Karen and I edge our way to the staircase; we are not going to wait for the police. We are not going to sit here like victims.
We are going to make our way down to the parking garage, jump into the car, and drive home. We are going to take our fate in our own hands.
“Where are you going?”
A rent-a-cop is posted at the staircase.
“To our car,” I tell him.
“That’s not a good idea, sir.”
“We think it is.”
“We’ve called the police.”
“Where are they?”
He says nothing.
I gesture toward the rioters doing their hostile little dances outside the DGA building: “What happens when they start throwing Molotov cocktails?”
Rent-a-cop takes a deep breath.
“The police are coming,” he insists.
“Excuse me, we’re going to our car. You can’t stop us.”
He steps aside, murmuring something about not being responsible for our safety. Poor guy. He’s trying to do his job, but he no longer knows what his job is.
* * * * *
I snap Offspring #2 into her car seat. Ariel sits in the back with his younger sister. He is pale with fear and confusion. I touch his arm and murmur: “Everything is going to be fine.”
Ariel gives a weak smile and nods his head.
Our children trust us to protect them.
The burden of parenthood has never felt more grave.
Starting up the engine, I realize I am drenched in sweat. My shirt clings to my body. Karen reaches into the glove compartment and pulls out the Thomas Guide to Los Angeles. “We may have to find a different route home,” she says.
As we cruise up the ramp, my breath catches in my throat, for there are a dozen rioters milling about the exit.
Am I going to be able to put pedal to metal and smash through a bunch of real live human bodies?
A friend of mine, a heroic Israeli tank commander, told me that in the first few days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, both fronts, the Sinai and the Golan Heights, were so weakly defended that had the Egyptian or Syrian high command been strategically bolder, tactically smarter, and their soldiers braver… well, the Arab armies could have achieved massive breakthroughs, and Israel would have found itself facing genocide.
But small pockets of brave, determined, and well-trained Israeli troops held their ground and attacked enemy forces sometimes a hundred times their strength.
All this whips through my mind as I aim our car – I’m already thinking of the Lexus as a tank, a Centurion – toward the exit of the parking garage. A knot of rioters is milling about at the exit. It’s hard to see clearly, but oh, boy – it looks like a few of them are brandishing baseball bats.
I’m going to make a wild guess and assume they’re not Little League dads.
I haven’t turned on the car’s headlights. We’re still lurking in the shadows, not yet detected by the barbarians.
I inch the car forward, gain speed, 4 mph, 7 mph…
Now: I switch on the headlights using – surprise! – hi-beams, drenching the marauders in white light. I lean on the horn and the rioters are drenched in the powerful lights and the shrieking horn is amplified by the concrete garage walls.
The knuckleheads are blinded, frozen as I bear down on them at what seems like Formula One speed, and now they fall back like bowling pins – and we blow right past them, making a sharp left turn. We’re ordered by a street sign to turn right, but that would deliver us to the front of the DGA building and directly into the eye of the mob, and so, tires screeching, we race away from the theater.
I zoom down the block, pull over, and gulp oxygen.
“You okay?” Karen asks.
I nod. But my heart is slamming in my chest.
As we cruise through the chaotic streets, we spot fires burning all over the city. A canopy of red and orange spreads through the velvety darkness. It takes me a moment to recognize the distinctive signature of Molotov cocktails.
Small businesses are deliberately torched.