On his way out the door of a Hamilton Street lunch spot the other day, a young man casually reached over the shoulder of a diner, grabbed her purse from the corner of a big picture window and ran for daylight.
The victim's luncheon partner jumped to her feet and raced out the door in hot pursuit. She yelled for help and, by luck, construction workers were paving at the end of the block. One stepped forward and stripped the purse from the thief's arms.
A cheer of sorts went up in the street. Bag in hand, the breathless heroine came back into the company of instant admirers.
And yet there was reserve in this group. Surely the purse rescuer was not a city dweller -- or, if so, instinct had taken over, obliterating those well-rehearsed protective steps: Do not chase Trouble. Make Trouble go away. A purse, a driver's license, the odd bit of cash can be replaced.
Nothing was lost. But no one thought of this rescue as empowering. The foreboding of trouble was animate amid the congratulations.
Empowerment will begin when intolerance of crime -- falling somewhere between zero and 100 percent -- makes lunch an anxiety-free experience.