What does it look like? How does it smell, feel, and sound?
I heard an interesting discussion on NPR recently. A man was conducting a seminar, and he asked his audience to close their eyes and imagine what safety looks like. How does it smell, feel, and sound? Audience members were then asked to share their thoughts.
Someone said safety was making waffles on a Saturday morning for his kids. The smell of the melting butter. The sounds of the kids chattering away while sitting on stools at the kitchen counter.
Other people might think of safety as their warm bed, with its weighted blanket. The room is dimly lit. Everything is quiet.
It could be lying in your husband’s arms in a hammock. The smell of his aftershave. The sound of his snore.
Safety might be listening to Motown music during a backyard bar-b-cue with friends. The sound of burgers sizzling on the grill. The sun on your shoulders.
It might be lying in a field and gazing up at the stars. That feeling of the planet cradling you as it moves through space. Crickets chirping.
I’d probably say it was spooning with my dog. His warm, furry little body against mine. That moment when the day is done and you get to drift off to sleep.
The interesting thing is that the man was conducting his seminar with police officers. They had a variety of responses, along the lines of the above. After they shared, he said (I’m paraphrasing here), “Isn’t it interesting that none of you said that safety was being with a police officer? And most people, regardless of their occupation, wouldn’t think of a police officer when answering this question. Why is that?”
That’s a very good question. Police officers are supposed to be there to ensure the safety of the public. Yet at some point many of them started viewing us as the enemy, and we have responded in kind. Why? Until we can answer that question, we can’t fix things.
Just something to think about while you make your waffles.
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Most children will learn that the world is cruel soon enough.
I hadn’t thought of this in years. When I was young, I had what I called a security blanket. It was flannel. Cozy. I couldn’t sleep without it.
I kept it to an embarrassingly old age. Into my early teens. I also watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood to an embarrassingly old age. Comfort and security was hard to come by in my household. In fact, the inmates were pretty much running the asylum. So I clung to my security blanket until it was a ripped up rag.
Then one day my mother threw it out. And I fished it right back out of the trash. I’ve always thought it was extremely arrogant and insensitive of parents to rip comfort objects out of the arms of a child. The world is harsh enough as it is without that foolishness. Rest assured that most children will learn that the world is cruel soon enough without you providing a demonstration.
I never really got rid of that blanket. It just sort of disintegrated one day. By then I had outgrown it anyway. I was just clinging to it to prove that there was something in this life over which I had control. Ah, well. So ends a delusion.
Now, after 13 years of working graveyard shifts, I’ve gotten in the habit of having something covering my eyes when I sleep. I still do this even though I now have the luxury of sleeping in the darkness again, and have done so for many years. I was positioning that cover just so last night when I thought of that security blanket.
Perhaps I never really gave it up after all. I just replaced it with something else.
It’s amazing how much an evil outside force can alter your worldview.
So, I came to work the other day to a sheet of plywood covering one of our windows. It seems that some drug addict scaled the bridge to the upper floor and tried to bash the window in with a 2×4. I don’t know what they were hoping to get. There’s nothing much worth stealing in here, especially if you then have to carry it back down to ground level. But ours is not to reason why.
The thing is, the fool tried to do this right at the beginning of the shift, so a coworker caught him in the act and called 911. He bolted, but by some miracle the police caught him right down the street. My coworker identified him, for what it’s worth, but I’m betting he’s walking free again even as I write this.
It’s amazing how much an evil outside force can alter your worldview. I used to feel safe here. Now I keep seeing movement outside the window out of the corner of my eye. And I also wonder what would have happened if the idiot had gained entry, and whoever came to work didn’t notice the broken window, unlocked the sidewalk door, came up the stairs, and was face to face with a drug addict wielding a block of wood. What would have come next?
A friend pointed out that there’s no point in playing the “what if” game. You can’t live your life in constant fear. At least, you shouldn’t do so. And to a certain extent I agree. But it never hurts to have a contingency plan.
From now on, I plan to drive by and take a look at that window before parking. When I unlock the door, I’m going to pause to see if I hear anything, such as the kind of noises one would only hear from an open window. (Or some disembodied voice saying “Redrum,” or something.) I bet the guy didn’t smell very good, either, and I have the nose of a dog. So there’s that.
What I resent most, though, is that my sense of security has been shattered. Take all the stuff you want, but leave my comfort zone alone.
I’m sure I’ll relax again eventually, but until then, I wouldn’t advise you to sneak up on me. You could be in for a nasty surprise.
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Sometimes they really are out to get you.
I wanted to write a creepy post for Halloween, and I asked several friends for suggestions. Every single one of them, without exception, said I should write about Trump. That, in itself, is pretty darned scary. But I think we are so used to being scared by him that it’s hard to feel the fear anymore. So I decided to write the below, instead.)
In the house I bought, there are dozens of large dents on both steel exterior doors, and on one wooden bedroom door as well. The only thing the previous owner would tell me was that there was “an incident” involving a tenant and her boyfriend. The fact that he would not go into detail leaves my imagination to run wild.
Given that these are sturdy storm doors, whatever blunt object was used to do this damage must have been heavy, and the sound must have been loud and terrifying. No person in his right mind does a thing like that. And if the damage to the bedroom door happened at the same time, then the perpetrator gained entry. The thought of that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all walk around in this bubble of security, and when it is popped, it’s beyond frightening. It challenges your sense of reality. It makes you feel as if there’s nowhere to hide. The reason most of us reside in this bubble is that knowing that it’s all an illusion would make it impossible to cope.
I used to work the graveyard shift on this tiny little bridge with an office the size of a closet. I was surrounded by windows for increased visibility when I had to do a bridge opening, but that basically meant that I was in a goldfish bowl, and anyone who wanted to mess with me could easily do so. Needless to say, I kept the blinds closed whenever possible. But that also meant I couldn’t see what was going on out on the street.
It was a very isolated job, which normally suits me just fine. Even though I was in a metropolitan area, at 3 a.m. it often felt as if I were the only person on the planet. And when the fog rolled in, that tiny room seemed like a coffin. (People with claustrophobia didn’t last in that job for very long.)
Late one night, I was on duty, and two teenage boys started pounding on the door. (Isn’t it always teenage boys? They should be sent to roam in packs on some remote Pacific island from the age of 14 to 25. I truly believe our crime rate would plummet.)
I nearly soiled myself. I peeked out the blinds and said, “What the #### do you want?”
The ringleader says, “Let us in. We want to see you do a bridge opening.”
My reply, of course, was, “F*** off, before I call the cops.”
But they continued to pound on the door and rattle the knob. (Years later, I can’t get the image of that rattling doorknob out of my head.) It occurred to me that there was just a thin film of bullet-resistant glass between me and these nut jobs, and the stuff was feeling pretty darned flimsy at that moment. And out there on my bridge, no one would hear me scream. Also, by the time the cops got there, well, it would be bad. (And by the way, the cops never showed up. As per usual.)
Eventually they left without getting in, or getting me. But then I got to spend the rest of the shift worrying that they might have vandalized my car. (They hadn’t. Not that time. They just threw the heavy duty trash can at the foot of the bridge into the river. )
Oh, and did I mention that in order to use the bathroom on that bridge you had to go across the street to the other building? Wonderful.
My point is, the reason the thought of the boogeyman in your closet or the thing under the bed or the clown in the storm drain is so unsettling for most of us is that these things violate your bubble of security. Clearly, they are up to no good. They rattle your doorknob. They shake your foundations.
And that’s completely understandable. Because sometimes you’re not being paranoid. Sometimes they really are out to get you.
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“…people don’t ask victims for solutions.”
I just read an amazing article by Lucy Purdy, entitled, “Birth rights: sisterhood and sexual empowerment in Kenya”. Even more gripping were the additional photographs by Dean Bradshaw. It’s really worth a look.
The article describes how the women of Kenya, who historically have been subjected to female genital mutilation, are becoming empowered to effect change for themselves and their children. Because they are at ground zero, they’re better able to come up with solutions that culturally work for them. Brilliant!
A great quote from that article: “When people portray us as victims, they don’t want to ask about solutions. Because people don’t ask victims for solutions.”
That’s a pretty profound realization. I think it applies in a lot of situations. Unfortunately.
I always get frustrated when I see people in shelters or refugee camps, sitting around looking shell shocked with nothing to do. This is not helping them. This is victimizing them.
Just by dint of sheer numbers, these “victims” can be a great resource. For example, there was much talk about women getting raped when they went to use the bathrooms in the Houston Astrodome post Hurricane Katrina, because there simply wasn’t enough security. I bet that wouldn’t have happened if about 50 women formed a committee and all of them had gone to the bathroom together. Try raping us now, buddy. We’ll tear you limb from limb.
And when it becomes obvious that a refugee camp is going to be around for a long, long, long time, why not give these people the tools to plant crops, even if it’s a tiny garden, and allow them to maintain sanitation and security, rather than make them stand around knee deep in their own feces, waiting for your sparse handouts and indifferent protection?
People don’t want to be victims. They don’t want to sit around, wallowing in their own despair. They want to have some feeling of agency. They want to be able to make decisions about the quality of their lives.
When you are faced with an entire community that is suffering some sort of tragedy, rather than looking at them as a burden to be dealt with, perhaps look at them as an enormous font of human knowledge, experience, and ability. Allow them to attempt solutions. Let them take the lead, and then, if necessary, provide them with what they need to blaze their own trail.
Without power, it’s impossible to have dignity. Without dignity, you start to lose what it means to be human. That’s the real tragedy.
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