"Be careful out here baby"
“Be careful out here, baby.” The older gentleman was sitting in a folding chair on his porch on Myrtle Ave, elbows on his knees and hands clasped together in front of him. I was walking from my bank on New Scotland to the Delaware Ave Price Chopper when he issued this startling bit of advice. Now, I have two different modes when walking alone. The first is, “home mode,” where I put my head down and walk across Lark Street as fast as possible, hoping to avoid everyone. The other is, “away mode,” when I’m walking in any neighborhood other than my own. The point of away mode is to be hyper aware, traveling at a slower pace, making eye contact with people you pass and saying hello. It just seems safer (whether you’re in West Hill or on the upper West Side) to keep your eyes open for potential threats and I seem to remember reading somewhere that you’ll be less likely to fall victim to a crime if you greet people. I will run the risk of appearing like some goofball from 1950s Pleasantville to avoid getting bonked on the head and having my bag snatched. It’s worked thus far, thank goodness, so when I passed this man on his front porch, said, “Hi, sir, how are you?” and was met with his warning it really, really shocked me. Be careful out here? It’s high noon on a sunny day and there are kids playing on the street but I should be careful? Why, because I’m a woman? Because I’m white? Because there’s a mugger on the lam who has been known to go after you if you have recycled shopping bags tucked under your arm? Whatever the reason it was a serious dose of reality and a reminder to be careful no matter where I am, even if I’m just walking to the grocery store. So thanks, Marginally Creepy Old Guy, for your concern, even if it was out of the blue and kind of unsettling. I promise I’ll be careful.