Monthly Archives: August 2021

“Thank you for not killing me”


No, I’m not addressing the still raging coronavirus or the global pandemic it’s created.  Although I could be addressing Covid-19 and its variants.  I guess I’m grateful to the virus and its cohorts for having spared me so far. (Being fully vaccinated since spring has no doubt helped.)

I’m addressing instead a group of people to whom I’ve said this line for years:  Careless, self-obsessed drivers.  Drivers who endanger my life every time I walk on the streets of my city.

I usually utter this sarcastic line when I manage to avoid being killed by the tons of steel propelled by drivers who are far more concerned with speedily reaching their destinations than with preserving the lives of their fellow human beings.

Pedestrian safety is a huge concern. I won’t dwell right now on the harrowing statistics that reveal the enormous number of pedestrian deaths and injuries caused by automobiles.  I’ll save those details for another day.

Today I’m focusing on my valiant attempts to preserve my own life.

Almost every day, I do a lot of walking in my mostly quiet neighborhood.  As I walk, I cross busy streets and less-busy streets.  My current route has changed somewhat in the past year, but I’ve always walked a lot along these same streets.

And I’ve always tried to protect myself by making some sort of contact with drivers.  In the past, I waved scarves and colorful tote bags to alert drivers to my presence.  And I’ve always tried to make eye contact with drivers who are approaching me.

The level of traffic on these streets has varied from month to month.

But here’s what’s important:  Whether the streets are crowded with traffic or not, many of the drivers haven’t changed.  They remain exactly what they were: reckless.  

And every time I approach an intersection along these streets, I’m in fear for my life.

I’m a driver as well as a pedestrian.  But when I’m driving, I respect pedestrians and their legally-mandated right of way in crosswalks.  Too many drivers are self-obsessed and do NOT respect pedestrians.  These drivers endanger my life.

My survival is at stake.  As I enter a crosswalk, I justifiably worry that a reckless driver won’t hesitate to make a barreling turn or come straight at me.  Why?  Because reckless drivers refuse to respect a pedestrian’s right of way.  Specifically, mine.

Even when some intersections have traffic signals that should protect me:  My walk sign is flashing, and the traffic-signal light is glowing a bright green.

I no longer carry the garish tote bags I previously favored (hoping to reduce my chances of being a “target” of criminal behavior).  [Please see my previous blog post, “Outsmarting the bad guys,” 

But I still boldly swing any bags or other items I’m carrying, as well as the mask that’s dangling from my fingers when I’m outside (waiting to be worn inside).  I’m doing this in the hope that these rapidly moving items will increase my visibility and thereby save my life.

That’s why I mutter my thank-you line to countless reckless drivers–but especially to those who are breathlessly waiting to make a fast turn in front of or behind me.  Most of these drivers leave me only one or two inches of space as their cars whizz through my crosswalk.  Saving themselves, what?  Thirty seconds?  Forty seconds?  One minute?    

Brother, can you spare…another inch?

I know that I’m a stumble away from perishing in that intersection

Because if I stumble, I can easily become the victim of a massive assault on my body by a carelessly propelled vehicle. 

So, each time I cross successfully, I thank my lucky stars that I’ve survived one more time.  Once I reach the safety of the sidewalk, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

And I’ll mutter my thank-you line, oozing with sarcasm, one more time. 

I know the reckless driver isn’t likely to hear me.  But I’ll say it anyway. 

 “Thank you for not killing me.”

(A version of this post previously appeared on this blog, Susan Just Writes, in July 2020.  I’ve revised it for republishing in August 2021 because, unfortunately, it remains extremely relevant.)

Outsmarting the bad guys

If you’re like me, you don’t want to be a target for miscreants.  Unfortunately, in many U.S. communities, it’s much too easy to become a target.  We’re increasingly facing possible criminal behavior on the streets where we walk, in big cities and not-so-big cities.  Why? There’s no easy answer.  The reasons are complex, and I’m not going to speculate on them.  But the pandemic’s effect on the economy probably plays a role.

I live in a fairly big city, and I do a lot of walking.  I mostly walk in a traditionally “safe” part of the city, where the statistics for violent crime are low.  But even here, I’ve heard of random bag-snatchings and the possibility that people might be knocked down by bad guys who want to grab their stuff.  It’s happened recently in the Bay Area:  In July, former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer reported being assaulted by a teenager who pushed her and stole her cell phone on a street near her home in Oakland, California. 

Thankfully, no one has bothered me so far.  But hey, things could change.

I’m distinctly aware that bad guys would just love to knock down someone like me, or at the very least, grab my valuables and make a fast getaway.  Why?  Because (like Barbara Boxer) I’m a petite and not-very-young woman.  These attributes make me an inviting target.

But…I think (hope) I’ve figured out how to outsmart the bad guys.  So far it’s working.

How do I do it?  I’ll explain some things I’ve been doing.  If you’re like me, you might consider adopting some of them to elevate your own safety-level.

First, I do my best to avoid looking like a pushover.  I try to stand and walk briskly with the best possible posture I can summon.  If I stooped or appeared to be hunched over as I walk, that could put a flashing target on my back, identifying me as a pushover.  By the way, this advice applies to men as well as women.  I’ve noticed many men who appear to be stooped over as they walk.  Hey, everyone, unless you have issues with your bones like osteoporosis, we should all try to walk tall.  “Walking tall”—using better posture, striding with self-confidence, whether you’re actually tall or not–is better for your physical well-being anyhow.

I also try to look “purposeful” when I walk.  In other words, as I walk, I look ahead, aiming for my destination as quickly and efficiently as I can.  I keep my chin up—literally.  (I occasionally glance over my shoulder, just to check out who’s near me.)   I definitely do NOT saunter.  That’s another way to become a target that I hope to avoid.

Next, I purposely wear dumpy old clothes.   I don’t want to look too trendy or too fashionable, sporting the latest outfits promoted by the fashion world.  Instead, I like to wear worn-looking garb.  My old habit of seeking out new clothes—at bargain prices—has gone by the wayside.  Right now, largely because of pandemic restrictions, I simply don’t enter stores to shop for new clothes.  So bargain prices don’t even tempt me because I’m not there to see them.

Yes, I’ve bought a few essential clothing items online.  But I’ve found that I have to return most of them because they don’t fit right.  So my online clothing purchases have been minimal.  Please understand:  I’m not trying to make things tough for retail merchants.  I know how challenging retailing can be.   But for me, right now, it makes more sense to pluck past-their-time garments off my shelf and don those instead of something new and much sharper-looking.  Who looks at someone like me wearing stretched-out, worn-out clothes?  Nobody—I hope.

Needless to say, I shun wearing glitzy jewelry as well.  A less than flashy ring, like a wedding band or something equally non-showy, won’t draw unwanted attention.  The same goes for every other sort of jewelry. 

In general, it’s imperative to keep valuables out of sight.  Although I occasionally carry something of negligible value in an ordinary-looking and scruffy tote bag, I generally keep anything of real value on my person.  “On my person” means exactly that.  I’ve rediscovered my old fanny packs and the money belts I previously used on trips to foreign countries, and I’m putting them to use.  It’s remarkable how many credit cards, bus passes, and the like, along with a small amount of cash, can fit into one of those slim money belts!  Yes, your midriff may look a bit puffy, but it’s worth it.

Even better:  I stuff other valuables into my pockets.  I’ve always been a huge advocate of pockets in women’s clothes.   [Please see “Pockets!” published on my blog in January 2018,].  Now they seem more essential than ever.  I almost always wear black pants with roomy pockets I can stuff with my keys, my business card, a scrunchy for my hair, and my cell phone.  (To ward off any harmful radiation, I take my cell phone out of my pocket once I’m back home.)

Thanks to my generally cool local climate, I can wear a light jacket almost every day.  So when I can, I wear loose-fitting jackets with ample pockets, where I can add even more stuff.  Things like a scarf, a tissue, a mask (when I take it off). 

To deter wrongdoers, I’ve even retrieved a whistle I can wear around my neck.  It’s been stashed in a bin of travel items ever since my kids gave it to me when I was going to Alaska in 2009.  But I rummaged through the bin and found my 12-year-old whistle, and it now adorns my dumpy t-shirt every time I take a walk.  It’s there if I need it and much safer than pepper spray (which I own but long ago put away in a closet).  Pepper spray can be dangerous.  I don’t want to give any wrongdoer the opportunity to grab it and use it on me.

Me, a target?  Not if I can help it.