Walking Alone at Night

This Buzzfeed video is great.

For the first six years out of college, I worked in downtown St. Paul and/or Minneapolis. Most of the time, I’d kid myself about how safe I was. How well prepared I was. I’d think about my level of safety whether the sun was up when I left work or whether it was down. Most of the time, I had to walk several blocks to my car. I ALWAYS kept my keys in my hand, split through my knuckles like the girl in this video. If I walked through a skyway with men loitering in it, I’d pull out my cell phone and pretend to be on a call, unable to hear their crude comments. If I went to a happy hour and found myself walking to my car in the dark alone, I walked fast, keys in hand, head up and staring straight ahead.

When I worked at the Saint Paul Hotel, I had to walk across Rice Park, around the Xcel Center and across the street to River Centre parking. One day, as I walked to my car at 4:30 pm, a car pulled up alongside the curb in front of the Xcel Center, across from the Science Museum. I was required to wear skirts and tights at the hotel (otherwise, you had to wear a dress pants with a matching jacket.) I wondered if I was, “asking for it,” because I looked nice and had a skirt on, even though it was knee length. The man in the car rolled his window down and shouted at me, “Hey Girl–lemme give you a ride.” I said loudly, “Nope! Thanks! I’m good!” No one was around. In the BUSY XCEL CENTER, for ONCE, not a SOUL could be found. I immediately prayed that someone else would show up. The man continued to follow me along the curb as I walked toward the crosswalk. When I reached it, I pressed the button to start the crosswalk light. At the moment I reached for the button, he leaned over and swung the passenger door of his car open and yelled angrily, “Get in. Now.” Right at that moment, a BLESSED SOUL walked out of the doors of the Xcel. A man, who is probably still oblivious to this day that he prevented me from being kidnapped, strolled onto the sidewalk to join me on my walk across the street as he fiddled with his Blackberry. The man in the car quickly slammed the door and sped off. I was 23 at the time. This made my relationship with the city from then on out one confusing mix of LOVE and pure hatred. After that, the security guys (former SPPD officers) at the hotel gave me a mace clip for my keychain. They told me if I sprayed it on a homeless guy in the tunnel under Rice Park or in the skyway, no one would be able to walk through there for at least two weeks. So. There was that to consider before activating the nozzle…(Basically–use this if you need to, but try not to.)

The real kicker was my friend’s bachelorette party at Shout House just last summer. I’m not a huge bar person, but I was there for my gal pal. I got lost on my way to the hotel where I was meeting the party before we went to Shout House. As I crossed 8th Street between Macy’s and LaSalle Plaza, I was catcalled twice. All I can do is roll my eyes and give a huge “Uggghhh!” ala Cher Horowitz. At Shout House, two guys approached our table and started talking to us. One guy tried to put a Blow Pop in my mouth. I grabbed the stick nicely from his hand and gently placed it in an empty cup on the table and said, “Um, no thanks.” I probably rolled my eyes. I probably made him feel dumb. I didn’t play along with his attempt at being sensual and degrading me. He called me the WHO** word, along with another expletive. A girl I met at the party suddenly exploded, grabbed a bartender and had the guy kicked out. I was SO grateful to her for getting him off my back. But after that, I decided it was just probably time to go. It was getting late and Hennepin Ave isn’t somewhere I love to take quiet walks after midnight¬†alone. So I exited, and in an attempt to look too busy to be bothered, I called my little brother on my cell phone. As I left the bar in a boat-neck retro style red dress (again…knee length), two men started calling me, “Beautiful,” and asking if they could take me to get a drink. I groaned loudly to my brother that I couldn’t even WALK down the STREET without this happening. Do these men think they’re giving me a self esteem boost? Do they think they’re lifting women up when they say, “Hey Miss, I’d love to git witchu if you down.” REALLY?!!? You are a perfect stranger and you’re basically making a hasty comment about my body. GROSS. Get away from me. I stayed on the phone with my brother while one more guy gave me the eyes/words/insults as I walked quickly by and FINALLY made it the three blocks to my parking ramp. I prayed no one was in the ramp that I’d have to deal with, with no cell signal or other people around to protect me.

This is how it is. Has it always been this way? Is this normal? I’m sure it’s worse in other countries. But since I turned 20 and started spending time in the Cities, I’ve known that once the sun starts to go down, even at 4:30 pm, I’m probably not safe. I’m not trying, I’m not asking for it, I’m just there. Living life. And my life gets disrespected and occasionally put in danger. Blegh.

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