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Friday, August 08, 2003

Capital Punishment

I might have to leave Washington, out of necessity, for good soon. But I might be ready to go after all.

Crime in my neighborhood is on the upswing, and the price of everything is still going up as quality of life appears to go down.

I was let go from my brand new job on Monday. I was given no reason for this other than “This isn’t working out.” No real reason, no explanation, no nothing. Before they had any chance to comment on my work – heck, before I was even asked to do any work. So my meal ticket for the near future – gone, out of nowhere, and for no reason I can ascertain.

Another sign, perhaps, that I was meant for a different line of work, if for no other reason than the fact that I hate other lawyers.

So I had to go back to the unemployment office on Thursday. The bureaucrats have gotten meaner, the halls more crowded with those of us down on our luck (probably related phenomena, come to think of it), and the building décor even more annoying than last time.

But it’s not just the money. It’s just as much the little things. People throw trash wherever they feel like it. We have people hanging out on the streets, leaning against and sitting on other people’s steps, and other people’s cars.

For instance, I went outside this morning to find that the abandoned car parked across the street – next to an elementary school – is finally gone. It’s been there for about six weeks, with broken auto glass, discarded auto parts and the like all around it. I was wondering when they were going to take care of the damned thing, and whether it would take someone setting it on fire for that to happen. At least they got to it before school started.

There was a shooting - in broad daylight -around the corner from here. Sure, it was one gang member shot by another gang member* – but there were little children playing in the immediate vicinity. One of them could have taken a stray bullet.

I was in Safeway Wednesday afternoon, and this couple just decided to take my shopping carriage, hand cart and all, while my back was turned. They just took my items out of the carriage, put their items in, and walked off with the carriage. I confronted the guy, angrily unhooked the hand cart and yanked it out, and gave the male half of the couple the dirtiest look I could conjure on such short notice. I had half a mind to either deck the guy (I weighed about as much as the two of these people combined) , or start taking his items out of the cart and take it away. I did neither of those things, but the couple left the store without buying anything anyway. Heh.

For once, someone was afraid enough of me to get the hell out of my sight. If only more people did this when I was angry.

Seriously, folks, what causes people to think they can get away with this stuff? It would have never occurred to me – particularly when there was no shortage of carriages in the store – to do something like what this couple did.

I have something of an idea of what people from flyover country must think when they come to the Nation’s Capital and experience their own version of this sort of thing – whether they are mugged, approached by prostitutes, accosted by aggressive, drunk panhandlers, or simply see activities and behaviors out in the open that normally are supposed to take place out of the public view, if at all.

Soon it looks like it’s getting to the point where the ups of living in the middle of it all – being able to walk to everything, nightlife in close proximity – are starting to be eclipsed by the downs – the sorts of things I’m having to either condone, tolerate, or at least not cause a scene when they inevitably happen.

It’s not as if I’ve bought into the “murder capital” hype or anything. I’ve lived in Washington for seven years now, and I’ve never really feared for my life, not even in the aftermath of September 11. But I have felt under siege at times, as if some of the rules of civilized society simply didn’t apply here.


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