Friday, June 18, 2010

Walking in LA

I spent the better part of this evening with some friends at the Key Club in West Hollywood. Great night, even greater company. I hopped on the 2 and stopped at the In-N-Out on Sunset/Orange for dinner on the way home, walked up to Hollywood/Highland to catch the Red Line to NOHO station, then walked on home from my stop. Easy commute, especially with a fresh LA Weekly in tow.

Traveling late at night isn't an issue for me. I don't necessarily own the night but I'd like to think that the darkness and I are on good terms. Actually, we're practically best friends when the streets are well-lit and when parts of town are bustling and relatively full of activity (Hollywood, Silverlake, etc.) Once I get back to the Valley from over-the-hill, though, I can't help but feel like someone's going to kidnap me.

Case in point - not more than an hour ago I was walking up the street before making a left on the street that I live on. A car driving in the opposite direction made a U-turn and decided to slowly drive alongside me. I didn't look at the car directly; I kept on walking, although I kept it in my vision in the corner of my eye in case the driver tried something. But all I kept on thinking was "Keep driving; don't you dare stop your car or say anything to me or I will scream." The car followed me for about thirty seconds. When they saw that I wasn't going to give them any sort of attention, they then made another U-turn from the right lane and continued along their way.

I don't know what this person wanted. I wasn't drawing any attention to myself. I was wearing jeans, a tee-shirt and a sweater - but even if I was in a dress and sandals that doesn't give them the liberty to intimidate the life out of me. (But it is for reasons such as this that - with the exception of hair and make-up - I dress down when going out.) I was just a young woman walking home from a night out - but maybe that's really all the reason they needed. I wish people realized that just because a woman is walking down the street it doesn't give you permission to do whatever the hell you think you want to do so early in the morning. It reminds me of elementary school as much as it reminds me of the opening scenes of an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Even if I was carrying pepper spray or a small weapon - which I have somewhere - would I be able to fend this person off if they tried to abduct me?

Now I no longer wonder why I feel safer wandering around Manhattan at four o'clock in the morning than I do my quiet neighborhood just before one. It's ridiculous, unfair, and a sexist violation that I don't approve of at all. I called my friend after this had happened, and he suggested when I go out that I call friends and/or family and tell them where I am and when I intend to be home so that if in the event that I don't let them know I arrived home safely they'll know something might be up. This is from my friend, a grown man who has a car. As a woman, who is admittedly more vulnerable without a car, I should probably be more inclined to do so.

Like I said before, the night and I are on good terms with each other, but sometimes someone has the gall to try something and it all goes back to square one. I've been going out a lot lately. Might go out tonight; might not. Still, with or without a car, are there any precautions you take when you know you'll be out late at night? Do you rely on more than just your intuition and reflexes? What's your take?


  1. I hate that you're in this situation. Travel light and be ready to run.

  2. I might need to buy better running shoes, then. Or a knife. I think a knife might be best. My roommate and I had an idea that I ride my bike down to the station and lock it in one of the bike lockers - that way, instead of walking that stretch I'll have my bicycle.

  3. Don't necessarily think that a car would make you safer. A lot of crimes take place in parking lots.

  4. There's no valid reason for you to fail to take a self-defense class and keep your skills updated. It's good to remain aware of your surroundings. That awareness destroys a potential attacker's element of surprise, their greatest advantage against their victim. But very few attackers want a hassle, and will give up their prey if it resists. If you do not have the skills to at least try to fend off an assault, you are being terribly disrespectful to yourself and to those who love you and don't want to see you harmed, even if their advice is inadequate. A weapon can be handy IF you know now to use it properly, and remain aware that it can be used against you if an attacker snatches it.

    The self-defense class at Valley College saved my life, and was worth every penny.

  5. Yeah, I know what you mean, Helen; in either case, car or not, there is room for vulnerability. Sometimes I walk very long stretches that can or might ordinarily be driven, but even so, that doesn't eliminate the possibility of anything bad happening to someone. It's always best to be prepared. Anon, I'm checking into classes that might be available at the Y or at Valley or Pierce this summer. A friend suggested that to me this weekend, also. I'm taking it as a necessary go. :)

  6. Good post. I was also a young woman walking/bussing L.A. at all hours of day and night in the early 00s (left for a much more bike-friendly country in 2004 -- not due to L.A.'s car culture in particular but because I wanted to see more of the world). I had cars do similar things, or pull up while I was waiting at bus stops by myself at night, etc. Heck, at that time, even just seeing another pedestrian after dark in downtown would be enough to set me on my defenses. I carried pepper spray -- never had the occasion to use it, luckily. I always felt like I had to be on high alert walking through Alhambra, El Sereno, Echo Park, and downtown after dark. One guy grabbed me from behind in broad daylight a block from my house in Echo Park. Infuriating! A self-defense class would probably be a good idea. Stay safe ... I think L.A.'s coming around, slowly, from what I see each time I go back for a visit.