Archive | 11:58 PM

Street Smarts: Sometimes Too Aware For Your Own Good

23 Feb

A while back my family got into a conversation about street smarts and book smarts. We thought about my two younger cousins and how they had the privilege of growing up in good neighborhoods and didn’t really need to cultivate street smarts. But as they get ready to go to college we began “the talks,” trying to educate them on street smarts, college life, and boys.

As we began talking about parties, the buddy system, and being aware of their surroundings, I remembered my own college experience and how one evening I became too aware for my own good.

I wish I could say I was coming back from a party or football game, but the truth was it was a late study session at the library. I know, total nerd. But there were semesters where I’d play some serious catch-up and since I was a night-owl I figured why not.

So my school was the center of this city and often raised safety awareness for female students. Telegraph Avenue was pretty much the nexus of life. Cafe, shop, and restaurant owners usually stayed open late. But once you got passed the area, the side streets were dimly lit and filled with bushes and trees where any crazy pedafile could pounce on you.

So the school usually had community officers that would escort you back home if you felt the need to do so. You know, some college dude that wanted to be a cop and was doing his service hours or something. You had to think of random conversation topics, because you didn’t want to walk in silence all the way to your apartment. I didn’t feel the need to talk about the best mochaccinos in cafes, seeing how I didn’t drink coffee and all.  I was also in a rush and didn’t feel like waiting at the library to get picked up, and since I only lived a couple blocks north of  the avenue I figured it would be all right. I had street smarts. I was a bad ass and I had mace. I’d be fine.

English: Pepper spray Polski: Gaz pieprzowy OC...

Image via Wikipedia

So as I finished my walk down the avenue and made a left onto my tree-lined street, I constantly looked behind me to see if there was any crazies stalking me. Of course there wasn’t. Nobody was around, and I could still see the avenue street lights and thought I’d be fine. I was almost home and then that’s when it happened … I had an idea.

I don’t know if it was because of lack of sleep or too much studying crammed into one session that knocked the common sense out of my street smarts, but it happened.  I scanned the area, making sure no one was around. As I was putting my mace away I notice the expiration date was in a few years. I thought, man I must have got a new can. I thought I don’t even know if this thing works. I mean what if it’s like a new pen, you know. You have to scribble-scrabble a couple of times before the ink comes out. So I thought I would test it out. I mean I had to be careful, because in the safety video it said this mist penetrated Levi jeans. I mean you wouldn’t even have to spray the perp in the face. You could spray the family jewels, and they would feel a burning sensation so powerful that they would think their package was on fire.

So I stopped in the middle of the street and pointed the can downward and away from my face. As I pressed on the button a stream, followed by a powerful mist came spewing out of the canister. Then I could hear God laughing because a strong gust of wind came whooshing by in my direction and blew the mace right back in my face.


There I was … midnight in the middle of the street face burning,  blinded, crying and coughing. Mucus was everywhere. I could’ve totally been an episode of Law & Order. Luckily I had half a bottle of Aquafina left and I splashed that on my face. Still burning, still not breathing well. Not blinded, but blurry, like if I had cataracts. And still mucus everywhere. I ran back to my place the best I could and made it up the stairs. My roommate had a good laugh.

Sometimes I’m too aware for my own good.

So I informed my cousins that even though they didn’t posses a lot of street smarts, they would be all right as long as they didn’t test out mace canisters in the middle of the night.