Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Encounters | An occasional feature

Making sense of a sneak attack

TAMPA — He sneaked up behind her, reached up and SPLASH!

A giant cup of water, right over her head.

The graying woman kept walking, straight-faced and silent, and the man marched off with his empty cup.

That's when I turned around.

What was that about?

It was an unusual scene on my otherwise normal morning bike ride down Davis Islands. The birds were chirping, the sun was rising, and there, on the pavement, the puddle.


I circled around, and the man did, too, shaking his finger and yelling something I couldn't hear through my headphones. The message was clear, though — get out of here.

So I did. For a moment. But I couldn't leave. When the man turned, I pedaled back to the woman, who was sitting on a bench facing Seddon Channel, shaking.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

She said nothing.

"Ma'am, can I call someone for you?"


This is how it starts, I thought — all those gruesome news stories I've written about domestic violence. Maybe this guy has been terrorizing this woman for years. Maybe next week I'll be writing about her murder.

I pulled out my phone and called 911. "We'll send someone out," the dispatcher said.

Down the road, I ran into my friend and fellow reporter, Justin George. "You won't believe what just happened," I told him. Justin agreed with my theory that this woman's days were numbered. We went back.

The woman was still on the same bench as we approached, still staring straight ahead, still sopping wet.

Justin asked again, "Ma'am, are you okay?"

She turned her head, closed her eyes, and said nothing.

"Call the cops again," Justin said. "This woman is unresponsive."

As I dialed, a truck pulled up beside us.

"That's him!" I told the 911 dispatcher. "Chevy truck, grayish in color, white male, 50 to 60 years old, just under 6 feet tall, with a gray mustache and ball cap."

I've read a lot of police reports.

As the truck stopped Justin asked, "Sir, did you pour water on this woman?"

The man climbed out, meekly. "I'm not even going to try to explain it to you," he said.

But he did anyway: That morning, when he was getting his newspaper, a woman walked by holding a full cup of water. He told her "Good morning."


He looked up, shocked.

Then she threw the empty cup, too.

Anger overwhelmed him. He went inside, grabbed a cup — a big one — and filled it to the brim.

What I had witnessed was the payback.

At this point in the story, the woman finally opened her eyes and let out a long, loud cackle.

"It's okay," the woman said. She figures her husband hired the man to do this. She's been doused once before, at Mardi Gras.

We looked around at each other, confused.

The woman rattled off more stories: She worked at Tampa International Airport. She's met a bunch of transvestites. She always loved eating at the Cafe Con Leche, an old Tampa restaurant.

Turns out, she's a longtime resident at Hudson Manor, an assisted living facility on the island. Her name is Jane, she's 77, and she's always back before lunchtime. A quick call to the Manor confirmed this.

Jane corroborated the man's story. She threw water on him first, she said.


"He annoyed me." She couldn't really say how.

"I'm really sorry," the man said, taking a seat next to her. He could see Jane wasn't totally cognizant, and what seemed so odd that morning suddenly made sense. "I'm not proud of what I did."

No problem, she said. She wasn't holding any grudges.

But we still had to deal with the cops.

Two officers pulled up, and we told them what happened.

"Did you throw water on this man?" one officer asked Jane.

Yes, she said, and she'd do it again. This was the most fun she'd had in years. "It's nice having all this company!"

Case closed. The police left, and so did we.

The man did, too, heading off to buy new tires. But before he did, he offered Jane a ride.

Times staff writer Justin George contributed to this report. Kim Wilmath can be reached at or 813-226-3337.

Making sense of a sneak attack 10/31/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 31, 2011 8:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Democratic ad: Adam Putnam is 'silent' on GOP health bill


    Democrats are trying to attach Adam Putnam to the GOP’s unpopular plans to replace Obamacare.

  2. Competition and uncertainty keep New Port Richey's Steve Miklos hooked on power boat racing


    HOLIDAY — If Steve Miklos could have it his way, every power boat race would take place in rough water. He finds the turbulent conditions calming, an attitude he's developed during a professional power boat racing career that spans hundreds of races dating back to 1991.

    Steve Miklos, the throttle man and owner of the No. 51 Sun Print Racing boat, poses at his shop in Holiday. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Did a Cubs player give Trump the middle finger during a White House visit?


    President Donald Trump welcomed former Rays manager Joe Maddon and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs into the Oval Office. But it was a photo that surfaced later that got much of the attention on …

    President Donald Trump welcomed former Rays manager Joe Maddon and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs into the Oval Office. But it was a photo that surfaced later that got much of the attention on social media.
The photo, taken by Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, purportedly shows outfielder Albert Almora Jr. flipping a bird while standing just feet from Trump as the other players were gathered around his desk. [Gordon Wittenmyer via Twitter]
  4. Florida's death row population lower today than it was in 2005


    The last person executed in Florida was Oscar Ray Bolin on Jan. 7, 2016, making him the 92nd person to be executed since Florida resumed capital punishment in 1979. The last condemned inmate to join death row , convicted double-murderer Craig Wall of Pinellas County, arrived on June 6, 2016.

    The execution chamber at Florida State Prison
  5. Adele may never tour again: read her emotional note


    Adele is wrapping up a monster world tour, and it sounds like it took a lot out of her. 

    Adele left this note in her tour program, and fans posted it on Instagram.