27 September 2019

On crowded spaces and weird moments of podcast clarity

(photo courtesy of the Anderson Independent: Clemson students on the library bridge at class change)
This morning, as my bus hurtled down I-85, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts: And That's Why We Drink. It is one part paranormal stories, one part true crime stories, and several parts humor. But this morning I listened to an episode recorded after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. The tone was angry, accusatory, afraid, resigned, and just sad - and I felt every single one of those as I listened. As usual, storytellers Em and Christine spoke my truth along with theirs about this issue.

But then, as also often happens on a dark bus before 8am on my way to work, my mind started to wander. Christine had said something about people who are now afraid to leave their homes, afraid to go to crowded places. Em was talking about how people who want to go to the premiere of a superhero movie think twice now after the Aurora Theatre shooting. I thought to myself that I haven't really changed that much of my daily life, but that could just be because other than my friend who died at Virginia Tech I haven't really had a personal connection to the other shootings.

But on closer inspection, I do have some alterations that have happened. One glaring one is related to the picture above. In order to get from my office to two of the buildings in which my students often have classes, I have to cross over that bridge and it often is just that crowded. I don't do that anymore. I go under the bridge and take the elevator up to the top of the stairs at the other end. I thought I was just doing that because I was lazy - and I am, don't misunderstand - but it is also because I have become rather uncomfortable in large open spaces that have loads of people in them. Places like college campuses. Places that could be targeted.

I tested that theory the other morning by walking across the bridge rather than under it, and sure enough, by the time I got to the other side and was walking up the steps to the sidewalk I was full of anxiety. On my walk back from class I go across the bridge all the time with no worries - because there aren't that many students on it then, I suppose. As much as I hate to say I'm letting the terrorists win - however melodramatic that is - I am because to arrive at my class to interpret with a ball of anxiety in my chest is not doing anyone any favors.

I wonder if this is a permanent thing? Will I be resigned to side streets and outdoor elevators for the rest of my life? Will someone somewhere that is in charge finally do something about the root cause of these shootings?

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Notes from Exile: Week Ten