What Exactly Is Leading a Safer Life?

by Keith Pascal

Do “you” think I was being unsafe?

Did my language skills level the playing field?

Once, over 25 years ago I was visiting relatives on the East Coast. My parents were visiting, as well, even though we weren’t traveling together.

They were scheduled to leave a few days before my flight, and they offered me the use of their rental car.

Before getting on the plane, my mother’s final statement (with some subliminal advice)  was, “I know my baby. I don’t even have to tell you to be safe.”

Thinking about that trip, there were instances where others would’ve considered some of my actions less than safe, while another choice I made might have been perceived as prejudiced.

It just shows how cursory looks can equal misperceptions.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

1) One afternoon, I was driving around, looking for a gift for my aunt. I took a few wrong turns, got turned around, and was suddenly completely lost.

I was definitely in a black area of town. Hopefully, I don’t sound prejudiced when I say that I was definitely the only caucasian in sight.

Was it just my perception that I looked like fresh meat? (No misconceptions like in the second Harold and Kumar movie, where they happened to roam into an actually friendly neighborhood.)

As I rolled to one stop sign, one big guy stepped off the curb and slapped his open hand on the hood of the car. After stopping at the intersection, I slowly started forward; off to my right, a guy sitting in a lawn chair on the sidewalk with some other people made a beckoning gesture with his fingers.

They did NOT have friendly expressions on their faces. No, not at all.

It only took me a short time to decide that I needed to get out of that area of town. For whatever reason, this was not a friendly environment, and there was absolutely no need for me to befriend anyone or explain my presence.

I had simply made a wrong turn, and now had to find my way back.

I needed to turn onto a parallel street, and backtrack to familiar territory.

Am I anti color?

No, not in the least. But I can recognize when people are being unfriendly, as I said, for whatever reason.

Contrast this with …

2) The next day, I decided to explore used bookstores in Rochester, New York.

I parked the car and started walking around. I visited some bookstores, bought a couple books, had some food, and made my way to my next exploratory stop…..

3) I arrived at an Italian food mart. They had a separate area for cheese, another for barrels of olives, and a small bakery with “authentically Italian” breads and pastries.

I was in heaven!

When I got home, both my cousins and my aunt were amazed that I made it through one of the areas of town that held my favorite bookstore, as well as surviving the Italian mart.

I asked why.

It turns out that the bookstore was in the latino district, and the Italian food was in an area run by “The Italian Family.” (On my next visit, I saw men with guns sitting at a booth in a restaurant. No kidding.)

I’d love to tell you that I didn’t notice that I was in those cultural areas of the city, but I did … and it didn’t matter to me.

When I was in the latino district, I switched to speaking Spanish. (Not to brag, but I have a Master’s degree in Spanish and a Bachelor’s in Italian.)

And you guessed it; in the marketplace, I spoke Italian with the helper’s grandfather.

The grandfather certainly approved when I did a magic trick in Italian, and had his granddaughter watch, and try to follow the language.

And back in the latino district, I received a free dessert, when I did magic in Spanish at the restaurant.

Leading a Safe Life

So, what does all of the above have to do with you leading a safer life?

It’s all about awareness and perception.

To my relatives, I was taking a big chance visiting certain areas of town. I knew that skill in a target language would dissolve most perceived barriers. To me, that “was” being safer.

On the other hand, I was out of my element, so to speak, on my first set of wrong turns. And I think that I fairly accurately perceived a potential danger. Deciding to leave was my way of being safer.

It didn’t matter that I had friends of color back in Oregon. That wouldn’t have helped in my situation.

Yet, speaking Italian to an old timer, and even using a few words of his dialect to delight him, was all it took to make me part of the group. He invited me to meet the rest of the family, later; I told him that I had to get back before my aunt worried.

Hmm … a safer life. You don’t have to become a hermit in order to be safer. You don’t have to avoid all contact, to be free from danger.

It’s a bit of a balancing act.

And it’s ALL about awareness and accurate perception.

You gather information, like a hand slamming on the car, or someone with a knife in his belt. Based on this new input, you make quick decisions. Stay, continue on, or leave?

Think About The River at Night

What if you were a martial arts black belt? You were accustomed to defending against weapons, fighting off multiple attackers, and slamming wrist and joint locks on your opponents any time you wanted.

Your girlfriend (or boyfriend) wants to go walking along the Willamette River, late at night. (Wouldn’t it be romantic?)

Long before I was married, my girlfriend at the time wanted just that. She thought that as long as she had a martial arts instructor for a boyfriend, she might as well make use of it. Right?

I told her that I wasn’t keen on the idea. I assured her that I could defend us from any bad types, but why?

It’s a question of being aware, being smart, and not taking unnecessary risks … all with the goal of leading a safer life.

The river was just a beautiful during the day.

Leading a safer life is not only being aware, but NOT going looking for trouble.

My Idea of a Safer Life

The above is “my” idea of a living a safe life.

It fits with who I am, but it might not be your cup of tea. Still, it’s a good place to start.

You have to decide what is safe for you?

Will you need to know self-defense techniques? Do you already?

Are you going to take the advice in Tiptoeing to Tranquility and research safety and areas together, and divide your city by zones?

Do you already feel safe no matter where you go?

Something to think about.

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You Are Super Vulnerable at Bus Stops … It’s Time to Do Something About It!

Apply these bus-stop safety tips to other areas of your life. Stay Safe …

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