05 August 2022

Can't Happen Here

 It happened in January. On my street, we park our cars along the street. There are big, wide spaces that are clearly not part of the road, but do give us enough space to park one or two cars. Not surprisingly, we get possessive of these spaces. The guy across the street, universally considered the nicest guy in the neighborhood, can get nasty about someone parking in front of his house. Never mind that it's actually public parking.

After five years living in this house, someone hit my car. Alcohol was not likely involved. No, it was one of my own neighbors from literally up the street. I had taken late December and early January off from Uber and had planned to go out the next evening. I would not drive again until March. My response?


It's a fender bender. So, naturally, I'm not nearly as skittish about parking out front. It took five years for someone to hit my car. Plus, if you'd seen our driveway, for which I still haven't forgiven the previous owner, you'd understand why I'm still risking it. And no one was killed. Though there's a black cat my neighbor attempted to miss that's in danger of landing in the violin factory.

Yet, as I type this tonight racing a deadline, I'm watching a news story from nearby Arlington Heights. The towns surrounding Lockland, including Arlington Heights, have fallen on such hard times since the disappearance of Lockland's industrial heart that some of them no longer have police departments. A woman was attacked inside her home despite her street now patrolled heavily by neighboring Reading. The woman says, "You hear of this elsewhere, not here." 

She wants to leave. Granted, someone knocking in your car's door because their driving skills leave a lot to be desired doesn't compare to an assault inside your own home by two strangers. Violence traumatizes people. It's a leading cause of PTSD. If someone beats the hell out of you where you live, leaving is not an unreasonable reaction.

It happened to me once when I first moved to Cincinnati. Taking my girlfriend on an afternoon trip downtown, we wandered around the late, lamented Skywalk. Walking between Carew Tower and the Westin, a guy came up and started muttering about violence to someone who did him wrong. Then he asked us for a couple dollars. My response to the homeless had been sometimes to give them money to make them go away. There is a subset of people who will make intimidation or aggravation a means of getting money out of hassled passersby. This guy did not go away. Back in the Tower, we thought we'd grab lunch. Only our friend was back. With a friend of his own. We thought it was because that was his territory. Only he followed us. We went down to the food court. He and his new friend followed. We crossed to the elevators. He made a beeline for us.

We escaped by taking an elevator up a floor, then jumping into another car, taking it up ten floors. It bewildered the people at the law firm on that floor, but we were able to leave in peace. We had lunch across the river in Kentucky. 

That was 1992. I did not visit Carew Tower again for five years. By then, my experience with the characters downtown had deepened. I could spot the bad actors, the harmless cranks, and those who actually needed help.

It only takes one incident, no matter how rare. My stepson AJ will not ride his motorcycle on Ronald Reagan Highway after a hit-and-run sent him to the hospital. His mother won't drive in nearby Covington alone after a carjacking. We like to think we understand the risks, but especially these days, we've become risk averse. If it happens once, it's hard to imagine it won't happen again.


  1. It's so easy to believe it can't happen here - until it does. And it will. In small town South Dakota, the brother (in his 70s) of a leading lawyer showed up one night and went from door to door looking for the right person to shoot - and shot one of them in the face.

  2. When I hear this, I think of Fran Rizer's cousin and dearest friend, murdered in a home invasion. Fran was shattered, but gradually she worked her way back. Sometimes I don't realize how lucky I've been.

  3. I developed a handful of stratagems for fending off (or sometimes not) panhandlers. Maybe it's worth an article. Oh man, I have one in my kit that would have sent the men running and impressed your wife so much you'd earn extra cuddle time that night.


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