Beware Metro's Ninjas

Kumar Arya, a City of Houston engineer, was summoned to his department's downtown offices last summer to defend his rejection of a Metro site plan. He didn't think the design would work.

Leaving the meeting, Arya decided to ride the Metro rail back to his office at 3300 Main.

He says he stepped off the train, was grabbed from behind and thrown to the ground, then the assailant ripped off some jewelry Arya was wearing. He was injured — a broken nose and cut-up face, with lacerations severe enough to require stitches.


Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority

Lesson — Never, ever reject a Metro site plan.

Actually, there's no indication Metro had anything to do with the assault. (Then again, that could just prove how adept they are at this type of thing.)

Hair Balls first heard about the assault from a source we talk to from time to time, and it took a couple weeks before Arya returned our calls. Point is, Arya isn't launching a smear campaign against Metro or eager to talk about the incident.

But he basically confirmed the details of the attack to us. And then things got weird.

We called Alvin Wright, a spokesman for the city's public works department, to see what people in his office knew about the attack. Wright initially told us he couldn't find any public works employee that had been assaulted, and after we gave him Arya's name, we received this voice mail message from him:

"The information that I have is that there was a public works employee that was on the Metro rail who actually tripped on the platform...I don't know who gave you your information, but I've checked with supervisors, the actual guy's supervisor, and he said, 'No, he said he tripped and fell.'"

Arya was shocked to hear that explanation, and said he never told anyone that he tripped and injured his face. However, Arya never filed a complaint with the police, and apart from a city employee who took him to the hospital and several emergency room doctors, he said he didn't tell a lot of people about the robbery.

"I didn't know [where to file a report]. I was in bad shape, I couldn't even think about what I could do," Arya said. "If you don't report it immediately, things go away. I could cry, but no one will listen."

That left the mystery of where Wright received his information that Arya had tripped, fallen and injured his face. From Metro's Assassin Squad, perhaps?

"That was the assumption because he fell on the platform. He was injured on the platform, that's what we were told. Hearsay, nothing but hearsay," Wright said. "If he was assaulted on the Metro rail, you'd want to let Metro know, let their police department know, let HPD know. If there's somebody out there assaulting people, you'd want to tell the public." — Paul Knight

Obama's Check Was in the Mail

Kenna Bush, the executive director of the United Way of Galveston, was opening the mail recently, looking for checks made out to the Galveston County Recovery Fund.

She found several. Including a personal check from some guy named Barack Obama.

"We all kinda went, 'This can't be real, right? Someone's playing a joke,'" Betty Massey, the Fund's chair, told Hair Balls. "But no, it was the real deal."

Massey won't say how much the check was for, except that it was over $1,000.

"I think it was just an amazing statement about Mr. and Mrs. Obama — that at this point in their lives, when all this is happening, that they think of Galveston," she says. "I think it's pretty remarkable."

News reports of the meeting Obama had post-election with the nation's governors indicated that one of the first things the president-elect did upon seeing Governor Rick Perry was to ask how Galveston and its residents were doing.

The fund received the check "some weeks" after that meeting, Massey says, so apparently the situation on the island has stayed on Obama's mind.

The United Way is the fiscal agent for the fund, which is only now starting to proactively seek donations. UW officials didn't call the Obama office to see if the check was real; they just deposited it.

"It's gone through, so I guess it's real," Massey says.

Wait — Shouldn't you have put it up for auction on eBay? Maybe the autograph, on a disaster-related item, could have brought in a lot more than $1,000.

"You know, we weren't quick enough to think about that," she says. — Richard Connelly


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