I was thinking about the perception of safety the other day. Julie doesn’t like it when I leave the front door unlocked when we’re in the house. She doesn’t want anyone storming the castle gates while we’re at home, so she puts her faith in a deadbolt. A two inch slug of steel not even an inch in diameter will keep her from harm. She doesn’t worry (but probably will after this blog) that there’s nothing stopping evil doers from chucking a rock through any of our floor to ceiling windows and entering the house that way.
I started thinking about other safe things in our lives.
When the little red man tells me not to walk, I don’t. The little red man knows all about danger. That’s why he’s red. When I ignore his advice, my heart rate is up a few beats.
Down on the BART system, a row of yellow bricks tells me I’m safe from the speeding trains if I stand behind the yellow bricks, I’m safe. And I do feel safe. The moment I stand on those yellow bricks, I feel queasy. I’ve put myself in danger. A train could hit me. Someone could bump me and send me sprawling onto the electrified rails. Those yellow bricks have some power behind them. It’s really silly. The bricks have no power. My safety can’t be measured by the width of a row of yellow bricks. There’s so much other contributing factors that can take their toll on me.
How many of us fear earthquakes, tornadoes, being struck by lightning or an in-law coming to stay? While these things exist, there’s little chance of them affecting us?
I look around me without my safety goggles on and reexamine my environment. There are so many things I perceive as safe. Harm won’t come to me because I am not putting myself in harm’s way. Theoretically, that is. But boy, isn’t it a tenuous belief system? I am safe on the sidewalk because sidewalks are safe. There’s nothing to say a car won’t plow into me or I won’t trip and fall into road, but I don’t think about these things because the sidewalk is my talisman.
It all comes down to perception. If I perceive danger everywhere I go, then I will see danger everywhere. Perception is reality. If I think safe, then I am safe. I guess there’s a little bit of the Pavlov’s dog syndrome at work inside us all.
I quite like it when my thinking goes off the rails like this. I cross my eyes and I see the emperor without his clothes on. This is useful when it comes to the stories I tell. I like to unpick a character’s world until it unravels by attacking all the things that these people hold dear. Basically, I break down their perceptions and belief system. Life is a tightrope and I like to twang the cable while there are people on it—fictionally speaking that is.
I hope I haven’t given of you worriers out there something worry over. If I have, don’t. Now, sleep tight and I’ll see you in your dreams.
Gee thanks, Simon. The entire dynamic changes when you’ve got children. Things that seemed to be “safe” don’t feel that way anymore . .A trip to the park: pedophilesCrossing the street: maniac driversWalking down the sidewalk: maniac driversDriving at night: drive by shootings
There’s so much fear-mongering now, often it’s difficult for me to feel safe; I have to practice a certain kind of faith. To live in constant worry/fear/suspicion isn’t the kind of life I want to have.
Good for Julie.
If they throw a brick through your window, you’re gonna hear them coming. Gives you a few seconds to split out the back, or, pick up a weapon,(kitchen knife block’s a good place) defend yourself.
Unlocked doors? In they slip, on kitten paws, catch you in the middle of one of those creative naps, you might end up taking Chandler’s “Big Sleep.”
California’s ‘Night Stalker’ rarely had to rely on B&E to enter the homes of his victims. Why? He’d just go from house to house till he found an unlocked door, or open window. He found at least seventeen of them, but think of the hundreds he must’ve bypassed because they were locked.
Common sense isn’t paranoia.
I agree with Jackie, there’s common sense, and then there’s living in fear. I practice common sense measures. I can freak myself out with the stories boiling in my head. Though I am getting better.
But as far as worrying about what might happen, I subscribe to the “I might get hit by a bus tomorrow” club. I have people around me who are paralyzed with their fears of what might happen. Would never fly somewhere because the plane would surely go down, that kind of stuff. I feel sorry for them. They aren’t truly living. Life is risk. It would be boring otherwise.
Those insecurities make for great books, Simon. Take a perfectly safe situation, with a perfectly sane, careful person, and turn it on its ear.
I don’t worry about break-ins, drive-by’s and other run of the mill maniacs. Me, I’m going to get hit by a falling star.
When you say a falling star, Louise, do you mean someone like Bob Barker or Jerry Lewis…
I’m with the wife, keep the door locked. Did you know in FL all somebody has to do is enter through an unlocked or even open door and it’s considered, by law, burglary? Don’t to break and enter, or even take anything, just enter without invitation and it’s a felony charge.
“How many of us fear earthquakes, tornadoes, being struck by lightning or an in-law coming to stay? While these things exist, there’s little chance of them affecting us?”
I’ve got the market cornered here. My (old) house was struck by lightning – twice. My (current) house survived a category 4 hurricane, my town was mostly destroyed. Four tornadoes have passed close enough for me to hear “the train effect” that everyonetalks about.
Ah, life in paradise. Guess I should be glad I don’t have in-laws.
Josephine, please don’t move into my neighborhood. You’re a jinx…
I’m a door-locker and an extremely careful traveler. But if I worried about everything that I do that’s unsafe, I wouldn’t be able to function. I teach junior high in a rather rough neighborhood. Some kid could have a weapon. Some parent could go psycho and attack. (A teacher down a couple of rooms from mine has had 13 surgeries to fix the tendons in her arm damaged by an angry mom.) I could freeze myself with fear thinking like this.My point is: there’s a happy medium, and it involves things like locking doors and staying behind safety lines in the subway but not worrying about every single bus that might kill you.
I try to practice a lot of the safety measures Nicola Griffith offers up in her novel “Always” so that I don’t live in fear. Are they 100% effective? Of course not, nothing is. But they’re what I do.
Still, we had a sniper shooting paint balls first and then pellets the following day from one of the parking garages by the shop. We took precautions but we also don’t live in fear.
Life’s too short.