By: LB Chambers
For some reason I always completely forget about things until some sort of situation causes me to drop everything and remember something very basic and simple (that I’m sure most folks have no problem keeping on the back burner at all times).
Today I’m talking about safety, and walking the thin line of cautiousness while still living without fear as a strong feminist and self confident geeky woman of the 21st century.
As a 25 year old woman raised in the very dangerous city of Anchorage, Alaska (we have two Gangland episodes for those who doubt) but who also has a ridiculous amount of optimism when it comes to the state of humankind I have always bounced back and forth between the completely opposite walls of safety overkill (“Remember, keys between the knuckles!”) and a willingness to trust and help anyone (“Hello Mr. Homeless Man, would you like a twenty dollar bill, a sandwich, some numbers for the local AA chapter and a ride to a shelter? Here, take my sweater!”).
I have said/done both of the above.
Which is why, living in the relative safety of one of Seattle’s nicer neighborhoods I’ve become very comfortable with going for long, isolated runs along some of Seattle’s most busy streets, leaving my door unlocked when I’m running to the market, and helping my fellow Seattlelite with anything from directions to a couple extra dollars.
Now, I know to some people these things are just plain negligent (I’m sure to others they seem perfectly normal) and I used to be one of those super- safety people.
Before moving to “the big city” (aka Orange, CA- a small town straight out of the 50’s with a Mom and Pop Diner in the center of town) for college I took no fewer than four self defense classes; I also owned my own gun and constantly carried either a fog horn, a rape whistle, or (in some neighborhoods) a box cutter.
I never ran unless it was inside on a treadmill facing a wall or a television set, I never talked to strangers unless they were wearing a name tag or could give me a job, and I never accepted help from others- let alone strangers. It was literally impossible to talk to me in any setting outside of the classroom, and anyone asking for my number would only get the eyebrow raised-side eye and quick exit.
Going even further back, once as a high schooler my car broke down three miles from my home (in Alaska in February so we’re talking slush and negative degrees here). Rather than accept a ride home from one of my neighbors I instead chose to trudge uphill (again, it’s Alaska, of course we lived on a mountain) through the ice and snow in my running shoes and to this day I still can’t feel my left pinky toe. I figured that I’d rather lose some digits than even enter into a situation where rape or murder could arise.
Forget the fact that the ride offered to me was from a neighbor I had known, babysat for, shoveled snow for, and that I’d even driven his wife to a doctor’s appointment once.
But still, I didn’t know his middle name or where he was born! Stranger danger!
Then one day, while studying abroad in Dublin, I took a leap. I spent an entire day walking around the city without any company, exploring and visiting…and nothing happened to me. True it was one day, but it was a mini-epiphany! I could choose to always err on the side of caution or I could take risks every once and a while (Home-brewed beer? Ok!) , and I wouldn’t be raped/murdered or die on the spot!
Since then I’ve been moving further and further from the side of caution; I now live and do things that make my parents stay up late worrying/criticizing and leave my siblings shaking their heads (She went to a bar with only her lady friends! She joined a running group of strangers! She ate sushi from a bus!)
I always just laugh and say I’m living. That sometimes you just need to live your life and let the danger try and find you. It’s easier to hit a moving target, right?
Well apparently the danger tracked me down.
Because last week I was almost hit by a car on my neighborhood street while running (yes not a hit and run, more of a push into the middle of the road with your car and then drive off laughing once the runner hits the pavement).
And then the day before yesterday my husband and I were physically assaulted and harassed on my front porch by a door-to-door magazine salesman. Huh.
Immediately it was like a switch went off in my head; I was suddenly super-safety Lindsay Belle again.
Within 24 hours I was getting a peep hole and second dead bolt on my door, I was only ever going to run with my dog again; I had purchased pepper sprays, fog horns, rape whistles, and was making plans to visit the shooting range and dust up on my skills.
I was locking every window, every door, closing blinds, watching cars drive by, eyeing the mailman (the long con?) and sleeping with my old box cutter and a hammer under my bed.
It was like seventh grade all over again! (Ha ha! But seriously, I grew up in a terrifying neighborhood).
It wasn’t until I started plotting complex attack plans and escape routes that my husband and friends stepped in with some good advice (I’d already had the advice from my family- buy more guns- and wasn’t really on board with that).
Sometimes we make bad decisions and we get in danger, that’s life. And sometimes we’re just eating Tilenti Mint ice cream and playing Left 4 Dead 2 and a stranger comes to our door selling magazines. The thing is we can’t prevent all danger, no matter what we do, and there’s no point in taking extreme measures in an effort to pretend that we are in total control.
So, fellow geeky humans and feminists, learn from me- don’t swing like a pendulum between the opposites. Take some self defense classes (they’re a lot of fun), learn how to handle/disarm gun (you don’t have to own one, but I feel everyone should know something about gun safety just in case you find one), help your fellow man but maybe don’t chat up that crazy guy on the corner talking about jesus not letting him marry his sister (true story).
And don’t forget to live the way you want, accepting the fear but not letting it make the decisions for you. Let the danger come to you- it’s harder to find (and hit) a moving target, and it only took a thousand exciting decisions while traveling that lead to nothing (cave diving with five strange men? Why not?!) and one scary salesman to really teach me that.