Monday, September 15, 2008

Late Night Commuting I

In the two years that I've had a tiny can of mace, encased around rough black leather and accented by a a tiny metal hoop for key chain use, I've fortunately never had to use it...

Although not too long ago I had a very close call.

On a Saturday night at about 1:30AM, my friend and I walked another friend of ours about a mile away from her house in West Homestead to a bus stop next to the Homestead Grays bridge. After waiting for her to get safely on the bus, we walked back to her house through the dimly-lit, empty streets of Homestead.

Or at least they seemed empty at the time.

Not too far from her house, a drunken and angry older man began to follow us as he shouted profanities and sexually explicit comments. At first we continued to walk normally, ignoring the man in his drunken stupor, but the more that we disregarded his presence, the faster he began to walk after us and the louder he screamed through the silent night.

As he walked faster, so did we, until the point where we both began to power walk. The can of mace was taken out and put into my friend's hands. But we eventually walked fast enough to reach the sharp turn of a street leading to her house. After making the turn, we sprinted as far as we could until my asthma painfully caught up with me. But we eventually made it back safely to her house.

I'm not sure what might have happened if my friend had to use that can of mace, or if he caught up with us... But I'm positive that it would not have been a good experience and the risk of us getting hurt was certainly there.

However, when I signed up for my 5:30pm to 8:30pm desktop publishing class, I did not think of all of the risks that came along with getting back home safely at night. I knew that I would need to take the class eventually and that was the only class that could fit into my crammed work and school schedule. Plus, I had arranged my classes before the incident I had previously mentioned had occurred.

Here's what I typically deal with on my nightly walk home:

I know that I can be very paranoid and that I worry too much, but sometimes when I get off the subway at South Hills Junction in Allentown when I'm done with school or work late at night, I'm scared to be alone. I think back to that night in Homestead and clutch my cellphone and can of mace as I walk up the narrow and dimly lit sidewalk and hope for the best. It's difficult to not feel uncomfortable in a neighborhood that has at least one shooting a month and that is known for its high crime rate.

I've figured out a couple things that I can do to try to keep myself safe at night from experience and from other sites, and I'll list them here for your benefit if you ever find yourself in a similar situation like myself:

1. Always carry your cellphone if you have one: If you ever get stuck in a difficult or even dangerous situation, this will make it easier to contact someone who can possibly help you.
2. Commute with a buddy: Even though you learned the buddy system in kindergarten, it is good to practice at any age. Try to avoid traveling at night alone by walking or catching a ride with a friend.
3. Be aware of your surroundings: It's important to know which areas, streets, and neighborhoods to avoid at night so you can stay safe. Stay away from areas that are crime ridden and use well-lit paths as well as commonly traveled walkways. Be "street smart."
4. Let others know where you are: I always try to let my roommates know when I'm done with class and work and if I'll be home that night, and at what time I'll be home.
5. Consider carrying mace: Some people strongly oppose carrying mace, but I've personally found nothing wrong with keeping it with me. It makes me feel slightly safer when I carry it and it could help me escape from a terrible situation. BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU TAKE YOUR MACE THOUGH! Some campuses, as well as jobs, do not allow students to have mace, and you could get in trouble for having it on you.
6. See if your college has a shuttle system: Some schools can shuttle students from various areas, such as dorms. Point Park University has a shuttle that takes students to Oakland, a place where many students live. It's a better option than taking a bus alone.

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