A couple years ago, I decided to stop carrying a purse around. Why? Well, because in my part of town, it just flat isn’t safe. Any time you walk across the parking lots of our neighborhood grocery stores, you run the risk of mugging.
The way to minimize that risk: carry a wallet with your credit cards and nuisance store “member” cards in a pocket. Leave the purse at home, in a closet.
Interestingly, this works in a variety of positive ways, one of which is to cut panhandling exponentially. When a bum thinks I’m not carrying cash, he doesn’t barge up and demand that I share it with him.
But…then there is Tempe, even more richly infested with bums and panhandlers than the ’Hood, here at the end of the accursed lightrail line. (The lightrail is affectionately known in these parts as “the bum express.”)
Today I went out to that garden spot, that lovely little college town (you have to live in Arizona to sense the full irony in that characterization), to meet my friend and business partner for a late lunch at our favorite overpriced restaurant. Had to park about a block up the road, there being no spaces anywhere near the front of said restaurant.
Afterward, we drifted out to the front sidewalk and stood chatting for a few minutes. A bum wandered up and hovered nearby, studying a parking meter as if it held some clue to the meaning of life, the universe, and all that. Tina’s car was right in front of the place; shortly she jumped into her vehicle and drove off. I now had to walk a ways to get to my car.
Because of the quasi-infected surgical wound on my leg, I haven’t been able to wear my jeans, which are about the only women’s clothes you can buy that reliably contain pockets. So I’d brought a small purse with a long strap, which I’d slung over my shoulder.
The bum looks up and gazes at me quizzically, his eyes a startling blue. If he were washed and sober, he’d be a handsome man. But he is…well, neither washed nor sober.
I avoid his glance (Rule of Womanhood No. 213: Never make eye contact) and start walking up the block toward my car.
Naturally, he follows me. I’m walking fast, and he’s keeping pace with me, just a few steps behind.
I walk past my car — not a chance am I going to stop long enough for him to get any closer. As I march along, I slip the purse strap over my head so the bag hangs crosswise across my chest. And I search for a building that I can get into.
ASU and the city of Tempe have littered this stretch of the lovely downtown with pointless museums, all of which are locked tight. I keep hiking all the way down to Mill Avenue, where at last I come to a sandwich shop that’s open. I dart in the door and find — thank God — four burly men, two behind the counter and two standing in line to order food. They look a little startled when they see me come flying in.
Fortunately, the shop is fronted with ceiling-to-floor windows. I can see the vagrant walk on past and continue north on Mill. After waiting for a minute or two, I slip back out the door and hike back down the sidewalk to my car.
What did I think was going to happen? Well…take your pick:
- The guy would ask me for a handout.
- The guy would grab my purse and yank it off my body.
“Nothing” would be nice, but experience suggests it was the least likely of the three possibilities.
Frankly, I suspect if I’d had my credit cards stashed invisibly in the pocket of a pair of jeans, that guy would never have followed me.
This is something you learn from living in the central city. In the old house, one old lady was walking from her car into a nearby grocery store when a purse-snatcher threw her to the ground to grab her bag, thereby breaking her hip. Here in the ‘hood, another shithead shot one of my neighbors when he mistakenly thought she was resisting an attempt to steal her purse.
And that, folks, is why I do not carry a purse. Not unless I’m forced to it.