theadventuresofbeka

We're all different. Especially him. But there's something kind of fantastic about that, isn't there?

Category: Bankhead

Rules for Avoiding Creepers

In the beginning of The Hobbit, Gandalf places a mark on Bilbo’s front door that tells the dwarves that this is the house that they are looking for. The dwarves then proceed to knock on Bilbo’s door and address him with the assumption that he knows what’s going on. Bilbo, who didn’t realize the mark was there, is rather flustered and confused.

I can sympathize with Bilbo, because I feel that I also have a mark on my forehead, although I can’t see anything when I look in the mirror. Mine says, “if you are strange, awkward and/or quirky, approach this girl and talk to her.” I have the strangest interactions with people on a regular basis. Sometimes these turn out well, and I gain a new friend or a funny story. For example, I made a “friend” at a botanical garden who proceeded to show me around, pick fruit for me to try, and name the different species of palm trees. Other times, it is just annoying, like when I was asked by a dance partner if I had ever put crystal meth in a CD player.

Since moving to a rather sketchy neighborhood, I have begun taking public transportation on a regular basis. This means that the number of strange creepers that approach me has risen exponentially.

Examples:

“Have you ever had a boyfriend who did crack?” Ummm, I am not a ridiculously picky girl when it comes to classifying someone as boyfriend material, but he does have to be drug free…

“We on toppa da groun!” Why, yes, when the train is sitting at this station, it is above the ground. Thanks for your acute observation.

“I was gonna charge fifty but now I’m gonna charge fifty-five because he comes with nipple tassels made outta real hair.” Please don’t show me. I already know he isn’t worth the extra $5. (This wasn’t said to me directly but was purposely said loudly)

“You know I gotta show swag when I talk.” I’m pretty sure your “swag” is part of  why your probation isn’t going so well.

After a few weeks of regular creepy and/or offensive interactions with people, I began experimenting with how to avoid them. I have since created a system of rules that I remind myself of daily. I cannot guarantee you a completely creeper-free transportation experience, but I can say that following these rules has at least helped me reduce the number of weird conversations I have each week.

Rule #1: Judge based on appearance and pick your location based on your judgment*. Don’t think white is better. It isn’t. Don’t stand or sit near people who display any combination of these characteristics. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. 

  • Pants buckled below his rear end
  • Tattoos on the face and/or neck
  • Walks like his balls are so big that he can’t stand with his legs straight (may or may not coincide with low-hanging pants)
  • Talks to himself or calls out to every “baby” that walks past
  • Wears large shiny jewelry
  • Cocky look on face OR absentminded, stoned/wasted look
  • Smells like alcohol and/or weed (body odor alone isn’t a marker of a creeper, but if it is combined with the smell of alcohol or weed – beware)

*Yes, I stereotype. Yes, I realize this is a generalization. No, I’m not going to apologize. I don’t want to be asked whether or not I want to “play around” with a guy, so I’m going to avoid some “nice, normal” guys who just look a little different.

If possible, sit next to a middle-aged or older woman. She is your knight in shining armor. I once watched a middle-aged lady break up a fight that was about to happen right in front of me in the train car.

Rule #2: Avoid eye contact at all costs. This seems contradictory to rule #1, but it isn’t. Develop your side vision. Judge out of the corner of your eye. I have spent many a train ride with my eyes wandering around the train because I am desperately avoiding eye contact while trying to scope someone out because I’m curious what the giant tattoo on their neck says. When you don’t have to move, it is useful to simply close your eyes.

I recently accidentally made eye contact with a specimen that displayed 5 of the characteristics from rule #1. He had beautiful dreads, and I didn’t think he had seen me. I was wrong. He proceeded to ask me if he could talk to me, and when I said no and kept walking, he told me that I had dropped something.

Rule #3: Look busy or tired. I typically put headphones in, even if I am not listening to music (sometimes it works to your advantage to be able to eavesdrop). I also will bring a book. If I am not up to reading or looking at my phone, I will fake a nap.

Rule #4: Never look lost or unsure of where you are going. I have ridden the wrong train many a time and just acted like I meant to. I have downloaded a subway map on my phone that I will discretely check while ensuring that my facial expression continues to convey that I am bored and unconcerned.

Rule #5: Stoneface. Look like you are grumpy and you hate the world. Glare at people. I have had to practice this, because my automatic reaction is to smile. Also, I have jaw problems, so I have had to learn to not clench my jaw when I fake an angry expression. The only downside to this is that you may be told to “put a smile on your face”.

Like this, but don’t look cute about it.

Sadly, I have found that I now stoneface in a lot of situations where it is not appropriate. During the “greet your neighbor and feel miserable if you are an introvert” part of church on Sunday, I glared at all the people I introduced myself to. Whoops. Let’s just say I didn’t end up meeting any of them for lunch after.

Are you a sheep, a cow, or an individual?

I was sitting on MARTA minding my own business. I ride this subway almost every day, and I am no longer that awkward suburb girl who stares at everybody. I’m still awkward; I’ve just learned the unspoken rules of public transportation.

The subway stops, and before the door opens I hear a loud joyous voice. The door slides open, and I see the voice. He bumbles onto the train, spreads his arm wide, and grins at all of us on the train welcoming us into his warmth. I realize too late that I shouldn’t be looking. He makes eye contact with me and walks straight toward me. Well, not straight, but he gets there anyways. In the meantime, I have become completely absorbed in my book.

“Darlin, can ya move that?” He points to the backpack that sits in the seat next to me feebly protecting me from mankind.

Begrudgingly, I move the backpack without looking at him. I turn back to the fascinating novel in my hand. The stench of a night that was extended into the next day’s noon invades my nose.

“Whatcha readin?”

“Borderlands La Frontera.”

“Ohhhhhh. What’s it bout?”

“A Chicana. A Mexican-American.” I’m still looking at the novel.

“Ooooooo. Tex-Mex! Man, there are some fantaaaaaastic Tex-Mex restrants round heah. So, what’s it bout?”

“Her struggle to find her place in American culture because she isn’t American or Mexican. She’s both.”

“Mmmm. So is it French?”

“No. It’s in Spanish and English.”

He moves the book to better see the cover and peers at it. “La FronteRAAAAA. It’s French.”

“No. La FrontERa. It’s Spanish.” I turn the page, mentally marking the page number so that I can return later. I continue to intently “read”.

He takes a deep breath and begins to impart rambling wisdom upon me. He gestures widely and tries to make eye contact too often and for too long. He has an inebriated look of satisfaction and deep knowledge. He knows he is blessing me with deep thoughts. As the train slows to a stop, he pauses for dramatic effect and then asks me the question he has been building up to, “Are you a sheep? Are you a cow? Or are you an INDIVIDUAL?” He lightly punches my shoulder and stumbles off the train.

I return to the page I was reading when he first entered the train. A loud thump sounds by my head. He is standing outside the train, fist raised and I hear him ask, “WHAT ARE YOUUUUU?”

Oh, you know. Average day on the subway.

 

Bright

Untitled by theadventuresofbeka
Untitled, a photo by theadventuresofbeka on Flickr.

Sometimes the harsh shadows of midday are beautiful.

Obstacle Course

Obstacle Course by theadventuresofbeka
Obstacle Course, a photo by theadventuresofbeka on Flickr.

Sometimes, I drink too much coffee, which for my crazy sensitive body is one cup on an empty stomach, and I decide to run on my own in addition to the miles I do with Back on My Feet. My neighborhood combines hills and sharp curves with no sidewalks, so I elect to run on the main roads nearby. I also choose to do this because Bankhead doesn’t have a great reputation, and running with a large audience of pedestrians and commuters makes my parents feel better. (Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, I only run midday). If you ever want to join me for a run in Bankhead, be warned, it’s not all smooth sailing.

If you grew up in an area like mine, hills are foreign concepts. The worst hills in Florida could still be safely navigated by a small child who is pulling a wagon behind him. Even now, every time I begin running up a hill, my rear end and hamstrings scream in frustration. My mind tries to convince me that it’s okay to walk up all the hills because fighting gravity is a workout regardless of my speed. Hills are also bothersome because you can’t see or be seen by what’s on the other side which may or may not include speeding cars and unleashed dogs. I can’t spend too much time looking at the hills though, because I have to watch my feet. The sidewalks are strewn with broken glass and trash. In many places the sidewalk looks more like a pile of large cement rocks. I now know from experience that stubbing your toe while running is ridiculously painful. I have learned that I cannot simultaneously hop on one foot and run.

While nursing my throbbing toes, I try to avoid the pedestrians. Runners are a rare breed in Bankhead. Most pedestrians don’t know how to respond to them. I’ve had a few people repeatedly look back at me with a worried expression on their face as I come up behind them. I’ve had to explain that I’m not chasing them – I’m exercising. I also have to carefully avoid running into certain individuals. These red-rimmed tipsy guys walk in an unpredictable line and may or may not move to my side of the sidewalk at the very last minute.

As I weave back and forth trying to avoid the moving target who is looking at me like I’m the crazy one, a loud obnoxious HONK pounds at my skull. If you are one of those people who beeps at runners to “encourage” them, please stop. It’s not encouraging. Actually, I don’t care why you honk. Just don’t. It’s disturbing. It ruins the mental mantra that I am reciting in an attempt to continue moving. Besides, by mile 3 my hair is sticking in all directions, my face is bright red, and I’m covered in sweat. I do not want to be reminded that the general public is watching me.

Although there are challenges, I don’t want to discourage you from joining me. I can ensure you that you will not be bored. There will be no monotony. It’s also a rather beautiful area in its own way if you can get over the truck fumes and litter.

Illumination

Illumination by theadventuresofbeka
Illumination, a photo by theadventuresofbeka on Flickr.

This was right behind a broken down building. There’s beauty everywhere; you just have to learn to see it.

Better Than That

Better Than That by theadventuresofbeka
Better Than That, a photo by theadventuresofbeka on Flickr.

“Most people can’t see beyond Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. They think they be working like this forever, and they okay with that. I don’t want to be working in no warehouse when I’m old. I know I’m better than that.”

Broken

Broken by theadventuresofbeka
Broken, a photo by theadventuresofbeka on Flickr.

A New Project

A New Project by theadventuresofbeka
A New Project, a photo by theadventuresofbeka on Flickr.

I’ve decided to start a photo journalism series. I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with the photos (other than post them here), but I feel like the story needs to be told.

I want to photograph the story of my community. I’m not trying to tell you anything specific. I just want you to see what I see every day. Bankhead has a really bad reputation, but I don’t see it as terrifying and perpetually ugly.

So, here’s the first picture. This is my subway station. I have had so many interesting encounters here.

P.S. If you’re interested in reading about my experience in Bankhead so far, check out this post: Oh, you live in the ghetto…

Georgia

Home by theadventuresofbeka
Home, a photo by theadventuresofbeka on Flickr.

It’s pretty beautiful.

Oh, you live in the ghetto…

A month ago, I moved to Atlanta. Before moving, I didn’t know anyone who lived within the city limits. GSU is smack dab in the middle of downtown, and I have learned from previous experiences that I need to keep my commute well under 30 minutes of driving. I asked people who knew Atlanta, and the unanimous advice was to avoid the west side of Atlanta, especially southwest, with the northeast being the best place to live. I started with efficiency apartments and quickly realized that was way above my budget. So, I turned to the next best option. Craigslist. 

Again, I started with the northeast. Most places that were listed that fit my criteria (i.e. didn’t require me to return “favors” for cheap rent to a single male) just didn’t fit my budget. I began expanding my searches and found a couple places that were in west Atlanta. I looked at a few and chose my current living situation based on a combination of things: cost, compatible roommate, cleanliness/appearance of the house, proximity to public transportation, and safety. I do live on the poor side of town. My neighborhood would be classified as working class. That being said, it has fairly low crime rates for Atlanta and there are few sexual offenders (I did my homework).  I don’t feel unsafe where I live. I take the subway on a daily basis, and I run in my neighborhood without getting catcalled. The fact that it was in southwest Atlanta didn’t deter me. 

Once I started school, I learned that a common “get-to-know-you” question here is “Where do you live?”. Atlanta is divided into all sorts of “neighborhoods” or areas that carry their own connotations – Buckhead, Midtown, Little Five Pointes, etc. I love watching people’s faces when I answer them. There is that split second after I respond when they haven’t yet had time to hide their initial reaction. Most people look surprised and/or displeased. I’ve received comments ranging from “Oh, so you live in the ghetto” to “Isn’t that a pretty bad part of town?”. I’ve also been told “I won’t last long” (in her defense, the girl who said this was drunk, so she may or may not actually believe this). I have taken to just answering the original question with, “I live in the ghetto/hood”, because it makes for less awkward conversations, and people don’t have to fake their reactions.

The thing is, I have grown to love my community in the past month that I have lived here. People may not be carrying Coach bags and driving sports cars, but they are kind. I watched a guy my age fist bump someone else’s little boy who wandered by on the subway. I’ve been complimented on my jelly shoes multiple times. I’ve seen kids selling water for charity. While driving with my windows down and Imagine Dragons turned up, I had someone tell me that I was playing some awesome “rock-and-roll”. I helped a woman with her groceries on the subway who then told me that God had sent me as her angel for the night. All my neighbors have told me that if I ever need anything, all I have to do is ask.

Last week, I ate dinner at “Granma’s” house (she is my neighbor). She served a huge spread of food and welcomed me into her home. She also reprimanded me for not calling her and visiting more regularly. As I ate the homemade dinner she had made for my roommate’s friend and me, I realized that this is what I wish I could show to the people I talk to at my university. This is my community: caring people who serve those around them.

Don’t get me wrong. There are elements of living here that are inconvenient. There are no tutoring centers or private schools that I can work at. My gas station sells porn. There are no healthy restaurants or cute coffee shops (although this is kind of a benefit because I save a lot of money by eating at home). My local library is only open a few hours each afternoon. The roads are narrow and full of potholes. Yet all this has done is prove to me that lower-income communities have less access to many things that are taken for granted in other areas.

It’s interesting because I recently stumbled across this map. This is what Atlanta looks like. White is blue, green is black, red is Asian, orange is Hispanic, and brown is “other”. Atlanta proper is everything within the circle/oval – I-285 which is also called “The Perimeter”.

 Image

 

Remember what I mentioned at the beginning? Northeast is “good”. Southwest is “bad”. Northwest and southeast are fairly neutral. I wonder why people would say this…

 

Disclaimer: the picture is a screenshot from http://demographics.coopercenter.org/DotMap/index.html. I do not own the rights to this picture, nor do I take credit for it.