By Augustine Ugalde
The holiday season is supposed to be a happy time that some people spend in the company of family and friends to celebrate their spirituality and get closer to God. It is also the time to reflect on the past year and to bring hope for the year to come; it is a special time of year.
So why does it also bring on so much stress, intolerance and unhappiness? One of East Los Angeles College’s own daughters was attacked in the parking lot of a Gelson’s Market in the Silverlake area by one of those stressed-out, intolerant people.
Former Campus News writer and editor Melissa Torres was subjected to verbal abuse and an attempted attack on her person Dec. 23 as she was preparing to exit her car at the upscale marketplace. The assailant jumped out of his car in a frantic rage, demanding that Torres roll down her window, while screaming expletives at her when she refused.
What caused this man to react in such a way? Nothing more than a parking space. As the man, who Torres described as being in his mid-to-late 30s, stood by her window screaming, he tried opening her car door, presumably to get at her. “He had already lost his temper by the time he came to my door,” said Torres. “I really believe he would have hurt me had I not had my doors locked.”
“He was calling me a ‘f…ing bitch’ for taking his parking spot,” said Torres. Torres also said that she was very lucky to have her doors locked at the time because they’re usually unlocked.
As she sat paralyzed for a moment, frozen in the driver’s seat of her car watching this madman throw his tantrum, she called 9-1-1, which only served to infuriate her attacker even more. “He got furious when he saw me dialing my phone. He started pounding my window with his fists, trying to break in,” said Torres.
If it wasn’t enough that she was subjected to this type of behavior, the entire episode was witnessed by a group of men who, instead of coming to her aid, egged the assailant on. “After I parked the car, I heard these voices coming from behind me,” said Torres. “I could hear some guys saying ‘she took your spot, she took your spot.’”
Torrez did the right thing by taking down the assailant’s license plate number and reported it to the 9-1-1 operator and by doing so, to the police. What could possibly prompt a person to react so violently to such a simple act as losing a parking space? Could it be the season itself?
The frantic rush to buy the perfect gift amidst a mass of humanity who are all out to do the same thing could explain things. This exaggerated frenzy created by Corporate America has skewed the meaning of Christmas.
The stress created by this frenetic, holiday dance can be overwhelming. Not only do people worry about gifting everyone important in their lives, many must also worry about maintaining a household, keeping children on an even keel, while balancing work and other life priorities too.
There is no moratorium called during the holidays on regular, monthly bills such as rent, food, transportation, utilities and the like, which only serves to add another level of stress. It could be said that Torres’s assailant could have been caught up with all these intangibles and just lost it over something as insignificant as a parking space.
Of course this is just a theory, but it’s a good one. Another maddening aspect of this story is that, as Torres sat frozen in her seat waiting for the police, the man calmly found another spot, did his shopping and left the grounds as if nothing had happened.
To compound Torres’s plight, a Gelson’s security guard approached her shortly after the incident but seemed indifferent about her experience. “He just didn’t seem to care,” said Torres. Neither did the police who arrived approximately 40 minutes later. “They wouldn’t take a report,” said Torres.
“They said that they had all the information they needed from my 9-1-1 call. I was left with the feeling that nothing would be done about what happened,” said Torres.
Torres attended ELAC for several years and was part of the journalism department in 2008 where she excelled in her classes. She was named co-editor-in-chief for the fall 2008 pup edition and was an accomplished writer.
She continued her studies at Cal State University, Northridge where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in journalism last year. If anything good came out of this incident it was the realization that people, especially women, must be aware of their surroundings at all times.
There are bad people out there and measures should be taken to ensure personal safety. “I’m so glad my doors were locked. If not, it could have been much worse,” said Torres.