Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Downtown After Dark

Every so often, I meet someone who tells me that they won't go to any events that take place in downtown Waterbury after dark. This always amazes and disappoints me. Downtown Waterbury is incredibly safe, any time of day or night. The crime rate is almost nonexistent, and most of it seems to take place during the middle of the day (for example, a store on Bank Street was robbed one afternoon a few weeks ago; no one was hurt). I don't think it's any more dangerous than Southbury or Watertown.

I have worked and lived and socialized downtown for nine years. I have walked across the downtown area alone after dark many times. The sum total of the "encounters" I've had are this: a very pleasant man talked to me about life while we walked down the street, then asked me if I had any money I could give him; on a couple of occasions, a man in a car (not the same one each time) has pulled up alongside me while I walked and asked if I "needed a ride"; a dude sitting on a bench asked me if I was "all set"; a different dude lurking in the doorway of an abandonned building asked me if I smoked; one time my friend and my sister were walking further ahead of me, and they claim that a prostitute started yelling at them about how she didn't want their competition. Oh, and I did once hear a story about two girls getting mugged by a skinny white guy wielding a stick in a parking lot behind a bar. Nine years, and that's all that's happened.

One of my favorite downtown stories involves me, a toga, and floral garlands. I dressed up Roman style for an event at the Palace Theater, wearing a shirt, skirt and sandals that weren't too dissimilar from what Roman women wore. I wrapped a white bedsheet around myself as a palla (the feminine form of the toga), and then a friend helped me pin giant fake flowers in my hair. It was very impressive looking. I then had to walk the length of the Green and the short block to the Palace in this outfit, in broad daylight. I think I almost caused a traffic accident, as everyone turned to look at me and struggled to figure out what I was. One driver asked a police officer if I was supposed to be the Statue of Liberty. The walk back was done after dark, when the streets were pretty much deserted. One of the event organizers was very worried about my safety; she was convinced that I was going to be assaulted. The one dude I encountered in my walk across the Green in the dark just stared and muttered about how crazy I was. I think maybe he thought he was hallucinating. The moral of the story: if you really are worried about your safety, just look like you're crazier than anyone else, and they won't know what to do.

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