On Feeling Safe in Your Own Neighborhood

The other night I was out walking my dog on the street near my house. It was a nice night, I had a flashlight in my pocket but I didn’t have it turned on. The night was cool, the moon was bright and the stars were out.

About ten minutes into the walk everything was going as it normally would, when suddenly I saw a guy on a bicycle ride down in the direction of my house. He was riding fast, a young guy, probably 20, and he had a flashlight on his bicycle so that he could see where he was going.

I immediately got suspicious, because the street is a dead end with my house at the end, so I couldn’t imagine where this guy could be going in such a hurry. I immediately turned on my flashlight and pointed at him as I saw him get closer and closer to my house. His flashlight then started to shine around in the front yard, shooting in all directions.

I was too far away at this point to see him, even if I pointed my flashlight on him, but I walked in his direction with my flashlight shining anyway, and then I saw that he was now heading in my direction. I think my dog could sense that I was getting a little on edge. “What the hell is going on with this guy?” I thought to myself as my dog started to focus her attention directly at him.

When the guy on the bike started to get within shouting distance, I said, “Is everything alright with you? Do you know somebody who lives down there?” I also obnoxiously pointed my light directly at the guy’s face for a moment and then moved it to where his hands were.

The first words out of his mouth could not have been more clear. In a very friendly voice he said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you or anything. I’m on my way home and I thought that this road would cut all of the way to the other side and didn’t realize it was a dead end.”

Immediately, I felt safer, my mind felt clearer, and it hit me that of course this was the case. It made perfect sense.

“Oh, okay, thanks for explaining. I live down here, so it kinda freaked me out, and you were biking so fast.”

“Yeah, I like to ride fast.”

“It’s no problem. And thanks again for letting me know what was going on—you made me nervous for a second there.”

“Yeah, I would be too if I saw a guy riding around near my house at a dead end. It’s no problem. Have a great night.”

I started to think about how I would have handled it if the guy didn’t respond to me when I asked him what he was doing and instead just took off down the street. Would I have called the police? Would I have chased him? Would I have screamed? At the very least, it would have upset me a great deal.

My point is this: If you find yourself walking or biking around in the middle of the night in a neighborhood where you do not live, you’re absolutely crazy if you think the people who live in that neighborhood aren’t going to wonder what you’re up to. They’re going to be concerned, they are going to think of their safety, and the probably won’t immediately trust you. And it doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like. And that’s anywhere, not just here in the Hamptons.

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