A few weekends ago, my friends were hanging out at their neighborhood pool when a man arrived at the locked gate and asked the people sitting closest to open it for him.
"We can't," they replied. "We don't have the key."
This is one of those countless local pools where only residents are supposed to have access, so if you wanna swim and don't have a key, you gotta sneak in. Unlike most of the pools around here, if you wanna leave, you also need a key, which is dumb and dangerous.
The man didn't like their response, hurling insults at them and then to everyone in the water as he stormed off towards his truck.
At this point in my friends' story, I was busy thinking about how bullshit it is to lock up a pool when it's 98 degrees out, and how the world would be better if everyone could swim when it's this damn hot. And then I started wondering what temperature most murders are committed at, because I read somewhere at some time there's a temperature where people tend to get angry and it's not so hot they've lost their will to move.
Anyhow, the next thing that happens is the angry, not-swimming guy arrives at his truck and instead of taking off, he begins rummaging through it, opening doors and digging around trying to find something.
And now everyone's nervous, and my friends say they looked at each other and swam around the corner out of his view because suddenly it'd occurred to them he might be fishing around for a gun.
And that sucks.
I remember being in bars during college and worrying about a fist fight when too much alcohol and machismo was flying around the room. I remember being scared out of my gourd to walk home at night through downtown after Susanna Chase was beaten so badly they couldn't tell if she was a man or a woman. But those weren't unreasonable fears because that kind of shit can and does happen. Women get attacked at night. Fights break out. It happens, it happens here, and it happens often enough that making changes to how and where one conducts oneself makes reasonable sense.
But now the prevalence of mass shootings has grown so great, a new question of how and where one conducts oneself is before us. Ever since I heard my friends' story, I've been wondering how this new fear should be managed. Should we stop being in public spaces? Should we consider every angry stranger a threat?
It makes me sad to think of what we'll lose if we hide inside all the time. How will we meet new people and have adventures and breathe in the unknown with relish if we're frozen with fear?
And how will it change the people who have a fit of anger, on a hot day, when it feels like nobody will just hook a brother up with some pool time, taking in the faces of fear looking back at them? How does feeling feared and rejected change a person?
And what if he was just looking for his pool key?
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