As a newcomer to my neighborhood, I’m gradually becoming acquainted with my neighbors. They are a diverse group: all colors, languages, and ages. I’ve noticed a lot more senior citizens around me than anyplace else I’ve lived in Charlotte*, but this is also the oldest neighborhood I’ve lived in, ever. My house was the first on the street and it was built before the Big War.
On this beautiful North Carolina day, that feels more like May than the end of January, the dog took me for a short stroll up and down the street. I saw an older woman heading our way up the sidewalk. She appeared to be in her late 70s, with classic old-lady perm and orange-colored hair. Oh good, I thought, an opportunity to meet another one of my neighbors. She sweetly smiled at me and we started up a conversation.
“I see you have your traveling companion with you,” she said, referring to my little pug, Pooky.
“Yeah, she’s my protection in case anyone attacks me,” I told her. This was meant as a joke, and just to be sure she got it, I grinned at her.
She grinned back and held up a little box in her hand. “That’s why I carry mace!”
Yikes! I didn’t know what to say. Mace? Is somebody going to attack her at 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon? I suppose if it makes her feel safer, it serves a purpose. But I can’t get her out of my mind. What kind of a neighborhood have I moved into? Perhaps it's more dangerous than I first thought. You’d better believe that from now on I’m sure as hell going to be very careful around old ladies who smile at me. Oh, yeah.
* This is my fourth Charlotte home.