Thursday, April 2, 2009

Story time

As many people know, Washington had, at one point, a fairly high crime rate. To this day, every time I’m home Betty Jo, a rather nutty lady at my church, says to me, “But it’s so dangerous! Aren’t you scared living there?” To which I reply that most of the city is quite safe, and I tend to avoid the areas that aren’t. Not to mention that this is the seat of government, home of (huge and fancy) embassies, and a tourist hotspot. But to listen to Betty Jo, you’d think I lived in South Central LA in the '80s.

That said, in the seven years that I’ve lived in Washington, I have experienced exactly two, shall we say, unsettling incidents. Today is story time here at Unagi, so I shall tell you about them.


Unsettling Incident #1

It was December of 2003. Jules, Miguel, our friend Iain, and I had just had dinner and finished visited the White House Christmas Tree. We were walking down F Street to the Metro when a lady crossed the street and called, “Excuse me!” Jules and Miguel kept walking. Iain and I stopped.

That, it turned out, was a mistake.

She said that she was from Baltimore and had been in town volunteering with some sort of Catholic charity, but her purse had been stolen and she had no money to get home. We told her we didn’t have any cash, but offered to wave down a cop for help, but she freaked out at the suggestion. At that point, we noticed her bloodshot eyes and bitten down fingernails. Stranded do-gooder? Not so much. Tweaked out druggie? Bingo!

For ten minutes, she begged for money and we tried to extricate ourselves from the situation. Eventually, we gave her three dollars and she left.

Jules and Miguel, it should be noted, were standing behind a column, out of sight, avoiding the whole situation.

“I could tell immediately that she was high,” said Miguel, ever helpful.

“And it didn’t occur to you to come rescue us?” I replied.


Unsettling Incident #2

This one goes down really well at parties. A couple of years ago, I was walking home from Friendship Heights—home to Neiman Marcus, Saks, and numerous other high-end stores—after an afternoon of shopping. It was the middle of the day, with people out enjoying the nice weather, and I was moseying down Wisconsin Avenue, with my Booeymonger’s iced tea in one hand and a shopping bag (probably from Ann Taylor Loft—I can’t be sure, but really, what are the odds?) in the other, minding my own business.

A lady was approaching from the other direction on the sidewalk. She was pushing a Cart O’Stuff, as many of the homeless in this city do, and she appeared to be talking to herself, but that’s not really all that unusual in this town, so I thought nothing of it. But then! Our respective paths met, and she suddenly yelled “AAAAHHHHH!” and hauled off and walloped me—HARD—in the arm with an umbrella!


I, obviously, picked up the pace to get away from the crazy lady, who had proceeded in the other direction as if nothing had happened. But a half-a-block later, I abruptly stopped, looked around wildly to see if anyone had witnessed the proceedings (there was no one else in the vicinity), and said, loudly, to no one in particular, “Did that SERIOUSLY just happen?!”

And that, friends, is the story of The Time I Was Assaulted By a Homeless Woman in Broad Daylight on Wisconsin Avenue. Not in Anacostia, or northeast DC, or even the more questionable areas downtown, but in tony* upscale, normal FRIENDSHIP FREAKING HEIGHTS.

*UPDATED Friday at 1:36PM:
Dude. Never have I received so much ridicule as for this stupid adjective. IT'S A WORD. confirms it! It comes up as a synonym for "stylish". Don't you people read?

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