As I reported in my first posting about Atlanta, I’ve felt safer in my new town than I ever could have expected. Even now, having grown accustomed to a daily commute downtown via public transit, my opinion hasn’t changed. I have never felt leery of the situations or places I’ve encountered. Still, when it comes to safety concerns, there are a few things Atlanta has taught me, namely that…
1. Gated communities provide about as much protection as standing behind the automatic sliding doors at the supermarket. I know because now I live in one—a gated community, that is, not a supermarket. Luckily, this wasn’t a selling point when I signed my lease; otherwise, I’d be sorely disappointed. To begin with, it’s incredibly rare that one actually needs the gate keycard to get in. During my first week of living in my new apartment, I had to use my card about 30% of the time. The rest of the time, another car had entered recently enough that the gate was still wide open and you could just pull through. On the rare occasion that the gate isn’t already open, you can just as easily pull over and wait one or two minutes before someone else will let you in (whether wanting to or not). When I do use my card, it’s not uncommon for two or three other cars to make it in on my swipe. And, for about two weeks now, the “out” gate has been stuck open anyway. Heck, I’ve stopped to swipe my card for access to the “in” gate and had impatient people zoom around me to go through the “out” gate just to save those few seconds of waiting. So, while I may be slightly less likely to be the victim of a random act of crime, I hardly feel protected.
2. Beggars can be stingy. On my first day of school at Georgia State University, I came out of the downtown train station feeling somewhat disoriented. As such I took off in the exact opposite direction of my school. Before long I was skeptical about my whereabouts, and as I tried to figure out where I was and where I needed to go, a man started following me around asking me for money. I offered him some change, but he quickly quelled my apparent naivete by explaining that his cross-town rendezvous would require several dollars. I then offered him a dollar, which apparently offended him, or so I’m guessing by his disgusted retort of, “Oh c’mon, man!” I told him that I too had to take a bus trip later that day and could spare no more, and finally he obliged to accept my donation. Which leaves me thinking, homeless people would simultaneously save money and eliminate 80% of begging if they stopped making appointments all over town (what appointments are they making anyway???). I understand their wanting to hold homeless conventions in the nicer, suburban parks, but why not cross the street to the downtown park that you’re planning to sleep in that night anyway? Beggars may not be able to be choosers, but surely they can be more pragmatic! (Momentary Academic had a similar run-in with an ungrateful vagabond—see here.)
3. Cellular phones cause crime sprees as well as brain cancer and car wrecks. It seems everywhere here has a policy against using cell phones while transacting business. While I could make sense of this if you were, say, at a gaming table in a casino, I’m talking about the mundane business we all take part in on a regular basis. Convenience stores, banks, and the like all have signs prohibiting the use of cellular phones while one is at the counter. I even heard a bus driver tell a passenger not to talk on his cell phone while he tried to ask the driver a question. Surely there’s a reason for this, and it’s easy enough to assume it has to do with security. But, failing to be a criminal mastermind, I’ve yet to figure out how a contemporaneous telephone conversation could aid you in committing armed robbery. I suppose you could be instructing your get-away driver when to pull the car around, or describing something key about the particular situation you’re in (number of employees on the premises, guards, cameras, etc.). But, with plenty of people text-messaging more fluently than they can speak, couldn’t all of this “sensitive” information be getting passed along from the discreet confines of one’s own pocket? If an actual phone call were in progress, at least you’d know what information is being communicated.