So as my doctors have prohibited me from driving due to my poor eyesight, I have become more confident and adept at getting around on Seattle’s public transportation. As I mentioned in my last post, my Orca card and light rail are a revelation, I ride the train several times a day and love its speed, efficiency and proximity to home. My ability to use public transport gives me independence that is really important to me. And the bus? Well, the bus is a great service and resource but I almost always would rather walk than wait. (That said, I could hug and kiss the geniuses who created “One Bus Away” for the iPhone to know in real time when the next bus is coming, I use it multiple times a day and it is the most useful and brilliant application ever.)
Yet as I am sure many thousands of longtime bus riders in South Seattle have noted long before me, there have been a number of experiences where I have felt less than safe walking by myself in the dark, in the rain, on deserted, poorly lit streets, often with my laptop in my backpack. (The worst so far was the walk from Rainier Health and Fitness to Othello street – dark, deserted, busted sidewalks, pools of water.) I feel like I am a fairly street smart person having lived in the South End for more than a decade and having worked as a journalist in many tough environments. I am often chastised for going all kinds of places by myself, without fear, but the past month has reminded me how poor a lot of our infrastructure and public safety (street lighting, sidewalks that are covered in water forcing people to walk on Rainier) continues to be.
Despite this, I feel like I have been getting around pretty well considering my poor vision makes me jumpy and am getting more confident about new bus routes and coming home by myself a little later. This confidence was shattered though last night. While coming home from an event for work at the UW, I was on the last leg of my bus and train journey and had gotten off at my usual Link stop in Columbia City around 10:30 p.m. and was walking on Alaska toward Rainier just a few blocks from the train to meet friends on my way home (a stretch I have always felt no qualms about) when a young man ran up behind me, grabbed me from behind, pushed me to the side and yanked my purse off from across my chest and body and then ran away across into a side street. Thankfully, because my purse was open on the top my wallet fell out in the street while he was running so I retrieved it.
I ran to Rainier and within minutes my friends were there to get me (thank you all) as I was super scared and shocked. While he did not get my wallet, he got my address, bank account number and house keys.
When I got home I called the police who came relatively quickly (I was surprised they came at all) and took a report. The officer asked if I was injured and whether my eye problem was a result of the robbery, and when we told them it was from brain surgery, then he said, “Well after brain surgery, getting robbed is nothing.” Which was really funny. Although I have to say that brain surgery did not shake my confidence or my overall trust in the safety of my environment like this experience did. The police officer said he would put in a request for monitoring of my house (we are changing the locks today).
He then told us that I was the latest in a string of robberies of people getting off the train, the others having been at the Othello station. He said the steady stream of riders on a schedule creates a great opportunity for people to rob train riders. This is a public safety issue that I hope will get more attention. So just a reminder to folks to be careful, conscious of your surroundings and take sensible precautions, especially at night. Despite my friends’ admonitions, I will still be taking the train and the bus but will be even more careful in the future and will probably have to “phone a friend” if I need a ride at night. Thanks again to everyone for all your support.
P.S. – For those following along on the medical bill count, this week brought an additional $37,000 bill (surgeons) and when I called to make financial arrangements on my portion was told not to bother just yet because there was another $30,000 in surgeon bills pending. This brings our running tally so far (for those keeping score at home to: $217,000! How’s that Health Care Reform bill coming along again? While I am extremely lucky to have health insurance, please call your Senators today to tell them to vote for the bill WITH A ROBUST PUBLIC OPTION INCLUDED – so that no one has to go bankrupt (or worse) because they get sick.