Monday, January 23, 2012

How to be Safe-ish

Is OTR diverse? Heck yes! Scary? Eh. (photo by 5chw4r7z)
Oh, you live in Over-the-Rhine?... *whisper* don't you feel safe? I get this question more often than you would think. I usually laugh it off. I'm not one given to fear my surroundings. I've learned over the last year to replace fear for understanding, empathy, and confidence - tempered with trusting my gut and common sense.

But. But!

It's so SCARY in Over-the-Rhine!

Is it?

I mostly find it quiet... especially in the winter. I find it interesting. I find it diverse. I find it impossible to avoid my fellow humans... but not particularly scary.

It sucks when people get shot, get hurt, when bad things happen in my neighborhood... it really does. It also sucks in Westwood, Fairfield, Avondale, Clifton Heights, and other neighborhoods in the area.

The people I interact with on a daily basis - my neighbors - are an eclectic bunch. I am surrounded on both sides of my apartment building by Mercy Housing - that is, Section 8. You know, THOSE people. What people? People who aren't like me? Yep. We're all co-existing in close quarters. It's what people do in cities.

I'm not saying bad things don't happen. I'm not naiive; they do. But for the last 20 years we have been conned into this self-important state of believing we are special enough to be singled out, that there is terrifying danger lurking around every corner.

FBI statistics show we are living in a time with the least amount of violent crime in the last 40 years. Increased isolationism through suburban living, a 24 hour news cycle and crime-based TV shows (don't even get me started on Criminal Minds!) inflate our fears to the point where we think that EVERY stranger is out to get us. Come on. You're just not that important.

There was an editorial the Enquirer ran about a man who went downtown and Over-the-Rhine one Saturday, and had a great time with his family. When he came home he found out someone had been shot hours after he had been through the neighborhood, and declared he would think twice before going down again. 

 That's like saying you will never ever set foot in a car again after that multi-car pile up on the Brent Spence Bridge (or any other of the hundreds of car accidents that happen in the area every year, many of them deadly.) We certainly don't see that happening. "Safe" is a pretty relative term; taking risks is an inevitable part of life.

Look. You can do what you want. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I refuse to let fear or intimidation keep me from living my life. I've been mugged. I've had my house broken into. Yet, I move forward; I won't let fear of the past prevent me from the future. There's too many amazing things going on downtown and Over-the-Rhine to let the remote possibility of something bad happening prevent me from participating.

just a few of the fun and ridiculous things I could have missed out on by avoiding the 45202

If you don't buy or sell drugs or engage in prostitution, your odds of being shot in Over-the-Rhine automatically decrease by about 95%. Thieves mostly strike when they see opportunity - leaving change in your car or absentmindedly counting your cash while walking down the street will increase your odds.

That being said, here are my tips for decreasing your chances of being a victim of crime, anywhere. Don't come crying to me if it doesn't work, or blame me the next time something happens (because it will.) I'm just telling you what I do. No guarantees. Okay.


How to Stay Safe(r) - Anywhere.

* Don't carry a purse/bag if you can help it.
Purses are easy to grab and run off with, and are shiny and inviting. Only carry what you absolutely need - card/cash/id, keys, phone, chapstick. Put them in your pockets or utilize a friend with pockets if necessary. Alternatively, wear a bag or purse that goes across your chest instead of over your shoulder.

* Be aware of your surroundings.
Only keep one headphone bud in. Know what and who's around you. Walking with your head buried in your smart phone is a great way to get punched in the face by someone wanting your phone (a friend of mine found this out the hard way)

* Protect your ish.
Lock your phone. Get renter's insurance. Set up a GPS locator phone app to see where it's gone if it gets taken.

* Don't walk into trouble if you see it.

Riding your bike up hill and see a bunch of teenagers at the top? Turn around. Have the option to walk down a deserted dark street or go one block over to the busy, well lit one? Duh. See a drug deal going down? Ignore it.

* Engage.
Even if the person walking down the street from you sounds/smells/acts/looks different than you, the odds of them actively wanting to hurt you/take advantage of you are small. Smile. Say hello. 9 times out of 10 they will... smile and say hello right back. It's crazy, really.

* Listen.
Panhandlers happen. I try to listen to people when they're talking to me without initially brushing them off. They may have an elaborate story. They may want your money. They may just be wanting to talk your ear off. They may need directions. Before you brush someone off, listen and understand what it is they're asking you for.

Nothing made me feel more like an jerk than when I cut a woman off once who was just wanting directions to a coffee shop. If they do ask you for money and you don't want to give them any, just a smile and "Sorry, I don't have any" will do.

* If you've got a gut feeling something's wrong, go with it.
If someone's getting in your physical space, if you have an uncomfortable feeling something's not right, there's nothing wrong with being abrupt and getting to where you need to go - inside your car, inside your apartment, inside a random bar/shop/restaurant/intersection where there are people and where it's well lit - do it. It's a balance.

* Other unconventional ways of guaranteeing people will give you your space:
Wearing ridiculous hats. Riding a pink bike. Sobbing loudly and uncontrollably while walking down the street in the middle of the night. Singing or dancing down the sidewalk. Not that I would know from experience...

I don't think guns solve any problems. I suppose a whistle or pepper spray or something might be useful, but then I'd have to go and get some and that sounds like work.


I made a choice to live in Over-the-Rhine because I wanted to be challenged with humanity, every day. I wanted to be caught up in the exhilaration that comes from being surrounded by people during a street fair or at Findlay Market. I enjoy being greeted every day by Marc Antony, one of the more outgoing homeless residents, or Ed the car washer guy, engaging friends and strangers as I walk or bike down the street.

I didn't want to live in a bubble, by myself, isolated in a non-descript housing complex, hemmed in by development I couldn't get to without driving, intentionally cooping myself up in the American dream. Being around people has its trade offs. I'll take the risk that comes with the overwhelming good, every time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Intention > Resolution

ohm shanti, ya'll (Yoga Bar)
At the beginning of every yoga class, my instructor asks us to set an intention for our practice. To decide, in that moment, what we want to focus on while we're twisting ourselves into interesting shapes. Intention helps guide and focus the practice, and it brings another element to the table - focusing with the mind makes yoga more than just exercise.

Rather than set a resolution or five that I will inevitably break, I decided to set an intention for 2012.


As in, starting to grow up a little and train myself to go through and do those things that sometimes I don't want to do. Wake up a little earlier. Dress a little nicer. Make my bed. Do those dishes. Answer that email. And so it goes.

Getting in the habit of just pushing through and getting things done will hopefully leave me more time to do things I actually want to do, instead of mucking about and putting off the things I'm dreading.

It's a mindset, I think. We'll see how it goes.

The flipside of the discipline coin is then to discover what it is that I really actually love doing in the free time I have after the other adult stuff is done. I'm a bit of a 'yes girl', and have a habit of over-promising to make people happy. The result is then doing way way way too much and not making myself happy.

I got pretty dang inspired late last year by the Holstee Manifesto. They made this great video (with bikes!!) that sums up my mindset.

Bikes, yoga, laughter, friends, cities, design, travel, love. 

2012 looks to be pretty amazing. What's your intention?