a nice guy.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:31 AM on March 28, 2008


Despite evidence claiming the contrary, I don't think that we as humans are inherently evil. Most people (sociopaths excluded, perhaps) don't go around fucking up other people's lives just for the hell of it.

We hurt others to fill our own void. Maybe that void comes from poverty, hunger, insecurity, low self-esteem, lack of validation, fear of being hurt first, whatever. Sometimes we're conscious of it, often we're blissfully unaware. We all have this void, somewhere in our lives, in one way or another.

And when this Julio Diaz fellow encountered his would-be mugger on that fateful night, it would've been easy to dismiss him as some hardened, soulless criminal; instead he saw an average dude, a kid in a desperate situation, in need of guidance and kindness.

Yes, Mr. Diaz is extremely lucky that the mugger didn't hurt him. I know that if I'd found myself in that same situation, I would've responded much differently, as would most of you, as you've already mentioned. So the lesson to take from this story is not: "Buy steak and eggs and a slice of apple pie for your local teen thug". It is this: there is a method to this madness, there is a reason why people do the things they do.

Think about it! Look back to your childhood, to your childhood bully, perhaps. Maybe he put your life through hell because his own life at home was hell too. Maybe he was afraid or lonely, maybe negative attention was the only kind of attention he'd ever had. There could've been many reasons, but there was a reason.

If we spent time less time chasing windmills and attacking the symptoms instead of the sources of problems, think how much better this world might be.
posted by chara at 11:31 AM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh, misplaced apostrophe, how you mock me.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:32 AM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Alvy, is it possible you're thinking of the film Peaceful Warrior? There's a scene in the film (and possibly the book on which the movie is based) which is almost a duplicate of Diaz's experience.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 11:35 AM on March 28, 2008


don't mind me, I'm just another social worker.
posted by OmieWise


Hippie!

I also... doubt the factual accuracy of this story
posted by dirtdirt


Meh. As a story, I'm very happy with it. Social workers are (can be?) unnaturally nice and concerned with the wellbeing of disaffected teenagers; nervous teenagers can be caught off guard if people treat them in a way they're not expecting. Could be a lie, but why choose to believe that since it costs us nothing to believe it's true? When this guy goes on his speaking tour and write a fake memoir and becomes a big public figure (which, who knows, he might), then I'll start trying to nail down whether this happened. For now, it doesn't need to be anything more than a good story.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:38 AM on March 28, 2008


what's the point of altruism if you report your good deeds to NPR?

What the fuck do you care? How does telling people about it make it any less altruistic?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:38 AM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


As much as I wanted to love the story, I acted like the guy in the story for the first couple decades of my life (my parents always said be nice to folks, give them the benefit of the doubt, be considerate of others, etc), but by the time I hit college I realized I was everyone's doormat. Everyone took advantage of me, even really close friends treated me like shit because they knew they could get away with it and I'd let them.

I eventually stopped going out of my way for complete strangers and friends -- I didn't turn into an asshole, it's just that I wouldn't immediately help some friend of a friend of a friend move their piano upstairs like I used to jump at the chance to do. I also stopped hanging out with people that simply used me and my stuff and never gave anything back. I then started picking and choosing a bit more when people asked for favors.

Anyway, I looked at my parents after a few years and realized they still acted the same way and they still had a circle of non-friends that took advantage of them. Like one time, my dad's truck had a scratch all the way down the side that I asked about and he said "oh, my friend Joe did that with his key after he a bit too much to drink. No biggie, sometimes friends do that." I was appalled that they'd call anyone a "friend" who would key your car and not apologize.
posted by mathowie at 11:38 AM on March 28, 2008 [15 favorites]


For some reason this story sounds very familiar, yet all the Google results seem to have today's date.

Alvy, could you be thinking of last year's report of a robber who interrupted a dinner party? When he demanded money at gunpoint, the hostess invited him to sit down for a glass of wine. Before leaving empty-handed, he asked for (and received) a group hug.
posted by Elsa at 11:40 AM on March 28, 2008


This story's been floating around on the Internet since, like, forever, and I'm not sure if it was based on anything factual the first time around.
posted by PlusDistance at 11:42 AM on March 28, 2008 [9 favorites]


After being cynical above, let me just say this rings true from my experience. I lived in the inner city and was a social worker. People responded when you treated them like human beings - at least two thirds of the time they did. I understand the guy's motivation for wanting to tell the story. To convince you to look at the world a different way.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:44 AM on March 28, 2008


Storycorps normally makes me want to slam my head on the steering wheel repeatedly but this one was alright.
posted by The Straightener at 11:45 AM on March 28, 2008


Could be a lie, but why choose to believe that since it costs us nothing to believe it's true?

I understand and agree with that view to a point, but for me there is no "choose to believe" option. I believe it, or I don't. I can be convinced things are true or not true, but I cannot just decide to believe something. Can you?

And if I could somehow short circuit my brain when it sends me a message that I find distasteful (because, again, the moral of the story is a good one. It's not the quality of the point that gets the stink-eye from me, it's the veracity of the story itself) would that be a good thing? I don't think so.

I have no reason to doubt that this guy, the social worker, is a good guy. It is even likely that some version of this story happened. But if it did I highly doubt it looked like this telling of it.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:50 AM on March 28, 2008


I read the story and some of the posts about how stupid it could have been... He could have been killed... The truth of the matter is this, if someone has plans to kill you they are just simply going to kill you and take your stuff. The fact that they say give me your money or your dead usually means they do not plan on killing you unless it comes to that. Most muggers and thieves play off the image of being a merciless killer with nothing to loose because they seriously have nothing to loose and most people who they pray on do, be in a house, a good life, whatever. I hope this story is true and the teen decided to give up the whole mugging thing and thought about what do I want out of life. Wouldn't it be funny if the teen goes on to do something incredibility great because of this incident?
posted by Mastercheddaar at 11:51 AM on March 28, 2008


a huge sense of self-righteousness you and the story's subject share that inclines you to buy this story.

Come on, interrobang. Maybe the guy is just legitimately a NICE guy, you know? Not everyone is a dick all the time although it can be really hard to see when we're surrounded by so much shit all the time. Cynicism is healthy up to a point. Too much and you just become part of the problem.
posted by LeeJay at 11:53 AM on March 28, 2008


If this actually happened, he's very naive, and very lucky to be alive to tell the tale. I've been mugged, stalked, chased and had my ass whipped on the street a few times, so I'm pretty sure Christian charity would have ben the last thing on my mind had I been in this Diaz guy's shoes. Are we all supposed to just keep taking it?
posted by Scoo at 11:57 AM on March 28, 2008


I don't think that we as humans are inherently evil. Most people (sociopaths excluded, perhaps) don't go around fucking up other people's lives just for the hell of it

I mostly agree, but that's a pretty big caveat hiding in there. And maybe it's just the demon god of lawyers wrapping its cold fingers around my heart, but I dread the day, which will undoubtedly come soon, when I start getting this story as email forwards from relatives, replete with some sort of sparkly risen jebus images.

Finally, christ, mathowie, that's terrible!
posted by bepe at 11:58 AM on March 28, 2008


I've been thinking about it, and here's my theory as to why I feel uncomfortable with the article. It seems to be based on Diaz's first-hand account of his experience, but it was also edited by a reporter, Michael Garofalo. Garofalo made a lot of choices in the article that put the spotlight on how wonderful Diaz is, for example his choice of headline ("A Victim Treats His Mugger Right"), the quote from Diaz's mom, etc. However, it's still clear that the story originated with Diaz (no other source is cited, and that's the format of this series). So, with the emphasis on Diaz, it ended up feeling a little self-congratulatory to me. It felt like 40% kindness makes the world better, 60% what a great guy.

Judging from the other reactions in this thread, there isn’t a universal sense that it’s not good to praise yourself so unselfconsciously. Speaking only for myself, I believe bragging is ugly (and I define bragging broadly). So my initial reaction was to wonder why, if the real message was “be kind,” Diaz couldn’t have told a similar story about someone other than himself. Thinking about it now, I can see that a personal story is likely to have a greater impact and is also far more likely to be believed. I think it’s plausible that when Diaz told his own story, it sounded far less like bragging. I see that there’s an audio file, but I can’t listen to it at work.

The final quote from Diaz ("I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It's as simple as it gets in this complicated world.") strengthens my confidence in my guess that he did not see this as a moment to reveal his halo to the world.

I just wanted to explain a little of what I’m thinking, because I don’t want to sound like I’m judging this guy, likely a very good person, or being thoughtlessly cynical.
posted by prefpara at 11:59 AM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


If I tried that, the "teen" would've stuck me and taken off with my wallet.
posted by VicNebulous at 12:02 PM on March 28, 2008


It's a cute story, but it's not true.

- This wouldn't be the first we heard about it.
- Muggers don't act like that, beginning to end.
- A mugger wouldn't wander away slowly enough to hear the coat thing.
- How would a mugger trust him that much?
- Do dishwashers ever come out and chat with dinners? No.
- Everyone at the dinner knows him, but no one finds the thing suspicious.
- They sat and had dinner, two questions was the total conversation?
- The implausibility of this, combined with the casual delivery, make it silly.
posted by Ragma at 12:03 PM on March 28, 2008


The angle of this story that everyone seems to be neglecting is the humble and yet very crucial fact that Mr. Diaz is a social worker?

Now, what does this mean? It simply means that he has experience dealing with less than savory people, folks who could and do commit acts of violence.

Leading such people onto the path of righteousness or simply asking them to change their socially unacceptable modes of behavior is probably second nature to this man. So, when he was on the verge of being robbed by this teen, he knew what to do! Other people without his experience wouldn't have the confidence to pull off an act of kindness, since they were lacking the requisite of experience of dealing with "hoodlums."
posted by gregb1007 at 12:04 PM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


That reads like one of those ridiculous chain emails that I get from my mother-in-law. Is it April 1 yet?
posted by psmealey at 12:11 PM on March 28, 2008


If Diaz were Bruce Wayne, this would make an excellent origin story for a new Robin.
posted by ericbop at 12:11 PM on March 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


Except Bruce would've just beat the shit out of the mugger.
posted by ericbop at 12:12 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


First thoughts on post title: He mooned him?

Great story, though.
posted by jinjo at 12:16 PM on March 28, 2008


I think the problem is it just feels superficial, like it's saying all muggers are really crying out for father figures. And the idea that the story was completely resolved because the kid gave the wallet back seems to miss the entire psychology of why someone would try to rob another person to start with. Even if the story is true, it's so reductive it comes off like one of those christianity tracts they hand out in the subway. The kid had various histories and motivations for sticking up the guy; we don't know what any of them are. Maybe he was desperate for food, maybe he was bored, maybe he did it on a dare, maybe he really wanted new shoes... maybe he has done this dozens of times and maybe he has never done it before. And when the guy responded as he did, maybe the kid was honestly touched, or maybe he was trying to play him, or maybe he felt guilty and decided to go along with it.

How this happened is dependent on all those individual factors, and what it means changes based on those details. So while it's possible the kid had never really seen kindness, and really did have a chance he wouldn't have otherwise had, it would've been a lot more convincing coming from the mugger's perspective. Otherwise it seems way too easy to imagine wishful thinking on the part of Diaz, even without having to blatantly make things up.
posted by mdn at 12:16 PM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


"So, when he was on the verge of being robbed by this teen, he knew what to do!"

If that were true we'd hear lots of stories like this.

The likelihood of such a polite mugger meeting up with such a daring social worker is just about zero. And even then the liklihood of things turning out in the best possible way are slim to none. There is a chain of implausible circumstances here that make it wildly unlikely.
posted by Ragma at 12:17 PM on March 28, 2008


Utterly fascinated by this story. Oh, how I wish it to be true.

Time will tell.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:17 PM on March 28, 2008


MUGGA, PLEASE!
posted by psmealey at 12:20 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


That reads like one of those ridiculous chain emails that I get from my mother-in-law. Is it April 1 yet?

Exactly my reaction. I also thought that this was a ridiculous FPP and agreed with ?! and I'm the nicest, most altruistic, humble person I've ever known. Ever.
posted by dobbs at 12:23 PM on March 28, 2008


Reminds me of a Zen parable:

A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned and found him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift." The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, " I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."
posted by krinklyfig at 12:23 PM on March 28, 2008 [31 favorites]


I was held up at knifepoint when I lived in LA.

The guy demanded my wallet, and I gave it to him. It had three dollars in it. It was the day before payday, and, even when I got paid, I was pathetically poor. The fact that I had three dollars at all is sort of amazing. Usually, one or two days before I got paid, I ran out of money, and had to borrow from friends for bus fair and mooch them to buy me lunch.

My thief didn't seem to believe that was all I had. He carefully patted me down, and demanded I take off my shoes so he could check them for a stash of money.

This is all you have, he asked?

I'm really poor, I said.

So am I, he said.

Yeah, but I'm not stealing from anyone at knifepoint, I said. You could probably sell that knife and make more money than you're getting from me.

He nodded.

Can I have my wallet back at least, I asked. I needed my ID from it.

He gave me the wallet back. Then he looked guilty, and gave me one of the three dollars back.

Here, he said.

I don't want it, I said, I just want to go home.

Take it, he said.

I did, and went home. By the time I got to my apartment, the story already seemed ridiculous and impossible. So I'm not going to judge this one. People are funny and do unexpected things.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:24 PM on March 28, 2008 [80 favorites]


mdn, you definitely identified problems with the article that I was also responding to, though I didn’t articulate them. I didn’t feel, at the end of the article, that there was a real reason to believe that the mugger had been helped in some profound way.
posted by prefpara at 12:24 PM on March 28, 2008


People, please! I am trying to set aside my bitterness and feel good about people for once in my miserable life. Are y'all gonna cooperate or am I going to have to go back to trolling Youtube for videos of people forcefeeding citrus to infants?
posted by LeeJay at 12:25 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree with Ragma that many of the specific details of this story make me inclined not to believe it. (The whole thing also reads suspiciously like a parable or anecdote from a sermon to me.)
posted by whir at 12:26 PM on March 28, 2008


- Do dishwashers ever come out and chat with dinners? No.

Maybe not to you. It happens to me fairly regularly, both in a small town and in a large city, at places I frequent.

I'm not arguing that the story is undeniably true, just that the scenario kitchen staff chats with regular patron is not out of the range of normal experience, though it may be out of your experience. (The story does describe Diaz as a regular customer of that diner.)

- Everyone at the dinner knows him, but no one finds the thing suspicious

What's suspicious about it? A regular customer shows up with another person instead of showing up alone.

- How would a mugger trust him that much?

My (infrequent and muuuuuuch less scary) experiences treating aggressive strangers with compassion, not rage, have been similarly fruitful. Sometimes a stranger will open up in a moment of intense fear, because they need to. If the kid really feels like he's got nothing to lose, then... well... he's got nothing to lose, and might as well take the chance that the stranger's apparent compassion is the real thing.
posted by Elsa at 12:26 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't buy Ragma's argument that this entire thing was created out of whole cloth. As Astro Zombie's story illustrates, people do funny things sometimes. Not every diner or mugger is the same. The whole story does have sort of a Lifetime-movie-esque feel to it, but I think I blame that more on the tone of the story than anything else.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:32 PM on March 28, 2008



The angle of this story that everyone seems to be neglecting is the humble and yet very crucial fact that Mr. Diaz is a social worker? Now, what does this mean? It simply means that he has experience dealing with less than savory people, folks who could and do commit acts of violence.


That could be the case but it's not a given. Clinical social workers in private practice are rarely going to face an assaultive client, for example. However, having been a social worker in homeless services with a caseload of psychotic clients with extensive assault histories, yeah, you learn to keep a cool head, to de-escalate confrontations, to be aware of your physical surroundings at all times, etc. Part of the job is learning to engage with very anti-social personalities, and I found that the trick is to honestly just be decent and give your clients the respect you give anyone else. The flipside of that is demanding respect from your clients, because if they sense that you're a mark they will walk all over you. Having an imposing physical presence also doesn't hurt but as I found out it also makes you the default guy at the agency who deals with every dude that might try to stab someone, which can be wearying.
posted by The Straightener at 12:35 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think anyone who dismisses this story as fiction because it's unbelievable needs a serious dose of bright-eyed wonder. Sometimes people surprise you in a good way.
posted by scabrous at 12:37 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. I'm a sketpic, but c'mon.

"Muggers don't act like that?" Have you met every mugger? Lots of different kinds of people resort to crime for lots of different reasons.

I'm a high school teacher. I work hard to treat my students with kindness and respect, even when they're being pottymouthed little thugs, and it almost always pays off. Most "bad kids" have internalized that label, and act the way bad kids are expected to act. Treat them as though you assume they are good people who are doing their best and they just might rise to meet your expectations.

Whether or not this story is true, it brightened my mood considerably at the end of a pretty craptacular week, so yay!
posted by tits mcgee at 12:40 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think anyone who dismisses this story as fiction because it's unbelievable needs a serious dose of bright-eyed wonder.

I would, but my proctologist told me to lay off the anal for a while.

I think it's the little flourishes (giving the knife back, everyone coming out from behind the counter to say hello, etc.) that make the story seem a little to good to be true. I think we're pretty deeply in James Frey country here. The essential facts of the story may be true, but the way it's presented unfortunately make it come across like utter bullshit.
posted by psmealey at 12:44 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


...and so Metafilter exists because there still was a shiny piece of unspoilt naivety and trust of strangers in mathowie's heart. -The End-
posted by Free word order! at 12:46 PM on March 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


I would, but my proctologist told me to lay off the anal for a while.

You've mistaken "bright-eyed wonder" from "brown-eyed wonder."
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:46 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think it’s plausible that when Diaz told his own story, it sounded far less like bragging.

Ah, it didn't even occur to me that people were responding without having heard the actual story as told by Diaz. It's quite short—go listen to it, everyone, before you start claiming things about it. If I had just read some reporter's take on it, I'd be snarky too.

It's a cute story, but it's not true.

- This wouldn't be the first we heard about it.


Right, because the first thing reporters go out looking for is stories about people who managed to come to terms with would-be muggers. Editors scream "Get out of here with your murders and robberies—I want stories of simple human interactions that end without violence! Don't come back till you have one!"

Do you actually read, listen to, or watch any news media? Because you have strange ideas about what people who follow the news are likely to hear about.

- Muggers don't act like that, beginning to end.


There is no such thing as "muggers." There are people who try to take things away from other people using the threat of violence; amazing as this may be to you, they are all human beings and they are all different.

- A mugger wouldn't wander away slowly enough to hear the coat thing.
- How would a mugger trust him that much?


See above.

- Do dishwashers ever come out and chat with dinners? No.


See Elsa's comment above. The fact that you don't talk to dishwashers does not define the limits of human experience.

- Everyone at the dinner knows him, but no one finds the thing suspicious.


What "thing"? That he's having dinner with somebody?

- They sat and had dinner, two questions was the total conversation?


This doesn't even deserve a response.

- The implausibility of this, combined with the casual delivery, make it silly.


Because anyone who actually had an experience like this would be all "OMG!! u wont beleeve what just happened to me!!!" in a high-pitched voice with lots of heavy breathing. Yeah, you're absolutely right.

Once again, those of you who are sure this is bullshit are revealing something about yourselves, not about this story.
posted by languagehat at 12:47 PM on March 28, 2008 [16 favorites]


It would be interesting to tally up all the "this story sucks" and "this story is great" voices and correlate them to votes for Clinton and Obama. Fear and Hope seem to distinguish not only the campaign, but people's perception in general.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:48 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's amazing what eight years of Bush will do to people's sense of credulity when it comes to someone doing something decent. If this guy talked about beating up his assailant, there'd be no skepticism and most would have cheered him on. But for having done the opposite, he's a myth. Amazing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:50 PM on March 28, 2008 [7 favorites]


I remember this story from a GI Joe comic book years ago. Except it wasn't a social worker, it was the martial arts master who trained Snake-Eyes; He was running a convenience store and a kid came in and pulled out a pistol, pointed it at him, and demanded that he empty the register.

The master comments to the kid that the gun would be more dangerous with the safety off. The kid, full of bravado, flicks it off and restates his demands. The master calmly replies that with the safety off, he can now do this: and he pushes the slide back, locking it open to reveal an empty magazine.

The kid, now holding a clearly useless firearm gets ready to bolt and the master says, 'I actually have need for an empty gun, so let me buy it from you' and gives the kid some money.

He then drops the gun in a cardboard box full of weapons indicating that this happened a lot.

Not an exact parallel to this story, but pretty close. To me, it indicates that, true or false, there could be something to gain by recognizing that an aggressor might be someone in need of help as well, and in fact, might not have been an aggressor at all had that help been proffered earlier.

Though, truth be told, I don't think I have that kind of charity in me. I prefer to help those who have sought out non-violent means of demonstrating their need for assistance.
posted by quin at 12:53 PM on March 28, 2008 [5 favorites]


Everyone at the dinner knows him, but no one finds the thing suspicious

This isn't at all suspicious to me. There are at least a dozen restaurants I frequent where everyone knows me and I literally can say, "The usual" and they know exactly what I want. And what I want can often be ridiculously convoluted. The fact that they'll go out of their way to satisfy me is precisely why I'm a regular customer there and have bothered to take the time to get to know everyone.
posted by dobbs at 12:56 PM on March 28, 2008


Maybe this is naive, but is this a sarcastic reaction to this?
posted by prefpara at 12:56 PM on March 28, 2008


Once again, those of you who are sure this is bullshit are revealing something about yourselves, not about this story.

Bullshit... er, poppycock! There's nothing wrong, nor even anything necessarily cynical about a healthy dose of skepticism. I think all of us have dealt with our fair share of people who have spun a yarn to recognize that no one is ever as smooth, fast thinking or graceful under pressure in the moment as they are when the story is told later.

I grant you that claims like "no mugger would ... " are reaches, but I don't think either doubting the story or accepting it on its face is revelatory of anything profound or trivial.
posted by psmealey at 12:57 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wait, I'm sorry, please ignore my last comment. It was very part-of-the-problem of me.
posted by prefpara at 12:57 PM on March 28, 2008


There's nothing wrong, nor even anything necessarily cynical about a healthy dose of skepticism.

Of course not—we all need a healthy dose of skepticism to get through life reasonably sane. I'm not objecting to skepticism, I'm objecting to reflex disbelief. Not "I feel uncomfortable with the article," which is normal and fine, but "it's not true," which is just sad.
posted by languagehat at 1:05 PM on March 28, 2008


I think my biggest problem with this story is in how it's related. I hope it's a true story. I really, really do. But my biggest problem with it is that transactions like the one described just aren't, in my experience, that simple, with clear lessons and heartwarming conclusions. Human interaction is messy, and I find it kind of implausible that it all happened as neatly as its written.

Which is a matter of preference: I'm sure it got edited like crazy. But I like the whole mess, not the edited mess, because I find the unedited mess a lot more convincing-it looks more like the warts-and-all reality I run into as a paramedic, where people do things that are bad for them again and again because people are complicated and life can be really surreal. Where cops really do try to help someone out again and again and eventually give up because, you know, the person more or less doesn't want to be helped. Where sometimes people with absolutely nothing in the world just do something nice for someone else just because, and can't tell you why.

In the world I inhabit a lot, I guess, even the happy endings are never neat. They're messy, and it's not entirely clear what happened to make whose life better, but everyone involved seems to come out feeling pretty good about the situation, and we all call it a "win".

It'll be interesting to see the rest of the story, because I'm sure there is one. With the amount of publicity this is getting, maybe the kid will show up to tell his side. On the other hand, God save me, my immediate cynical thought is "there are plenty of out-of-work actors who could play that part".

If you want to know what's wrong with America right now, that's a big part of it: we've been conditioned by the past few decades to never, ever take anything at face value, because everyone lies.
posted by scrump at 1:07 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


languagehat: the first thing reporters go out looking for is stories about people who managed to come to terms with would-be muggers.

Point taken, but this story fits perfectly into another journalistic cliche, that of the "man bites dog" story, so I don't think it's less likely to get published strictly on its own merits.

Once again, those of you who are sure this is bullshit are revealing something about yourselves, not about this story.

I'm basically an optimist about human nature, personally, but there's a heavy didactic undercurrent to this story that makes me doubt it. I guess I'm trying to weigh your comment about every mugger being a unique individual (which I agree with) with mdn's comments about how the story itself seems like it's trying to simply and flatten out the actors involved (which I also agree with).

(Also, please God, can we keep electionfilter out of this?)
posted by whir at 1:11 PM on March 28, 2008


Can we link in the X Files?
posted by Artw at 1:12 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


(On preview, scrump beat me to some of this, in a really well-put way. But I'll post anyway to nth his comment.)

This story is true. This story is false. Actually, it's both. That's the trouble.

If you're saying it's true, you're saying that the events happened, and happened as described, perhaps even only as described (and nothing else). If you're saying it's false, you're saying either that the events didn't happen at all, or, more likely, you're saying that there was a lot of other stuff that happened too which has been glossed over or edited out to make the narrative more coherent. Several of the sceptics here are reacting to the details being left out of the story. Most tantalizing to me: what else did they talk about at dinner? But the article skips those details. Maybe the guy didn't tell anyone, because he's not thinking about it, or he's already forgotten, with all the adrenaline of the event. Maybe he told his wife, or his mother, or his friends, but not the reporter, because the reporter didn't ask, or because the details of the kid's life that came out under questioning were too personal to share with the mass media, or maybe the editor trimmed the story after those details were submitted, to keep the story within the bounds of this article. So we can't say it did or did not happen, because as soon as anyone tells any story, it gets codified. Unfortunately, this story has been codified in a fairly brief way, and in such a way that allows us to confuse "dismissing the story" with "dismissing the event." We'd rather read it as a 1500 word feature than a 400 word fluff piece. But the 400 word fluff piece is more likely, unfortunately, to become a hot email forward. This exchange between a mugger and a victim (between two random data points of humanity) cries out to be dealt with in a way that isn't reductive, and that doesn't boil down to a "hey, people are good!" conclusion.

What would save the story, and the part most of us wanted to read more about, is doubt. Because, in a story like this, it's doubt that let's the reader in. Doubt on the kid's part. Doubt on the social worker's part. Doubt on the restaurant server's part, or the folks in the next booth when they recognize that this pair is clearly mis-matched, yet coming in together anyway. (Side note: while buying food for homeless people, I find it interesting to watch the conflict written in the faces of clerks struggling to deal simultaneously with two very different customer types.) Anyway, doubt suggests choice, and if it's presented, it makes the ultimate decision to do good things even more laudable. And, as readers, we can see that, even if we wouldn't take the same branch of the road this guy did, at least we would go through a few of the same moments of indecision.

Leaving aside how the article was written, it's interesting that many people here say this couldn't happen. Why do we doubt goodness more than badness? Some people spend their whole lives thinking, in private, generally unnoticed ways, about how to make the world better by their presence in it. It's not a matter of getting used, like Mathowie's dad's car story, because that's a related but slightly different thing, although the two are easily confused. This guy is active, not passive. There are people whose happiness comes from improving the lives of others. So getting mugged, to someone like this, is a way to take his normal inclinations and put them into practice in a way that makes more of a difference than just carefully sorting his recyclables at night. It was his time to shine, so to speak. Yes, it could have ended badly, but any moment that matters in life is one that can end badly.

He's a rare breed, yes, but he's not extinct. Just wish his story was written up better.
posted by roombythelake at 1:14 PM on March 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


Lemme hastily step back in here and say that I wasn't trying to pull an electionfilter derail with my last sentence: it was intended as an observation about what we consider normal behavior in our culture at the moment.
posted by scrump at 1:15 PM on March 28, 2008


"Once again, those of you who are sure this is bullshit are revealing something about yourselves, not about this story."

Wow, you are full of hate today. All I'm full of is cynicism, and that seems like a better thing to be full of. Also telling is the number of people who said basically those exact same words in the Kaycee thread. Right?

I've never been a social worker or a mugger, so I can't argue about that. But I have been robbed at gun point, lived in big cities, spent time talking to petty criminals, and I have been a dishwasher. In other words - Not an expert, but certainly not an oblivious idiot.

I also find it implausible that a social worker would have dinner with a person like this and not have a significant conversation. In fact wouldn't that conversation be the important part? He's yadda-yadda'ing over the part that should have been most significant if this were true.

I don't have to look hard to find plenty of great literature that is uplifting and empowering. Or non-fiction even. This is just a flimsy story seems to good to be true.
posted by Ragma at 1:15 PM on March 28, 2008


So, wait. In this story, are we the mugger or the social worker? Or are we the people at the restaurant? And what does the knife symbolize? What does the wallet represent? Does the wallet, or moreover what's inside it represent the ability to purchase or sell out one's humanity? Or does it symbolize a sort of communion of souls where only needs are met, and wants banished forever creating a scheme within which all men can become brothers?

I can't keep up.
posted by psmealey at 1:15 PM on March 28, 2008


no one is ever as smooth, fast thinking or graceful under pressure in the moment as they are when the story is told later.

Ya know, I've actually found that the reverse can also be true: people can be smoother under pressure than they later remember.

While I've never been mugged, I've been in some tense situations with friends where, for all intents and purposes, some higher spirit must have taken over my body to make me say and do the right things. I phrase it that way because in each instance that I can recall, people who were present would later say, "Man, wolf, you handled that like a pro," and all I can do is smile and reply, "I have no idea what I said or did, or how I knew what to do and say, but I'm glad as fuck it worked out right for us."
posted by lord_wolf at 1:16 PM on March 28, 2008


I don't doubt that lord_wolf, I have had those moments myself, and witnessed others capable of it as well. I guess I'm just saying that the string of events that followed the initial interaction/confrontation between the two so perfectly supported the eventual moral of the story, that I would fully expect the two to break into a Rodgers and Hart type number in the movie version of the story.
posted by psmealey at 1:23 PM on March 28, 2008


I will say that listening to Diaz tell the story in his own voice made it seem a lot more believable than just reading it on the page, for some reason, even though the accounts are pretty much exactly the same.
posted by whir at 1:23 PM on March 28, 2008


Some day soon the social worker will be sitting on Oprah's set, just finishing his incredible story, the audience and host positively glowing with love and righteousness as they digest his words, and Oprah will take a deep breath, turn to the camera and introduce a 15 year old punk who comes loping out on the stage with his hands in his pockets, wearing a sheepish grin.

Then he will pull out a knife and stab BOTH Oprah and the social worker, and possibly Oprah's best friend Gayle, if she's there.

WAKE UP SHEEPLE. If this story were just a little stabbier it would be a lot truer.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:29 PM on March 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


To the people who are complaining about the implausibility of this whole story or its details:

True stories, based on actual experiences, don't often sound true because they do not conform to our standard of characterization, story arc, etc. This is why many "fiction" stories feel more "true" than a real life story. For example:

True life story: A friend of mine, at the last minute, decided to drive to Times Square from the midwest to celebrate New Years (in the 80s). It took a few days, but they literally arrived right as the cops were closing the roads off, gates behind them. They found a parking space on the street within 15 minutes, and walked a few blocks to Times Square in time to see the ball drop.

As a "story" this is implausible! How could this happen! Everything lining up so perfectly, no inconvenience, finding a parking space in NEW YORK?

But it happened. However, it could never be a "story" because it is simply impossible to believe (due to circumstance). I say all this because the same can happen with our preconceived notions of characters. Much of the criticisms people have is a) a mugger wouldn't act like that, b) someone being mugged wouldn't act like that.

Well, yeah, they wouldn't in a STORY, a made up story with any plausibility, but that has no bearing whatsoever on actual events. Actual events RARELY conform to our notions of "that makes sense" or "of course he would do that".

The truth is that real life is full of people's individual odd reactions (good and bad). It is not outside the realm of possibility for two people interacting with each other in real life act like this, even if it might fall into our category of "unbelievable."
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:30 PM on March 28, 2008 [10 favorites]


However, it could never be a "story" because it is simply impossible to believe

Well, it could never really be a "story" because it's not very interesting.

The New Year's Eve story is kind of a half anecdote that you pull out at a bar, and everyone goes "wow, cool... so what happened then?"

And then you say, "yeah but isn't that unbelieveable.".

And they say, "uh, yeah, dude I guess. But did you hook up with Claudia Schiffer or something?"

"No."

"Oh... anyway... "

And then the story dies.
posted by psmealey at 1:35 PM on March 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


True stories, based on actual experiences, don't often sound true because they do not conform to our standard of characterization, story arc, etc. This is why many "fiction" stories feel more "true" than a real life story.
I actually completely disagree with this.

My suspicions immediately go up as soon as any story that's described as being "true" starts conforming to narrative convention, and that's precisely what's bothering me about this story. In my experience, "true" stories rarely conform to narrative convention, and that's one way of distinguishing them from the fictions.
posted by scrump at 1:39 PM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Here's a curious thing: I have no difficulty buying Astro Zombie's story, but I totally struggle with the original story. Armed teenage mugger decides he's going to go have dinner with a social worker, immediately having deprived him of his wallet and his coat? Wasn't he worried about getting arrested? I mean, I know that there are some dumb crooks out there, but wasn't he worried that it was a set-up and the social worker would have his buddies at the diner call the cops while they sat eating?

And who mugs people for money for food anyway? Money for drugs, money for sneakers, money to take your girl on a date, perhaps. But if you were simply hungry, I suspect you'd go shoplifting rather than engaging in armed robbery.

Which isn't to say that there isn't something in the general story. I was also poor when I was a kid. Too poor even to afford magazines, so I used to steal them from this record shop. On one occasion, the owner saw me, followed me outside, and asked for it back. When I gave it to him, he took a look at what I was reading, and said, 'Ah, go on, you might as well keep it.'

It didn't stop me stealing, but I didn't steal anything from his store again -- despite continuing to frequent the place.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:39 PM on March 28, 2008


Extremely unlikely things happen all the time. It is far more unlikely for unlikely things to NOT happen. Uhh, you know what I mean. That's not the issue.

The reason this story doesn't convince me is not because it seems unlikely, it's because it seems false. Pretty significant difference. There is something important wrong with the story as it is being presented that makes it not work. I'm not sure if it is a fabrication or an omission, or a combination of those things but it just ain't soap. For me.

The Times Square story works fine.

Should I not say these things because it happens to be about a story that has a moral I agree with? If the message is the one you want to hear, who cares what the medium is? I don't buy that.

It's ok if you belive the story, it's ok if you are willing to ACCEPT the story even if you don't believe it, but it is also OK to NOT believe the story as presented and have it that disbelief not be the result of a cold dead heart, naiveté or or cynicism.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:43 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


This discussion has certainly illuminated how critically important framing is to a story.

I think it also demonstrates how attuned we are to advertising in all its forms and how determined we are never to be taken in by it. I would suggest that that sensitivity to the constant stream of increasingly subtle attempts to sell us on something (witness the constant SEO issues metafilter has) is the reason that many people are reacting with strong skepticism. It's not a general cynicism that extends to all things and all men, it's a specific cynicism that is appropriate given that journalists can be just as manipulative as copywriters.
posted by prefpara at 1:44 PM on March 28, 2008 [5 favorites]


I like this story from my hometown.
posted by electroboy at 1:46 PM on March 28, 2008


It does not strike me as incredible that the mugger would decide to have dinner with the social worker. People decide very rapidly whether or not they trust each other, and I think it's plausible that the mugger heard sincerity in Diaz's voice, got a good vibe from him, and took him and his offer seriously. It's a little harder for me to picture him turning around and talking to him once he had already started to, like, bail. Anyway, I should really stop talking about this until I get home and actually hear what Diaz said.
posted by prefpara at 1:50 PM on March 28, 2008


it's a specific cynicism that is appropriate given that journalists can be just as manipulative as copywriters
More than, I'd say. As a society, we tend to expect copywriters to attempt to manipulate us, but until fairly recently, the US had a huge blind spot to the possibility that the media would engage in the same thing. Particularly the print media. And we wound up finding out the hard way about that. We always considered copywriters sleazy manipulators, but journalists got a free pass for decades, and used it with a vengeance.
posted by scrump at 1:50 PM on March 28, 2008


Scrump: "In my experience, "true" stories rarely conform to narrative convention, and that's one way of distinguishing them from the fictions."

That's what I said.

Our disagreement then, is that you feel like this real life story conforms to fiction devices, whereas I do not. The mugger isn't acting like the mugger should! The person being mugged isn't acting the person being mugged should! The scenario of them in the diner doesn't make any sense!

As a piece of fiction, this thing fails. I am agreeing with you that true stories rarely conform to narrative convention, which is why this thing dings "probably happened, although unbelievable" in my head, rather than "great story."
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:50 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry I misinterpreted you, whimsicalnymph. And, yes, you're right: the story does read (to me) like a stereotypical parable, which is what sets off my alarm bells.
posted by scrump at 1:54 PM on March 28, 2008


whimsicalnymph, you may not be reading enough cheezy, shmaltzy fiction. This story absolutely conforms to the workhorse narratives of mediocre fiction. Check out, e.g. the short stories of L.M. Montgomery, now on Gutenberg.
posted by prefpara at 1:55 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm in the process of writing/preparing/practicing a story for The Moth, and I'm here to tell you -- you have to throw out so, so much stuff just to distill real life down into a compelling short story. It's not that the stuff that gets thrown out doesn't relate, or the stuff that gets left in isn't true -- it's just that there's so much that happens all the time that just doesn't relate at all to what you think the point is at the time.

Like Rorschach says in The Watchmen, "Existence is random ... no meaning save what we choose to impose." Anyone writing or telling a story has to throw stuff out - and anyone commenting on it online is gonna call bullshit.
posted by chinese_fashion at 1:56 PM on March 28, 2008


whimsicalnymph: As a piece of fiction, this thing fails.

I was just thinking that. I think part of the problem I have with this is that it reminds me strongly of bad fiction, like a Very Special Episode of Family Ties or something. Something that had the more of the countours of a Raymond Carver story would probably seem more believable to me. For example, I don't have any trouble believing the story electroboy linked above, though its details are pretty fantastic.
posted by whir at 1:58 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Story true or story false, I've learned sooo much about every person in this thread.
The Blue is a Fascinating Rorsach.
posted by Dizzy at 2:01 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Story's false. I've never met a social worker who could eat out, pay for two and then kick down an extra twenty.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:04 PM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


yo, im late, whats with the pile-on-interrobang? his opinion is valid, and...

OMG CYNICISM ON TEH INTERNETS!!??




really?
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 2:08 PM on March 28, 2008


To whir:

I wonder if, out of cynicism, life wearing us down, what not, many people find it easier to believe improbability-filled real life stories with negative endings than improbability-filled real life stories with positive endings?

There seems to be (and I often feel it myself), such a knee-jerk reaction to anything trying to demonstrate the magnanimity of humans rather than their flaws.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 2:13 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


As a girl, all the times I've been mugged I was too worried about getting raped or stabbed to go out of my way to be nice.

But magically, the muggers (out of four tries) only got something from me once; my camera.

Obstinacy isn't wise, but sometimes, they don't expect you to resist. And sometimes muggers aren't as hard as they look, either. Sometimes they just need a little pain, in their shins and groins, specifically, to move on to a less-problematic target.

If I ever get mugged by a young man or woman less than five feet tall (which is how tall I am), I'll be sure to be extra nice to him/her... because I would genuinely feel bad then. It'd be a real bitch to be a little person mugger.

In a way, I hope this story is true, simply for the fact that it brought out a comment like Astro Zombie's.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:22 PM on March 28, 2008


It does not strike me as incredible that the mugger would decide to have dinner with the social worker. People decide very rapidly whether or not they trust each other, and I think it's plausible that the mugger heard sincerity in Diaz's voice, got a good vibe from him, and took him and his offer seriously.

I think only someone who has never actually known any muggers or never been mugged could think this. People who go out mugging people at knife point generally don't do so in a laid back, sociable, conversational mood. They tend to be pretty desperate -- or they'd choose another, less dangerous way of making their money. And they want to get in there, get the deed done, and get gone as fast as possible. In order to actually do what they need to do, they tend to have to psych up themselves up to garner enough aggression to pull off their performance -- and the idea that someone, particularly a teenager -- would simply let down those barriers on the basis of some gesture is inconceivable to me.

Now I've seen America's Dumbest Criminals too, so I know that you can't generalize completely, and there are exceptions to every rule, but by and large, the kind of person that decides they're going to hook up with their victim because they've got a 'sincere voice' are not the same people who choose mugging as a means of making a quick buck.

It's a little harder for me to picture him turning around and talking to him once he had already started to, like, bail.

I don't find Diaz's account of his own actions and motivations implausible at all. It's the account of the muggers response to those actions that I find implausible. Is it possible that there might be a mugger out there that fancies spending the evening having dinner with his victim? Everything is possible, but it's far, far from likely. Indeed, I'd be very happy to offer very long odds against such an event happening.

I'm curious as to why we aren't given just that little bit more information here? For example, if this was a thirteen year old kid who had been kicked out of the family home, and was lonely and scared on the streets for the first time, then the account becomes more plausible than if it's a nineteen year old gang member who has already done several stints in juvie and is simply looking to 'get paid'. I suppose Diaz's account of his own actions seem more likely in the former scenario than the latter too, but you'd have thought he would have shared something he learned about the kids situation during their tete a tete dinner.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:26 PM on March 28, 2008


Something that had the more of the countours of a Raymond Carver story would probably seem more believable to me.

Ha! My immediate reaction to the discussion about narrative convention was, "Hey, this would have made a perfect Carver story."

Make the diner a little shabbier, give them each a few beers over dinner, dwell a little on the unlikelihood that their brief moment of connection will really change anything, and you're there. The plot's fine, it's just the framing details that are too cheerful.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:28 PM on March 28, 2008


He's got pictures at the diner (I suppose) on his myspace page.
posted by The Straightener at 2:28 PM on March 28, 2008


I'm a mugger, and my biggest problem to date is trying to figure out where to store all these &?%$ coats.
posted by Shepherd at 2:29 PM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Knee-jerk cynicism abounds. It rings true to me, it's entirely plausible, so it's true as far as I'm concerned. Disbelieving it is an equally fine response, I think. But, enjoy going over every scrap of narrated human kindness looking for the lies. Enjoy that life.

But, it's ironic, because it's that same outlook that, in my experience, drives a lot of adolescent criminal behavior. By which, of course, I mean that when you perceive everyone around you to be a hustler of one sort or another, there is zero incentive not to do the same. Sure, people occasionally tell stories of how playing by the rules and getting ahead, but there's no way they're telling the whole truth. They had to run some sort of game to get there, they just got away clean.

I mean, the guy's a social worker in New York City, then his entire job is dealing with violent-prone, disaffected people. You don't think he's been exposed to, if not trained in, violence and crisis prevention techniques? I have, and my job probably doesn't involve people half so unhinged. What, once he leaves the office, his training and sensibilities vanish and he no longer knows how to deal with the people he deals with all day, every day, for a living?

Or, what, the idea he's blowing his trumpet to get attention? The six figure NPR book deal? Indeed. Do you understand what storycorps is?

Would this be better? Julio is walking around the mall, perhaps, and sees story corps and thinks to himself. "Man, I have a really interesting story. But, you know, I don't want to be gauche or immodest, I better keep it to myself." Or, perhaps he was thinking "Man, no one is every going to remember a social worker like me, maybe if I make up some story I'll be famous forever!" Because, in fact, he went into social work because of his deep seated need for public recognition.
posted by absalom at 2:34 PM on March 28, 2008 [7 favorites]


I don't think that we as humans are inherently evil. Most people (sociopaths excluded, perhaps) don't go around fucking up other people's lives just for the hell of it

Problem is there's enough sociopaths to misguide and force everyone else to fuck up other people's lives.

Then he will pull out a knife and stab BOTH Oprah and the social worker

That would be some lulz: the subject of a story perceived as unbelievable due to the constant depredation of the truth by sociopaths/marketers/journalists/politicians/media figures takes out a boss sociopath/marketer/journalist/politician/media figure, simultaneously destroying the feel-good story.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:36 PM on March 28, 2008


PS Peter McDermott: I assume that, as a social worker dealing with youth, his habit is to obscure rather than provide details for youth he has been involved with.
posted by absalom at 2:37 PM on March 28, 2008


As an NRA member and a Christian, I'm disgusted this guy didn't shoot the perp.
posted by Eideteker at 2:38 PM on March 28, 2008


Chicken Soup for the Social Worker's Soul!
posted by Eideteker at 2:43 PM on March 28, 2008


[This mugger doesn't act like my mugger] is not an argument against this story.

(Which seems to be prevalent in all comments that go something like, "I have experience with muggers and they are like X", implying that therefore the mugger in this story is not a plausible mugger.)

Same logic:

Your mother doesn't act like my mother...

(Implying therefore that your mother isn't as much a mother as my mother? What? That is ridiculous.)
posted by whimsicalnymph at 2:49 PM on March 28, 2008


Your favourite mugger sucks.
posted by Artw at 2:50 PM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


At least it's not that goddamn christmas shoes song.
posted by shmegegge at 2:51 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


However, it could never be a "story" because it is simply impossible to believe

As people above said, it's not that the story is hard to believe, it's that it's too pat and cliched. "whoever takes away your coat, give him your shirt also" kind of thing, y'know? The kid takes away the wallet, so Diaz offers him also his jacket - and the kid sees the light. But we never hear anything about the actual person who supposedly was transformed by this experience. The only things offered about the mugger are that he was confused by the offer of the jacket, and then that somehow he ended up in the diner, after Diaz had said something to the effect of "I'm just going for dinner - you can come with me or not".

But how would that interchange really go down? If he'd actually got the wallet and the guy says, let's go to dinner, doesn't it seem like the wallet would get returned while they were walking to the place? Why does he never mention what this teenager's story is, where he's from, why he mugged him that night? Or what about where he went afterward? It is just such an obvious parable with almost no detail about the individual involved, so that it comes off sounding fake. That doesn't mean it necessarily is (it seems weird he'd make it up since he'd surely be found out), but it would have been a much more interesting tale if he'd talked about the boy he'd met and not his own christ-like behavior or his mother's pride.

Not that he should be stopped from sharing these things, but again, people get so excited about the oddity of the story that they forget whether this would even end up making any difference to the kid. Maybe it did and maybe it was just a reasonably successful mugging for him, because he got $20 and a meal out of it in the end. It's not like people who mug are somehow evil robots incapable of human interaction. They're just humans who have chosen to use force and fear to gain something on this particular occasion. If one use of force and fear ended up morphing into a weird evening where this nice, kinda lonely guy paid for a meal, that doesn't mean you'll never use force and fear again. It doesn't mean it necessarily changed anything in the kid's perspective. Who knows. We really have no sense of what the kid's perspective was, before or after.
posted by mdn at 2:52 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Your favourite mugger sucks.

According to whimsicalnymph, so does your mother.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:53 PM on March 28, 2008


Of course, mdn, that could just mean the guy is a bad storyteller/writer. (I haven't heard the audio yet though, will do so tonight).
posted by agregoli at 2:55 PM on March 28, 2008


Or, what, the idea he's blowing his trumpet to get attention? The six figure NPR book deal? Indeed. Do you understand what storycorps is?

I'll never understand why so many in this and similar threads need to harp on such things as all or nothing propositions. Why can't it simply be a story cobbled together from one or two real-life occurrences, some minor embellishments and a few if I had it to do over again, here's what I would have dones?

Have none of you folks ever taken a real-life incident and spun some mythology or manufactured some serendipity around it, not for personal gain or enrichment, but for merely entertainment or didactic purposes? I'm willing to believe that this story is essentially true, but (obviously, or we wouldn't be talking about it) it just seems to have all the earmarks of a parable, and that diminishes its credibility.

And yes, I agree that the reflexive negativity that characterizes so much of is posted in the Blue is corrosive and a huge bummer, surely there are elements to this story are too good to be true.

And as for truth being stranger than fiction, well obviously. That's why unscrupulous publishers get hacks like James Fry to sell his book as a memoir rather than fiction. If people believe that an account has some base in reality (even if it's poorly written), it'll sell better than a beautifully crafted tome of prose.
posted by psmealey at 3:00 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


According to whimsicalnymph, so does your mother.

Allright, that's a stabbin'!
posted by Artw at 3:08 PM on March 28, 2008


According to whimsicalnymph, so does your mother.

Allright, that's a stabbin'!


Hilarious.

But out of context, fellas, out of context.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 3:09 PM on March 28, 2008


Three things:

1. This story is the best.

2. Weird shit happens all the time. ALL the weird shit that happens isn't going to be negative.

3. Mathowie has now told us, indirectly, why metafilter is here at all; it's cos of how he was raised. And when we're bad mefites, we are the 'friend' keying the truck, folks.
posted by tiny crocodile at 3:16 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


If he's a social worker, how come he didn't follow up with this kid? I don't know many social workers who would let someone go like that, even without the knife.
posted by Eideteker at 3:17 PM on March 28, 2008


I believe this kind of thing happens all the time. I was the victim of a crime about 25 years ago, and things turned around a bit for me, too.
I have kind of forgotten about this, put it out of my mind for years.

I was very young, walking alone late at night when suddenly a guy who had tried to strike up a conversation a couple of blocks earlier had a knife to my neck and pulled me between buildings back to the alley. I weighed around 98 lbs and was pretty defenseless.Things were going probably as you might expect, but I just started saying some kind of shit, I don't even remember, but some combination of pleading and trying to connect to his humanity.

At some point he stopped and turned around. He was very emotional, maybe crying. There came a point where he was turning back - I just yelled "GO" and he took off running.

I collapsed.

There are some salient details I am leaving out - but what I want to get across is, weird shit happens and you never know how you react to things til you're in the middle of it, and I was very lucky. I was at least 10 years younger and half the size of this guy, but I turned the situation around.

Now I'm very weirded out because I don't ever dwell on this, and never have written it down.

And no, we never wound up in a diner.
posted by readery at 3:37 PM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's amazing what eight years of Bush will do to people's sense of credulity when it comes to someone doing something decent.

I haven't had any years of Bush, since I'm Canadian, and I don't believe a word of this story. If it happened, it's edited to the point of stereotype.

I have to add that all of these stories- the "come dine with us" one referenced earlier, the "old lady gets her would-be rapist to pray with her" one, and any other apocryphal or otherwise modified "turn the other cheek" narrative have one important common theme, and it's the LONE criminal. Unfortunately a lot of street crime, including the example about the kids in Surrey BC beating the old Sikh guy to death mentioned above, is congregate crime. It's ugly, it's fast, it involves a group humiliating a victim, and no amount of turning any cheeks or appealing to the perps' humanity is going to help anybody. If I were alone on a subway platform with a "kid" I'd try some fancy oratory too, but if anbody thinks this says anything at all about managing crime, they're mistaken. This victim is a good guy. He's also lucky.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:46 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Of course, mdn, that could just mean the guy is a bad storyteller/writer.

Yeah, I'm not doubting that. In fact, I think I've been arguing for that more than for some scenario where Diaz just makes up the whole thing. Basically what bothers me about the story is how solipsistic the whole thing sounds. It seems too plausible to me that Diaz wants to have a perfect save-a-kid parable, so when certain events transpire, he responds and understands them in such a way that they fit that pre-formed structure, never actually dealing with the other consciousness. He sees a kid with a knife and thinks, "poor desperate kid"; he offers him the jacket and reads the look as being confused by kindness; he suggests dinner and understands the acceptance as the teen awakening to other's generosity; he gives him money and takes the knife and imagines now that the kid's life is changed.

But for all we know, the kid had robbed people before, thought this guy looked like an easy enough target; when he was offered the jacket thought the guy must be lonely and was kind of annoyed but sort of felt guilty, agreed to dinner because he was caught off guard and perhaps curious, spent dinner mostly listening rather than telling much about himself, by the end felt he'd earned the $20 for being the guy's dinner companion, gave him the knife 'cause he had others and it was simpler than making it a thing, and left to go mug someone else. All I'm saying is that we're the ones supplying the meaning of the actions of the mugger. Just because he gave the wallet back and went to dinner doesn't mean this had any deep significance.

He was a human being capable of feeling guilty and eating dinner before Diaz said anything. And even after an encounter like this, he's perfectly capable of taking advantage of people again. The motivations for these things are so much more complicated than this story seems to suggest.
posted by mdn at 3:50 PM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


A challenge for anyone who thinks this story is bogus:

MAKE UP A STORY JUST AS GOOD. PUT YOUR REAL NAME ON IT. PUT YOUR REAL PICTURE ON IT. POST IT RIGHT HERE.
posted by beagle at 3:50 PM on March 28, 2008


When I was knee high to a bleacher and playing Regenstrief Boys Club basketball even though I didn't really want to, my grandpa and dad were in the stands encouraging me to steal the basketball. I don't remember this, but apparently I went up to the kid with the ball, held out my hands and asked "Can I please have it?"
posted by sciurus at 3:54 PM on March 28, 2008


PUT YOUR REAL PICTURE ON IT.

Make the challenge impossible, why don't you?
posted by Artw at 3:54 PM on March 28, 2008


Artw: Just put the picture on Flickr and link to it.
posted by beagle at 3:57 PM on March 28, 2008


Is this story a lie? Unanswerable by any fool posting here.

Does it appeal to your personal aesthetic for stories? Now that's what we're arguing about!

Some people hate stories of human redemption. I used to be one of those people. Then I changed.
posted by ferdydurke at 4:03 PM on March 28, 2008


Also I resent the implication that i don't lie constantly while posting to MeFi.
posted by Artw at 4:03 PM on March 28, 2008


Thanks for that readery. It reminded me of a story I was told years ago, that I had forgotten all about.

When I was a teenager, I attended an intensive course in German, which was offered in Dublin. One of the tutors was an older German-born gentleman, and in one class he told us about his life in Germany during the war. He was a small child during the second world war - his father was killed in the first week of it, his stepfather in the last week.

When, at the end of the war, the Russian soldiers overran the city he was in (I think it was Berlin), they were looking for women. To rape. That's what soldiers do, sometimes. His mother, a young woman, was a prime target. A solider appeared at the door of their apartment, which was upstairs in an apartment building. He demanded that the women in the apartment come out. The grandmother, who lived with the family, went to the door, in the hope that seeing an older lady, the soldier would be disappointed and would try somewhere else. This was starting to work when the tutor's younger brother, who was just a baby, started crying. This gave away the fact that a woman of child bearing years lived in the apartment. The soldier immediately demanded that he be given the child. The grandmother had no option but to fetch the baby. The soldier took the baby in his arms, and then dangled it over the bannisters, threatening to drop it unless the young woman was produced. A terrible moment passed.

Suddenly, the solder stopped what he was doing, handed the baby back to the grandmother, and left.

The tutor's theory was that, after the horrors of the war, the Russian soldier had been terribly hungry for human warmth and contact. Hence the intention to rape. When he held the baby, he suddenly had the warmth he'd been looking for, and he became human, and humane, again.

I have no proof or evidence for this story, but I believed him.
posted by tiny crocodile at 4:04 PM on March 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


(krinklyfig - I was thinking of the same Zen story)

(Given there’s some veracity to the story) that’s some bad ass Kung Fu right there.

“I hate to be a cynic but if he'd ended up getting stabbed we'd a) not have heard about this at all or b) debating about how stupid he was for confronting his mugger.”

Yeah. But some idiots can find something wrong with anything. That’s why they’re idiots. Had it been me I probably would have killed him on reflex and spent a long time regretting it.
I mean, it should be instructive that I’m trying to unlearn those reflexes.
What Diaz did *is* a superior path. (Again, given the veracity - etc)
He struck at the core of his attacker, not merely at his physical body.
He turned an enemy into a friend, disarmed a potential threat to others, and created a potential advocate. With engagement he saved not only potentially some other people’s lives, but probably the mugger’s life as well.

All I’d’ve done was fill a hole.
Destroying an enemy without harming his body? Bad ass.

And hell, I’m not going to armchair quarterback the guy. Something made him decide to take that risk. It’s his risk to take. And as it turns out it was the right choice. You ask me it’s the right instinct as well. Manifestly so, given the way it turned out.

Even so, if he’d gotten stabbed maybe he felt its worth risking his life to try. It is his risk to take.
I’ve had a number of knives pulled on me. Been cut. One of the better experiences I had roughly mirrored the butterfly knife scene in “Streets of Fire.”
But humiliating one’s opponent, no matter how gratifying (and, yeah, it is gratifying) or superior one’s skill and accomplishment - you still have an opponent.
If you kill him, you still have other people like him. Or his friends.
Doesn’t mean you have to submit to everyone who wants to mess you up (IMHO quite the opposite), but in this instance the mugger was walking away and the guy had the option.
To my mind it’s worth taking it. Particularly to destroy an enemy. At the very least that particular guy is not going to mug him again. And he didn’t have to exert force to accomplish that end.

But it’s a good idea to hand your wallet over in a mugging anyway. If they take it and go - good deal, all you lost was money and some trouble. If you get the vibe they’re looking to do you harm, it’s a great distraction to make an opening to run or do whatever you have to do that you think appropriate.
As it is, this guy thought this was appropriate. And it worked. Success is the final arbiter of any judgement on a violent situation. If he dropped his pants and spread peanut butter on his ass and the mugger ran like hell never to bother him again - ok, that worked too. If I killed him, the mugger would never bother me again. But then, I’ve killed someone. Guy might have a mom, dad, family, whatever. Plus the cops wondering if I went too far (probably not, he had a knife, but still - hassle) So, successful, but with a cost. And no change to the environment other than maybe a boost of my rep so people don’t mess with me. And really - what message does that send?
Nah, however way you look at it, Diaz’s move is a superior path (given the option).

“Everyone took advantage of me, even really close friends treated me like shit because they knew they could get away with it and I'd let them.”

Whole other thing. This guy engaged this mugger. It was a learning experience. It costs nothing to be polite and considerate. Doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat.
There is a rigorous discipline to social work and a demanding of personal responsibility from people that is a strong component of that.

Re-read the story, the guy created a learning experiance for a young teen who was obviously misguided and desperate and would have done some damage before eventually, perhaps, running into someone like me.
He didn’t just harm him, or defend himself, he destroyed the teen’s worldview. All the master strategists agree this is the highest form of mastery.
It’s not just a “make nice” story.
Sure, the scriptures say ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘offer him your cloak’ but this is also textbook Sun Tzu.



“If you are thinking a year ahead, sow a seed. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking one hundred years ahead, educate people.” - chinese proverb


(Incidentally reading some of the comments vs. self aggrandizement here I’m reminded of the Mr.Show bits where the two guys rag on each other - “now you’re talking - great guy” stuff. Just kinda funny thinking of Diaz in that.)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:08 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


A knife-wielding teen vs. old man story from yesterday's news, that hopefully will also make it to StoryCorps.
posted by jaimev at 4:11 PM on March 28, 2008


"Be kind, remember that everyone is fighting a difficult battle" -Plato
posted by Skorgu at 4:31 PM on March 28, 2008


If you want to feed your pessimistic side, there's a person posting to the boing boing comment thread claiming Julio is a fraud and that he knows him in person, etc, (cmd/ctrl F for "boombotz") No judgments from me either way, just passing it along
posted by neustile at 4:34 PM on March 28, 2008


All the Boing Boing debunker's comments can be viewed on his Boing Boing user page.
posted by washburn at 4:54 PM on March 28, 2008


Busted
posted by Ragma at 5:00 PM on March 28, 2008


At the same time though, the Boing Boing debunker, "Boombotz," seems to be a using a new user account, and himself tells some pretty tall tales about the social worker, who in his version of events is some sort of maniac, who gets thrown out of resturants for pretending to throw forks at babies, and such. Also a bit suspicious. So, who knows.
posted by washburn at 5:05 PM on March 28, 2008


Busted? I dunno. Could be, could not be, but either way the debunker paints this guy as the devil, so much so it's nearly ludicrous.

There's also this at comment 31 over there: "To anyone feeling a bit skeptical, I work for StoryCorps and can vouch for the fact that all of our stories are vetted and fact-checked before they are produced for radio."

Who to believe? What a crazy world...
posted by roombythelake at 5:08 PM on March 28, 2008


That boombotz guy is awesome in a net.kook kind of way, but I wouldn't exactly say credible.

Theory 2: Julio had a nicer coat and wanted to impart some "kindness".
Rebuttal to Theory 2: Julio doesn't have nice things.


jaimev, that story really fires off my BS detector too, and again it's for kind of formalistic reasons. Especially little details like the salty old Marine kicking the young punk in the balls; it just seems way too much like how people want to believe the world works, and not messy and unresolved enough for what real life sort of feels like to me.

In thinking about these stories and whether I'm cynical or not, though, I've begun to think that maybe what I really have is an aesthetic objection to the way they're told. Like I'm trying to imagine if the Diaz story was instead being told in, say, a This American Life segment, and it featured lots of sort of stammering and qualification on the part of Diaz about how, well, maybe the kid didn't get anything out of it, who can say in the big city, but maybe, just maybe I changed his life a teensy little bit for the better...

I think that that sort of framing of the story would probably ring a lot more true to me. So I don't think I'm cynical about human nature in general, but I do think I'm cynical about the framing of narratives in order to make a moral point. (This is undoubtedly because of the frequent of narrative to insincerely get me to change my mind by politicians and advertisers, but that's a whole other story.)
posted by whir at 5:08 PM on March 28, 2008


hah. Well, I just found it hard to believe someone could be that stupid, since obviously someone would know him from somewhere and get to the bottom of whether the story was true, but although it's word against word, I am inclined to think Joey Park sounds more believable than Diaz.

so he did turn all of his cheeks, as in, kiss my ass, suckers!
posted by mdn at 5:13 PM on March 28, 2008


The guy from boingboing who works at StoryCorps has a bit more to say on the fact-checking process, his comments being collectively viewable on his profile page.
posted by roombythelake at 5:15 PM on March 28, 2008


If this dude was a fame and glory-hog, he sure wouldn't have chosen a career as a social worker.

Or to report the story on NPR.
posted by nax at 5:35 PM on March 28, 2008


I guess I'm trying to weigh your comment about every mugger being a unique individual (which I agree with) with mdn's comments about how the story itself seems like it's trying to simply and flatten out the actors involved (which I also agree with).

Stories, unless they're told by great storytellers, inevitably simplify and flatten. Go read Tolstoy and then try to figure out how he makes everything seem so real. The fact that the story is not Tolstoyan in its depth and conviction does not make it false.

Busted

Right. Some guy who goes by "boombotz" spews shit anonymously, and that carries far more conviction than Diaz. Does this really sound credible to you?
Julio is the antithesis of caring and the fact that he works as a social worker has been the greatest contradiction that I have ever witnessed. He also claims to be a minister, all the while, still bragging about his sexual conquests and love for prostitutes. I remember one occasion when he even said that he would marry a whore and let his friends have sex with her on their wedding night for payment.

This "sense of humor" goes far beyond disrespecting women. In the wake of the recent campus killings, Julio went so far as to say that he would shove another student in between him and the gunman in order to avoid being shot. He went on to say that he would thank the victims of that "martyred" student for raising such a heroic child. He is the epitome of crude and the personification of thoughtlessness. I have never known anyone that I thought deserved to be buried alive until I crossed paths with this chromosome deficient mongoloid. I'm astounded by his ability to even form words, much less figure out this pathetic scheme to make himself out as some sort of urban saint.
But hey, if it gives you pleasure to believe that everyone sucks, more power to you.

Once again, anyone who hasn't heard the actual audio of Diaz telling his story shouldn't be coming to any decisions about it.
posted by languagehat at 5:49 PM on March 28, 2008


If this dude was a fame and glory-hog, he sure wouldn't have chosen a career as a social worker.

Or to report the story on NPR.


Yeah, he'd just choose to suddenly be rich and famous, and be interviewed on Letterman.
Sometimes you take what you can get...

But as whir says above, it's true that if he'd told the story differently I'd be more sympathetic. And I've been trying to keep that in mind and believe it did happen & what I don't like is just his interpretation of it... but this kind of specific calling-out, with details like the jujitsu class and the prostitute jokes just seemed more credible to me, though of course it is just two opposing claims, and in the end, could well be that they are both telling the truth (the naysayer just says Julio is a self-aggrandizing jerk, not that he was with him that night).
posted by mdn at 5:57 PM on March 28, 2008


Ah, nice story. Thanks for posting this, chinese_fashion.
posted by homunculus at 5:59 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Once again, anyone who hasn't heard the actual audio of Diaz telling his story shouldn't be coming to any decisions about it.

It's like Kaycee Nicole all over again!
posted by interrobang at 6:02 PM on March 28, 2008


Yeah, indeed. I mean, if that story sounds like the more plausible one to you. . . well, I guess i'm just speechless. Not with rage or anything, just with total and complete misunderstanding.

I mean, even assuming that one-post-BoingBoing hater is somehow in the same universe of credibility as a vetted NPR story, then I would assume that three-post BoingBoing StoryCorp worker's word would be three times as credible.

I mean, a StoryCorp initiative is a pretty serious, year long undertaking. And, the interviews appear to be a lot closer to 40 minute sit downs than drive my pith-ings. I suppose he could have say down and spun 40 minutes of gross exaggeration, misrepresentation, or outright lies. For what? It's helpful, I think, to imagine the expectation of someone going into an interview like this. Namely: That it's going to get mailed to you in CD form, and mailed to your local library to sit untouched in archival material until they outlaw libraries altogether.

Or, and for the sake of All Things Being Equal in our forum credit check, we must also assume the internet does not have "lulz".
posted by absalom at 6:08 PM on March 28, 2008


PS:

Now, the idea that he is attributing motives to kid that the kid may or may not have I understand. But, good lord, how do you expect oral history works? You sit down and give a cold, dispassionate account of the details of the significant parts of your life. He presumed certain motives and emotions at the time, and acted on them, and then projects those presumed emotions and motives onto his recalled encounter.

All the other eventualities suggested upthread *could* have been the truth, but I'll trust the word of the one person who sat down to dinner with the kid and. since we're presuming, I'll say had a conversation with him, possibly a lengthy one.
posted by absalom at 6:13 PM on March 28, 2008


I'm agnostic about the veracity of these stories, but I can't help pointing out how much cooler it would be for the boombotz version to be true.

Fork to the head, baby!
posted by washburn at 6:14 PM on March 28, 2008


I just want to say, now having listened to the recording that Diaz made, that I am essentially of the same mind about it. I don't get the sense that he's lying, though I wouldn't be totally shocked if he were, but I remain definitely uncomfortable with the way he presents and frames the story. It really seems like the mugger is just present in the story as a tool rather than as a person, though less so than in the written account.
posted by prefpara at 6:22 PM on March 28, 2008


Wow, I normally hate these kinds of stories about random acts of kindness, but this one actually made me smile. Good work!

I must be getting soft.
posted by cosmonik at 6:24 PM on March 28, 2008


Vetted? This is "he said, he said" and the other participant is a nameless, teenaged, would-be mugger. How the hell would you vet that story?

I'm sure they made sure he was really a social worker, but in terms of verifying his story it is literally impossible. Except by the 'mugger', but I am not sure I would buy THAT.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:29 PM on March 28, 2008


Geez, everyone's acting as if this is the only feel good story of the year, and if all the Cynical Meanies aren't brow beaten in to silence then that means there's no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy and you can't be in our MeFi Special People Club Wahhhhhh.

Maybe it's for real and maybe it's bullshit. Smells like bullshit to me, but there're plenty of other things to feel good about fer chrissakes.
posted by Scoo at 6:43 PM on March 28, 2008


the part of the story that rang true to me was when he asked the teen what he wanted to do with his life and got no answer.
posted by kolophon at 6:43 PM on March 28, 2008


And fwiw, I didn't see how the audio made any difference - it was almost exactly the same thing.

re: vetting the story, the storycorp worker just says they checked the guy's identity, kind of thing, not that there is any way to check the story itself. If I had been the editor I would have wanted to know what happened to the kid, and why Diaz didn't get any follow up info after they shared this special evening. Like I said, I would have asked more questions about the kid and strange dynamics, like the moment when he invited him to dinner - did he look like he was about to bolt? Did they talk about that over dinner? That seems like the most interesting and awkward moment, the choice when the kid can either run off or follow the guy to the diner. Why does he go? Do they talk on the way? etc.

Again, I have no idea what exactly took place, but in the end I feel pretty sure it's all around far more complicated, annoying, and generally messy than the little hallmark-y version we got.
posted by mdn at 6:52 PM on March 28, 2008


The supposed moral lesson here falls flat with me. If it's true? The guy got lucky.

When I have been mugged I got the distinct impression that anything but running or giving the dudes all my money was going to get me shot in the god damned face.

"Do you want my.."

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

Besides. What if I don't want to give somebody else all my hard earned money? What if I need it? Maybe I'd like to give that money to people who are as desperate but don't go around threatening to kill people.

Not sure why this is seen as some sort of Zen level of kindness we should all embrace. So we should just roll over to anybody desperate or fucked up enough to be willing to risk killing people for material gain? What? Sorry. I don't get how I'm supposed to see into every criminal soul and give them what is the fruits of my labor becuase THEY are the ones willing to take it from me by force. That's not treating anybody right as far as I'm concerned.

"Hey Mr. mugger? You look lonely. Wanna rape me while your at it? Maybe a few minutes round the world will complete you as a person. Hey, when your done I know some people you can rob and rape back at my place? That sound good?"
posted by tkchrist at 6:59 PM on March 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


tkchrist,

Yes, that's right. Our jobs are getting too dangerous. Please be sure to comply fully in the future.

Signed,

The Mugger Establishment
posted by FuManchu at 7:03 PM on March 28, 2008


People are funny and do unexpected things.

Nthing this. My sister and I were outside a coffeeshop in Chicago one day when a young dude approached us, pulled a knife and said "Give me your money." We were both really broke at the time and at the same time said "No." He looked surprised and crestfallen, and muttered as he walked away.

After, she and I were like what the fuck just happened? Did we really do that? Our response was immediate and heartfelt and it shifted the vibe such that our interlocutor was befuddled. People are funny and do unexpected things.
posted by generalist at 7:24 PM on March 28, 2008


They tend to be pretty desperate -- or they'd choose another, less dangerous way of making their money. And they want to get in there, get the deed done, and get gone as fast as possible. In order to actually do what they need to do, they tend to have to psych up themselves up to garner enough aggression to pull off their performance -- and the idea that someone, particularly a teenager -- would simply let down those barriers on the basis of some gesture is inconceivable to me.

It's not entirely inconceivable to me, though. Because the mugger has put himself in such an pumped up, brittle state of mind, he can be unbalanced by anything that deviates from the script. That unbalance could possibly result in his barriers coming down if his quarry does something that touches him in a human way - though that outcome is vanishingly unlikely. Most of the time it would result in the assailant simply running away, and it could also result in a violent response. It all depends on the situation. You don't always know how you are going to react when the knife is in your face, and you definitely can't predict the actions of the one that holds the knife.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:28 PM on March 28, 2008


Metafilter: our interlocutor was befuddled
posted by roombythelake at 7:30 PM on March 28, 2008


After, she and I were like what the fuck just happened? Did we really do that? Our response was immediate and heartfelt and it shifted the vibe such that our interlocutor was befuddled. People are funny and do unexpected things.

There's nothing particularly remarkable about that situation at all. I have done exactly the same in New York, Seattle and SF many, many times in the late 80s and early 90s with exactly the same outcome you saw.

People get into trouble incredibly easily, and do whatever they can to get out of it as soon as it dawns on them that they are in well over their heads. What you describe happens a helluva lot more often than people getting killed in random street crime.
posted by psmealey at 7:32 PM on March 28, 2008


Signed,

The Mugger Establishment


Btw, where are your headquarters located? I'd love to drop by. I have a bone to pick with you.
posted by psmealey at 7:34 PM on March 28, 2008


Uh, just to clarify, what was remarkable to me was our simultaneous, almost unthinking response, and the knife-wielders immediate retreat.
posted by generalist at 7:38 PM on March 28, 2008


And that he almost looked sad.
posted by generalist at 7:41 PM on March 28, 2008


All stories are bullshit. They are constructed from a set of conventions, and we agree to make the conventions invisible to ourselves. The conventions vary from century to century and even from decade to decade. The problem with the original story is that it conforms to conventions of about 1958, while the narrative conventions we're used to right now end with the mugger, high on drugs, stabbing the victim (who is now a blonde white female)( and the victim's unborn baby while he's at it). Everyone is very rightly suspicious of those outmoded narrative conventions, but they don't recognize that their sense of truth is guided by fashionable narrative conventions.
posted by Peach at 8:46 PM on March 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


The Mugger Establishment

That's the name of my new band.
posted by cazoo at 9:54 PM on March 28, 2008


If I wanted fame and fortune, telling my story on NPR is probably not the best strategy. Just sayin'
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:05 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the reminder of the Christmas Burglar, Elsa, I loved that story. I still think I've heard this story or a variation thereof very recently, like in the last month or so - has Diaz given a specific date of when the incident occurred?

Honestly, while I accept the story, I can't help but wonder how he got to be such pals with the dishwashers at the restaurant - not some sort of biased snobbery, mind, just that it's not really a job that allows for a lot of interaction with patrons, y'know? Maybe in the course of his work... ?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:45 PM on March 28, 2008


Julio is a social worker. As such, he probably has the communication skills to pull this sort of stunt off. But I would never try it. Give the guy my wallet, and hope to god the cops catch him so I can prosecute. While's important to be kind and to show mercy, we must also be kind, and be true, to ourselves.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:59 PM on March 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Once again, those of you who are sure this is bullshit are revealing something about yourselves, not about this story."

Now, now - that doesn't really help any sort of debate or logic, does it?

While I've experienced things just as implausible as this and far more (and for that matter been mugged, and even stabbed and shot at at various other times), it's simply impossible to believe the story literally went the way it's been presented to us.

As several of the more rational people have suggested, instead of just reading the text, try to play through the physical actions in the mugging in your head - it just doesn't work, it's like the mugger is standing around, waiting patiently to deliver his lines.

I don't think this guy is "lying"; he seems honest; he just rearranged the story to have the narrative play out like a movie, I'm sure he wasn't even aware he was doing it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:52 PM on March 28, 2008


You guys are funny.
posted by iamck at 3:36 AM on March 29, 2008


I don't think this guy is "lying"; he seems honest; he just rearranged the story to have the narrative play out like a movie, I'm sure he wasn't even aware he was doing it.

I'm sure you're right. I've never claimed it all happened exactly as he told it; how often can that be said of any story any of us tells? (This was brought home to me forcibly when my wife and I discovered we had irreconcilable memories of where exactly in Grand Central Station we met for the first time, a very memorable occasion.) I'm not even claiming it happened at all—it's just a story some guy told in a booth, how do I know whether it's true? What I am saying is that there's no more reason to disbelieve it (as a whole, not in every detail) than there is to disbelieve any other story you hear on the radio or elsewhere. I heard it and found it plausible; it's fine if other people are more suspicious, but (once again) to claim it's impossible and muggers aren't like that and it couldn't have happened is sad and speaks to the commenter's preconceptions about people and life, not to the story.
posted by languagehat at 5:48 AM on March 29, 2008


In my case, I think the story isn't true, but I wish it were. What does that say about me? Other than why I'm depressed so much?
posted by JHarris at 6:29 AM on March 29, 2008


I have a friend who had a similar experience.

As did I. Ergo, it could have happened as described.

And could very well happen again.
posted by bwg at 7:10 AM on March 29, 2008


to claim it's impossible and muggers aren't like that and it couldn't have happened is sad and speaks to the commenter's preconceptions about people and life, not to the story.

This is the third time you've said this, but you obviously haven't been paying attention. Hardly anyone is saying it couldn't have happened. Most of the nonbelievers think this guy sounds like a liar. His story sounds like a lie. That means that we don't believe him.
posted by interrobang at 8:50 AM on March 29, 2008


The idea that humility means taking every teaching moment from your personal life as a secret to the grave rings like a false value to me. Y'all so sure that you didn't pick that value up at the movie's climax when grandma, on her deathbed, finally reveals that she was the one who saved Timmy from drowning? Dah, dah, dah!

Our most oft quoted teachers, Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, didn't shy away from using personal stories as a teaching moment to mass audiences. Did they do it for self-aggrandizement or did they do it because it was a gift to share with others? Maybe all of the above, really, because who the heck says that the Good Guys have to fit your cliched definition of good? Or maybe they had a good motivation that you don't consider (e.g. teaching moment).

People are complicated and have multiple conflicting motivations all the freaking time, which is why I know that, even if this instance of this story is not true, that the story itself rings true. That's why it's a parable across cultures and across time. The moral: People. Are. Complicated. Trying to second guess a story like this based on your own personal logic of ethics and motivation is like the moon conspiracy people yakking about moon shadows. Sometimes things are not so obvious to outsiders.

And yeah, this story has come up a lot lately, aside from the dinner party hug story, I remember in recent months there was a local TV news story about an old woman who prayed with her carjacker and he ended up leaving her alone. Oh sure, maybe it's the evangelical conservatives working the media again, but answer me this, when was the last time one of those wankers told a turn-the-other-cheek story? Even if you're wary of Christian influence, it's hard to argue that we don't need some more cheek turning in our society right now.
posted by Skwirl at 12:03 PM on March 29, 2008


you obviously haven't been paying attention. Hardly anyone is saying it couldn't have happened.

I have been paying attention, and "hardly anyone" is not the same as "no one." If you didn't say it, I wasn't talking to you.

Most of the nonbelievers think this guy sounds like a liar. His story sounds like a lie.

I have no idea why anyone would think that unless they believe all muggers are inherently violent and people practice benevolence only in evangelical fantasies.
posted by languagehat at 12:30 PM on March 29, 2008


Obviously, your thinking is extremely two-dimensional.
posted by interrobang at 12:42 PM on March 29, 2008


I'm educated stupid.
posted by languagehat at 12:42 PM on March 29, 2008


So we mostly agree that:
1. The presentation (narrative smoothing) of the story is on the fakey sounding side. Maybe the guy personally is not credible for some reason; or maybe we don't really have any good clues one way or the other except that he was vetted to some degree. Maybe the narrative smoothing happened over a period of time as he told and re-told his story; maybe it's partly/mostly a result of editing/reshaping that happened outside of his control eg by a reporter.

2. It's a story that could have happened.
?

My feeling as I said above is: unless there's more weight on this than just "hey I heard this story on the radio, isn't that cool" (in other words, unless someone wants us to believe some extreme claim based on this, or think of this guy as a national hero to be emulated blindly no matter what our own judgment of our situation is, or pay them money, etc), then really, it's a nice story and I just don't care that much whether it's true or what the storyteller's personal character is. This doesn't mean that in general I don't care whether stories are true. Sure, I would be disappointed if I found out this was a lie. I agree that the story is probably more complex than the version we see above. But I don't have the same feeling of "he must be lying for personal glory, the bastard."
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:57 PM on March 29, 2008


'... and now let me buy you dinner'
I'm sure would get you:
'Screw you, faggot!' Stab! Stab! Stab!
Nine times out of ten.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:33 PM on March 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


All stories are bullshit. They are constructed from a set of conventions, and we agree to make the conventions invisible to ourselves.

Speak for yourself, pal.
posted by generalist at 1:40 PM on March 29, 2008


If it were me in Diaz's place, I would have robbed my coat and $20 back once I had the knife.
posted by FuManchu at 1:44 PM on March 29, 2008


The reason I'm skeptical about this story is that it sounds like something I might try to do, and then get stabbed because of my poor delivery.
posted by tehloki at 3:12 PM on March 29, 2008


200
posted by apdato at 4:13 PM on March 29, 2008


How the hell would you vet that story?

It seems simple. Corroborate with workers at the diner. "What night did this happen? Did you see Mr. Diaz eating with a young man that night?" etc.

A scene with no witnesses but the participants cannot be confirmed by other testimonies. However, the dinner surely could be confirmed.

In fact, from the BB comments: "As far as fact checking goes, I know that we called the diner and also had several conversations with Julio after the interview to get more information. I'm sure there is more, that's not my department, but I do know that our producers were skeptical and checked it out thoroughly."

I also find it implausible that a social worker would have dinner with a person like this and not have a significant conversation.

Have you ever had dinner alone with a 15-year-old kid? I wouldn't be surprised if the kid didn't say 2 words.

No, the story wasn't written very well. Yes, it seems a little pat. No, I have no real reason to disbelieve it. The whole diner part of it makes it too public and easily disprovable.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:23 PM on March 29, 2008


"Not sure why this is seen as some sort of Zen level of kindness we should all embrace."

Because the ethics involved are universally considered of a higher order. And, crucially, it worked. And has worked in the past. Whether this particular story is accurate in every detail isn't as relevent as the truth of it.
Had Diaz subdued the mugger and brought him to the police, I wouldn't second guess his actions there.
Had Diaz simply handed his wallet over, I wouldn't have castigated him for that either.

He survived the encounter. Period. Anything past that is gravy.

That he took control of the situation is many levels higher an accomplishment. That he did it nonviolently is even greater.
You either choose cooperation and peace or you choose conflict. The only reason to conflict in the first place is to achieve peace. If you can achieve it without conflict, so much the better. A good warrior knows when to pick up a weapon. A great warrior knows when to put it down.
Christ (et.al.) taught forgiveness at least in part as a form of non-attachment.
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts, think accordingly.
Sure, the guy was looking to do violence. What, you're going to agonize over it afterwards? You're going to pursue justice to the ends of the earth there, Javier? Fuck 'em. You're alive. Let it go.
This guy achieved that in seconds and then chose to do some good where he could. That's some serious dope man.
If that were the way of the world we would stop a hell of a lot of problems and the selfish bastards would be revealed instantly. I don't agree that the cynics here are bastards or some such. Maybe the story itself is bullshit.
But I can speak to the truth of the sentiment in the story. Go get some blood on your hands. Seriously. Y'all think you'd fake the mugger out, well, go kill someone who needs killing. I'm sure we could all make a list of bastards the world could do without. Well, go kill one. Someone who really needs it. Maybe some fucker who pulls a knife on you.
Then come and tell me how you really good you feel and how much better off the world is.
I can't speak to the experiance of the mystics and the saints. But I do know life from the other side.

"Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill." - Marcus Aurelius
posted by Smedleyman at 10:18 PM on March 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


What strikes me as a little weird, to be honest, is.. why would the kid be out there without a coat on if it was cold? It's not that hard to get a cheap coat. Or heck if he was out there mugging people why wouldn't he steal someone's nice coat, first thing. Hey my feeling is, if I tried to give my coat to a kid trying to mug me (which has happened - the mugging, though not me offering anything they didn't ask for) he'd probably be like, I don't want your ugly coat.
posted by citron at 1:38 PM on March 30, 2008


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