This is a two part story to take you through the events of the night of 24th July 2015. Part 1 is the story of what happened, whereas Part 2 will be what I learned, and how those lessons will be applied to our product development.
It’s 2am and I just got home after what ended up being a really crazy night.
Michael (cofounder) and I went to Fitzroy to celebrate the third birthday of an app-making company called 'Seventh Beam'. I’ve only known Jeff from Seventh Beam for a short while, but we’ve had a few great discussions. It’s also nice every once in a while to connect with other people in the startup community.
We had a great night and met lots of great people.
Then things took a turn.
Michael dropped me off at Parliament train station and in light of some company news from yesterday (confidential, sorry!) we sat in the car talking for a short while. As I got out of the car to go down to the train station, I heard the battery fail to turn over; turns out the battery in the car was dead, and we were in the middle of the CBD.
As both of us are too poor to afford roadside assistance, let alone pay for the call out fee, we hailed taxi’s and asked if they had jumper cables… none of them did. In fact, they were all really rude about it (I guess Uber is making life hard for them).
It’s an incredible irony that you can be in the middle of the downtown area, but so far from something as simple as jumper cables.
In the end, Michael called his partner and she started driving in to the city to rescue us.
In the meantime, because it was a freezing cold Melbourne night, and because the car heater was broken; and because, in typical Melbourne fashion we weren’t dressed appropriately for the weather; we decided to find refuge at the nearest place that was open… It turned out to be a 7-11 store.
We got some hot drinks and asked the guy working if we could stay in the store out of the cold. He happily obliged.
It turns out that 12:30am on a Friday night/Saturday morning, in a 7-11 in the middle of the CBD is not a very nice place to be in Melbourne.
There was an old homeless guy in the store who was reading through all the adult magazines. He was minding his own business, although I’ve never seen someone so open about their reading habits. He was talking to himself a bit but clearly posing no threat to anyone. He decided after a while that he was going to buy one of the magazines and took it up to the front counter.
He then began pulling out all the change in his pockets and slowly counting the money to give to the clerk.
During this time, another customer walked in and decided that the homeless man wasn’t counting fast enough.
This new customer, clearly a bit tipsy, started taunting the homeless man, to which (bless humanity) everyone in the store told him to be quiet and mind his own business and leave the homeless man alone.
It was at this point I started feeling a sense of ominousness, and I started a recording with geavi.
Probably because geavi is what I do all day, this always comes to mind. I knew there was CCTV in the store, but my experience is that CCTV is typically grainy and usually not overly helpful because it is looking down on a person, which can distort facial features.
I wasn’t openly recording anything, I just tried to stay unnoticed and not get involved. I had it in my hand recording but stayed well out of the way.
I knew that Henry (co-founder) would get an SMS with my location because I'd started the recording… For me, in the current situation that was enough to feel safe. If it escalated I’d call the cops.
It did escalate, but in a way I think people were initially happy. The customer (from now on the instigator) came toward the counter and yelled at the homeless guy, while at the same time swiping the man's money off the counter and over the floor. The homeless man then swung a swift right hook to the guys face.
I hate violence in any form, and I didn’t like this instance (and the rest of the story will show why) but I did feel like the instigator got what he deserved. I mean, who picks on a homeless guy who is minding his own business… that’s low!
Michael stepped in with a few others, and was able to separate the two parties. If anyone was dumb enough to mess with Michael then they’re a special kind of stupid. If you’ve met Michael then you know he is 6 feet something, and clearly built in a German Factory, owing to a strict gym regimen that I promise one day I will try to follow. In short, he can take care of himself.
The perpetrator then went out the front of the 7-11 and the homeless man continued with his purchase. After purchasing the magazines, he paid for a hot drink and went to the machine in the 7-11 and started to make himself a coffee.
Michael went outside and tried to talk to the instigator. I didn’t call 000, and instead talked to the store owner to see what he wanted to do.
He wanted to see it de-escalate, so he closed the doors in an effort to make the people loitering outside leave. But people kept hanging around, like vultures around a wild-west cowboy who’s just run out of water.
Michael came back in to the store, and told me that he was concerned that the man outside was going to try and get "revenge". I asked him if he thought I should call the police. Before he got to answer the perpetrator walked in and started throwing hooks at the homeless man.
What an absolute piece of garbage person.
I immediately dialled 000. The store clerk immediately called his manager. By the time Michael was able to intervene the damage had already been done.
I had the whole situation recorded, which I will submit as evidence to the Police, which they can use alongside the CCTV. The footage I created was much greater quality, and has a clear image of the perpetrator, which will hopefully be used by Police to identify him.
On the note of Police, they arrived in good time (less than 3 minutes), and I was impressed with how compassionate they were toward the victim, as well as trying to get all the information on the incident.
After a while the Police encouraged us to move on, and we did. Fortunately Michael’s partner had arrived, and while it was a long and crazy night, we all got home safe and sound.
I have so many thoughts about the situation, and so many ways I could have seen things happening differently.
I really just feel terrible for the victim. It raises a very serious issue of homelessness in Melbourne, something I'd like to understand better and help with.
Both Michael and I had tried to interact with the victim, but he was quite non-responsive, and preferred instead to talk to himself. I hope there is someone looking out for him.
Read part 2