So I was walking home last night after a trip to the cinema with my gal pal Becky. Pretty late to the party, I know, but we’d seen Magic Mike, the feminist themes of which make for an ironic backdrop to my forthcoming tale – even more so as a pigeon then shat on her as we left the cinema lauding the film’s positive attributes (and of course many, many negative ones – lern to script, Hollywood).
ANYWAY, I got off the Tube and engaged ‘walking home in the dark’ mode. Women, you probably know how this goes; men, I’ll lay it out for you:
- If I’m wearing shoes with laces, I make sure they’re tied tightly.
- If I’m carrying a bag I’ll wear it across my body.
- Earphones out and phone away, obviously.
- Keys are pushed between the gaps between my fingers.
- I choose the streets with the best lighting, the fewest trees and the fewest alleyways, even if this takes longer to get home.
- As I’m walking I make a mental note of houses with lights on.
- I make a mental note of the registration plates of any cars that cruise past slowly.
- I keep my head up and look forwards, walking confidently but constantly alert to anyone else on the pavements, glancing down under streetlights to look for any shadows behind me.
- As soon as I encounter someone else I run a quick analysis of the following: their height, their build, whether I could fight them, whether I could outrun then, etc etc.
It’s a pretty exhausting business, to be fair, but this is life for a lone woman on the streets at night. Think it all sounds a bit melodramatic? Go find a woman right now and ask her how many of the above she does on the reg.
Yup. It’s that many.
So I’m walking home, and as I come to the crossroads by my street I see a man up ahead, walking in the same direction as I am. He’s got his hood up, his head down and I can hear the tinny blaring of music coming from his shitty earphones. He might as well be wearing an Oculus Rift for how engaged with his surroundings he is. But he’s quite short and thin, and I don’t really view him as a risk.
The problem is, he’s shuffling along in such an apparently stupefied state that I’m soon going to catch up with him. I could cross the road (which to be fair is something I’m always grateful blokes do if they find the roles reversed in such a situation) but then I’d just have to cross back again to get home and there are four men on the other side of the street having a lot of loud banter and it would be dumb to walk straight into them. RISK ASSESMENT, see?
So I decide to just pick up the pace and overtake Shuffles (doing so on the outside of the pavement, of course), but as I do, he apparently changes his mind about where he’s going, spins around and in his surprise at seeing me lets out an almighty yell, which startles me so much I scream and step back into what I like to think was a Mortal Kombat pose but probably just looked like a cat having a sneeze.
“Jesus Christ!” he shouted at me. He couldn’t have been more than 21. “You need to be a bit more considerate when you’re walking around at night. FUCK.”
And then he walked off, leaving me with my keys in my shaking fist, my eyes dancing around the shadows and still a long way from home.