The bus stop nearest my house doesn’t have a shelter so when it rains, which is most of the time, people huddle under the awning of the bakery up the block or the alcove of a building nearer the route. On a rainy day like the dozens of others I’ve experienced here, I was in the latter spot with an elderly lady and I ducked out and reached the stop exactly as the bus pulled up, hopping directly on.
The lady sat down next to me once she’d gotten away from the protection of the building and hobbled over to the curb. “How did you know it was coming?” she asked. “The window,” I said, generally indicating a storefront receding behind us. Then I said, “La vitrine,” since a shop or display window is not the same as the kind you have in your house. She looked confused, so I clarified that it was the reflection of the approaching bus in the window which I’d seen. Her eyes got wide. “Like spies,” I said, trying to express, in just a few words, that I have read or seen hundreds of spy stories and watching for stuff in reflective surfaces is basic spy craft.
The conversation ended abruptly with a look that I’ve come to know all too well, one that says, “what a fearsome creature you are,” since it’s apparently not nice for young ladies to put classic espionage techniques into use on a daily basis.
I figured that my affinity for spy stories was where this habit came from, but then I heard an interview with novelist Attica Locke which presented an alternate reason.
In America, there is a feeling of always walking through life as a woman with the knowledge of violence around a corner.
And I think this is, while being very sad, more likely to be the source of my spying habits. If I wanted to, I could feel deflated that I grew up in a culture where I was constantly threatened by the sheer amount of violence around me as well as the possibility of violence being perpetrated upon me. But the truth is that, barring the many bikes I’ve had stolen, nothing bad has ever happened to me, so maybe my hyper-vigilance has paid off.
So, here are my basic tips for keeping safe:
- Check reflections and shadows
- Keep your back to the wall
- Always know where your exits are