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Fear and loathing in Sarasota

Last night, I worked a bit late, stopped for dinner, and then was going to head back into my office and do a bit more, but stopped first in the kitchen to cut up some roasted chicken I’d bought as a treat for my cats. I stood there for some time at the counter, cutting, looking out the big kitchen windows into the yard, watching the dusk-feeding cardinals at the feeder which hangs at the edge of the carport. Calm night. I was looking forward to going outside around 11 pm and watching the Perseid meteor shower.

I fed the cats, cleaned the kitty litter, and stepped out to the carport area to throw the trash in the garbage can.

As I reached the garbage can, a black man suddenly appeared beside the bushes (not sure if he’d come through them or been walking along them), but it scared me so much — completely startled me, he was only a few feet from me, I hadn’t heard him coming — it was in my yard very close to the door, and I just dropped the trash and ran inside. I’ve never treated a human being like that before. Running from someone? But, the man was up IN my yard, right at my carport, feet from my kitchen window.

He was yelling a bit and gesticulating kind of wildly (and wild-eyed) and stood within inches of the big glass windows in my kitchen. He moved further into the carport, but then came back to the window, still kind of yelling — but not really loudly — and I really couldn’t make sense of what he was saying.

Now, I’ve lived in big cities; I’ve walked the streets of Paris at 3 am because I missed the last bus from the RER to go back to my little room rental — alone. I’ve walked the streets of Boston at all hours of the day and night — alone save the wharf rats who sometimes crossed my path. I’ve had some run-ins with and I always, always, always, have stood my ground and confronted anyone who seemed to have not-so-good intentions and forced them to back off.

I can be fierce. I have been fierce. I’ve told a group of three men on Charles street to “Back the f*ck up, mother-f*ckers” when they got too close to me one night and were talking sh*t in their sing-song voices, as I walked home one night. I’ve had a group of crazy, drugged out men and women in a Paris city park literally surround me and — I’m not kidding — crack a bullwhip all around me. The women were telling the men what they should do to me, and I looked the man with the bullwhip in the eyes and walked steadily toward him, making him back up. I couldn’t believe my bluff worked. I got within a foot of him and I said, “Pardon-moi.” And crazily, and to my great good fortune, the guy, for some reason, gave me a pass. I exited the park, and sensed but didn’t see because I didn’t turn around, that the group was following me, I walked out to the middle of the road — seriously, because I didn’t want to be on the sidewalk near the trees and bushes of the park — and miraculously, unbelievably, one of the tiny, tiny cars (can’t remember the name of those little guys — Peugeot or something?) coming barreling down the street belonged to a man I was dating who had decided to come see me at the park. I jumped in the car and told him to get the hell out of Dodge, which, he really didn’t understand, so I yelled “Casse-toi!!” Which isn’t all that nice, really, but he got the message and floored it.

So my point is, I’m usually no scaredy cat.

But last night, this guy right outside my kitchen window, scared the pants off me. (Well, I was wearing a dress, but still, you get my point.)

It all ended okay — I guess. He left when I picked up the phone (which is right in front of the kitchen window) — but when I did pick it up, he seemed to get even angrier. But he did leave. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details of last night, but believe me, I was safe and the guy never came back.

Anyway, a week or so back, my Mom, who also lives in Sarasota, had a man come up to her door, a white man, and say that he did the roof on her house several years ago (it is indeed a relatively new roof). He said he noticed some shingles loose and wanted to come inside to see if there was any rain damage. Well, my Mom didn’t buy that, but the man insisted he had to show her the loose shingles. She did go outside to look up at the roof (which she’ll never do again, because I’ve read her the riot act), and the man was still insisting he “better check inside.” He claimed he was in the neighborhood because he was doing the roof on the new house being built just down the road. (There is a new house being built, but we checked and the builder later told us that he had not hired the man we described.)

It all ended okay, because, my Mom never let him inside. But he, also, seemed to get angry when she refused to let him come in and “check the house.” She wisely called the cops.

A lot of people fall for that kind of stuff, though. Did you hear about the older couple who had two men come up to their door here in Sarasota and the men said they were looking for their lost dog (and in fact, there were lost dog signs up in the neighborhood that week), and could they have a glass of water? The older man turned to get some water, and the hit him in the head and kicked him — with his wife in the house! Luckily, they survived it.

I hate to think we have to be afraid. I hate to think I can’t take my garbage out to my carport. I hate to think some a-hole was trying to rip off or worse my Mom. And I hate that someone could come to a door and ask for the simplest of all necessities — water — and we have to say no.

I have fear and loathing — but not for who or what you might think — such as the drugged out/homeless/broke/unemployed/nefarious/not nefarious people trying to get what they need to survive. I have a smart caution and healthy inclination to steer clear of those types if they intend to do me or my home harm. But I don’t fear and loathe them.

I reserve my real fear and loathing for the rest of us — the relatively sane/legally-drugged/still employed even if just barely/with a roof over our heads, at least for now/good/sort of good people trying to protect themselves and what they have.

Fear and loathing for what we are in danger of becoming in our efforts to stay safe — to keep our little worlds intact in all ways, to keep our loved ones safe, to protect our belongings.

The glass of water not given; the humanity unacknowledged; the call to social services unmade because we don’t want to get involved; the driving by the woman with the bag of groceries standing at the bus stop in the pouring rain. The Perseids meteor showers unwatched because we’re afraid to open our door and step into our yard at 11 o’clock at night.

That is what I fear. That is what I loathe.

Posted on August 14th, 2010Comments RSS Feed
14 Responses to Fear and loathing in Sarasota
  1. How scarey!!!..hope you called the police.The park scene unimaginably frightening and gave me visions of that Jody Foster movie….where she becomes vigilante. Don`t do that! Hope we can do lots of goodwill and stay safe too.

  2. You did right.. Keep the strangers at arm’s length and further.. Never let them get close enough..

    I’ve recently had a similar experience.. I emailed you about it a week or more ago.. with pic.

    I now carry a trim little pepper spray dispenser.


  3. P.S. I am so very glad that you are ok, both physically and emotionaly.

  4. MC: When I first arrived in Florida 35 years ago, I bicycled down Casey Key to see the sights. I was a Yankee and it was summer, and the road was endless. I stopped and knocked on a door, asking for water. A lady said “Wait right there,” and came back with the cool and clear. Bless her.

    Precautions are expanding in our times. My cautious Casey Key benefactress set the tone for today. Front door – caution. Back door – caution. Anywhere else, danger. Too many knock-downs in the city today, too many people with nothing to lose. We’re three years into economic collapse. It could get worse as the season begins.

    I urge caution. More and more people come to my door, and they are not canvassing for votes. Their agenda may not mesh with mine. s/StanZ

  5. Sadly, Stan, I think you’re right — the economic collapse is making people more and more dangerous.

    A sad state of affairs.

  6. I don’t think it’s the economy as much as it is drugs. Drugs have always been a major factor no matter the state of the economy.

  7. It all boils down to $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ in the end sadly and yes John many cases of crime today relate to drugs for sure.It is sad that one always has to be aware of their surroundings and make their homes as safe as possible becasue you never know.There are also 300-500 serial murderers walking around free in the US..Very scary indeed.

  8. Mary, Stan, John and Steve all make excellent valid points. Also Mary, and the one’s commiting these crimes; break-in’s, scams on the elderly, just to get their foot in the door..etc… all know, with the overcrowding of the jails, the one’s commiting the crimes all are aware, the worse thing that could happen to them once they get booked, is they get a roof over their head for the night and three square meals. The next day, they are released; unless of course, they do bodily harm…but common theft, the sentances they receive, are about a quarter of the time they received a few years ago. I highly recommend, a very strong defense spray..and not those cheap pepper sprays, but the one’s you find at a local gun dealer which have 100 times the force of spray than the common one’s on the market. Sure, you may be hesitant in needing to do harm to somone, but Mary, you get someone high on oxy… you think they have any feelings on what they’ll do to you if they have the chance… Stan is absolutely correct, times are definitely not the best right now. Mary, thank you, for sharing your experience with us.

  9. I am sorry you had a scary experience. I had to correct Daniel,s comment “the sentences they receive are about quarter of the time they received a few years ago.” Sentences in Florida are extremely harsh and get harsher each year.

  10. Adam, I agree..the “sentences” they receive are harsh, but if the person which comitted the crime had no prior arrest record or convictions, a person who is sentenced a year, is out in 2 months – if that. Sure, the sentences are harsh, but look up the statistics of the “actual” time serves versus to their original sentences and you will be shocked!

  11. How about the death penalty Adam?Now that is a joke of a sentence in Florida!

  12. In. Florida, all sentenced prisoners must serve 85 percent of their sentence before release.

  13. John W. Perkins
    August 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Ummm, how do they serve 85 percent of a death sentence ?

  14. John my friend, I wasn’t certain if the 85% Adam was referring to was for the death penalty sentences or all sentences in general. But the 85% is certainly fiction. It’s who can afford the right lawyer…You don’t have the finances to hire one, your toast! You have money and you can get away with murder…and that’s a fact.

    But what’s important here and do not wish to get away from Mary’s post, is that she wcame out of this un-harmed…that’s the most important of all….


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