By now, we’ve all heard about the intoxicated Uber passenger in Newport Beach, CA who violently assaulted his driver while in a drunken rage shortly after 8pm on the night before Halloween.
Fortunately for the driver, he was ultimately able to defend himself against the thrashing with his personal dispenser of pepper spray and gave his attacker a well-deserved face-full until law enforcement arrived. It was also fortunate that the entire incident was recorded on his Garmin dash cam which went viral as news broke of the incident and word spread that the man had been fired from his job as a Taco Bell executive. (By the way, that driver, Edward Caban, has set up a Go Fund Me page to help pay for his medical expenses, though he is no longer contracting with Uber.)
Naturally, the whole story gave me great pause, and I was really disappointed to hear that this sort of thing had happened to a fellow Uber driver. I empathized, as I do any time I hear of someone, man or woman, that has been attacked in the most unexpected and violent of ways. I did not, however, feel that it had hit close to home in the sense that I would need to run out and get the latest self defense tools now that this story was in the news.
But THIS is why we have loved ones, friends and community.
In the 24 hours since the story broke, I received no less than ten emails, text messages, FB tags/inboxes and other messages of concern for my well-being as an Uber driver. Clearly, everyone else was more concerned than I at the point of hearing this story, for which I am grateful. You see, in my naivety and negligence of actual measures of self defense, I realize how foolish it’s been to not have ANYTHING to defend myself in case of emergency. Don’t get me wrong, I had had conversations with the bf and my older brother about “possible options” for my safety, like a DASH CAM for instance, or some other type of legal weapon. But, I never got around to securing anything…that is, until today. Those texts and emails and phone calls and FB tags actually lit a fire in my proactivity toward safety. So, if you’re reading, thank you!
Firstly, though, I had to educate myself on the legality of PEPPER SPRAY in NYC.
Like many people, if not most, I had no idea what the current law is pertaining to owning and using pepper spray in the Big Apple. I actually thought it was illegal to carry self defense sprays like Mace, though I had never considered it an option either way. While we all know New York to be this seedy, twisted, hardcore environment where you could be taken advantage of at any point in time, for the decade that I’ve lived here, I’ve always felt pretty safe in my comings and goings. After it became apparent that I might need to purchase some pepper spray, I googled whether or not it is legal: as of 1996, IT IS.
Here is an excerpt from a website called Pepper Spray Store on the legality of carrying and using self defense sprays in the state of New York:
“It is legal to carry defense sprays in NY state, but pepper spray can not legally be mailed to any city or county in New York…It is only legal to buy a can of safety spray that is small enough to fit inside a standard pocket. State law about purchasing pepper spray in New York declares that each person may only purchase two canisters during any transaction…Only a fully licensed firearms dealer or pharmacist is permitted to sell pepper spray in the Empire state, and before a purchase can be finalized the buyer must sign a form that affirms they are 18 years or older and have no felony convictions.” (The site also quotes in its entirety the official NY State law as a resource.)
Color me surprised when I realized that the licensed gun shop I occasionally pass when I’m on the road would actually be of use to me. Having never had the need to walk into a licensed firearms dealer, I was honestly nervous as I asked the clerks if they had pepper spray available. They, however, were happy to point out a wall of options with Mace brand self defense sprays.
I spent a good ten minutes looking at all of the different types, and settled on a discreet, “maximum strength formula” pepper spray in a stylish, black bejeweled “purse model” labeled as “Mace Brand” on the top.
Once I decided on this little piece of power, (“I knew you’d get a sparkly one,” a clerk off to the side smirked), the gentleman helping me asked for my identification. He stepped away to make a copy of it and returned with a form for me to sign, authenticating that I was over the age of 18 and did not have a felony record. In a manner of minutes, I was the owner of my own legal pepper spray dispenser! And, while I am a little nervous to carry it, I’ll consider it a useful accessory that I hope I NEVER have to use!
For those in New York City who may be interested in finding some pepper spray, this Yelp search should help!
Stay tuned as I navigate the world of dashboard cameras (read: dash cams!) and decide on which model I’ll eventually have installed in my SUV.