My life has been, well, kinda weird, lately. Strike that. My life has been VERY weird for the past two years, to be perfectly blunt. And when life gets weird, it forces you to do some re-evaluation regarding your frame(s) of reference. Nowhere is that more glaringly apparent than in my perspectives on personal safety. Which is how I found myself answering the door last night, fully armed.
The weirdness started back in ’09, when my marriage suddenly veered off into the shoals of discord, right around the same time that we learned my father would be undergoing extended treatment for cancer. I traveled to Shreveport to look after him, which inexorably devolved into staying to care for him, divorce, his death, mourning, and getting custody of my daughter. In short, just about everything in my life that I counted on as a “constant” switched to a “variable” within the space of 24 months, give or take.
Upon returning to the family manse, as it were, I found the old hometown to be greatly changed. The family home’s part o’ town is still a sleepy little bedroom community, a neighborhood of single-family homes built in the post-WWII era. Nice places. Cozy. Well-kept. But the city around it has changed quite a bit. Between the time I left and the time I returned, Shreveport has added riverboat gambling to the already existant horse racing track, and gone from a predominantly white, middle-class town to a predominantly blue-collar city, where whites are in the minority. I’ve never been big on racial politics. Never saw the point. Apparently, that view is not in the majority, and from what I can see, the spoils system is alive and well in Shreveport, LA. With organized gambling comes organized crime (not that Shreveport was unfamiliar with this back in the day), and a caravan of vices that raise the game for the local constabulary to control. “White Flight” across the river to Bossier City has gone from a trickle to a flood, with families seeking lower taxes, better schools, lower crime, and higher property values.
While my dad’s neighborhood is still in good shape, I can’t say the same for his office. What was once the edge of an older neighborhood with stately homes, now occupies the front lines of a growing urban blight. I don’t think you could get any argument from most people by using the term “slum.” It’s become a place where I simply won’t go at night without being armed, and even then, I try to avoid the place after dark, if possible.
Lately, there’s been a number of things that have tripped my radar. A burglary. A double-murder in a supposedly safe, well-lit, heavily-trafficked part of downtown. Nothing that’s unusual for any big city. But it’s not how I remember the city of my birth. So it’s got my Spidey-sense tingling.
Let’s just say that I’m quite a bit more aware of my surroundings, and decidedly more prone to caution with a soupçon of “worst case scenario” thrown in for my evening’s pleasure. For instance, last night, late, there was a knock at my door.
My thought process went like this:
- I wonder who that could be, this late at night? (It was close to 10 PM)
- I’m not expecting anybody, am I?
- Given all the weird stuff, I should get my gun. (I don’t typically carry inside my home)
I got my gun and tucked it in my belt, in the small of my back, under a sweatshirt. I turned on the porch light and peered through the peephole. Couldn’t see a blessed thing. I opened the door, cautiously. There’s a guy there, holding one of those soft-sided bags for keeping pizza warm, and a 2-litre bottle of soda. He looks at me and says “Oh…is this thirty-seven…” then he looks at the house number. “Oops. Sorry. I’ve got the wrong house.”
Pop quiz, hotshot: Was this legit, or was this some guy using the pretense of a pizza delivery to see if anybody’s home, before breaking in?
Fair question. Let’s look at as many facts as we can muster:
- I didn’t recognize the driver, and the pizza carry had no store logos or markings.
- He didn’t pull his car into the driveway. No headlights on that I could see.
- He didn’t look me in the eye, and appeared startled when I opened the door.
On the other hand:
- It’s not like I would know every pizza delivery guy in town.
- Sometimes when delivery guys are unsure of the address, they’ll park on the street and kill their headlights.
- I stand a relatively-imposing 6’4″ and weigh around 240. Most people won’t screw with me because of my size/weight.
My verdict? Something about this was…off. I don’t know what. Can’t put my finger on it. If was a betting man (and I’m not), I’d say this was a pretense, to cover a break-in.
On the other hand, this has pointed out to me a couple of things I need to do around the house. First, I really need to get a wireless webcam and rig it to view the front door. Peepholes are fine (when they work) but they really don’t do you a lot of good, if you don’t already have the light on. And if you turn the light on, then look through the peephole, you’re putting yourself in the crosshairs for someone who wants to shoot his way in for a home invasion.
So, am I being paranoid? I don’t think so. Just cautious. But I can see how paranoia can creep into your life, when you have to be on guard all the time. For the record, I think paranoid would be defined as being afraid to open the door, opening the door with gun in hand, or aiming it at the person on the other side of the door.
In every situation, there’s a number of possible outcomes. You have to weigh each one, carefully, to determine your course of action. The thing is, no matter what you do, nothing is going to keep you 100% safe. You can choose to live your life in fear, or you can take reasonable steps to keep yourself as safe as possible. The question is – what is reasonable, in this day and age?