Last week my little sib’s laptop and wallet got stolen straight out of his common room. I don’t know whether it’s within my familial obligations to do anything except console him about it, so I don’t think it’s crossing a line to tell you the story. This is what happened: The suite door was propped open with someone’s shoe, Will was in his room with the door closed, and this guy walked in, grabbed what caught his fancy and strolled out. Will didn’t hear anything, and his roommate was asleep.
I found this flabbergasting. My suite is never locked, primarily because I lost my key in September, and I leave everything in the common room. I’ve never imagined this being a problem. And I’d figured that, worst-case scenario, if someone breaks — or rather, walks — in, I would be able to do something about it if I were in the suite. But I guess this isn’t actually the worst-case scenario. It’s like the guy didn’t even think about it, just felt like walking up some stairs in Bingham and maybe making a couple hundred bucks for his trip, #casual.
I think I’m particularly unsettled because at home, I don’t lock my doors and neither do any of my neighbors. I’d walk into friends’ houses when no one was home to pick up textbooks I’d forgotten, reach into neighbors’ gardens to pick tangerines off their trees, walk through parks alone at midnight at the age of thirteen. My town’s most prevalent crime is bike theft, and I never, ever, lock my bike. I am from Irvine, California, the safest city in America.
That said, I am — OK, I try to be — very conscious of being an Irvinian. There are horror stories of eighteen-year-old children, having never left Irvine in their lives, going off to college in Not Suburbia, USA and getting mugged in broad daylight because they were, like, sitting on the curb and counting their money while talking on their iPhone. I don’t want to be that girl.
There are also the stories we tell, which aren’t horror stories, but imply horrifying things about our upbringing. Like, “Oh my god, I was in Compton this weekend, and there was this black guy walking down the street. I thought I was gonna get mugged, I was so scared!” And the response: “Oh my god, that’s so scary, literally I’m never leaving Irvine, hahaha, I can’t handle the real world, hahaha.” Because it’s really funny to be trapped in a 66-square-mile bubble for your whole life.
As the proud possessors of the safest city title, we guard our position meticulously. Once, my neighbor saw one of her gardeners walking around on our street at night. To my knowledge, in the morning, nothing was missing, or broken, or tagged. The next day she organized a “street watch,” and suggested that we have the adults on the block take turns patrolling Perkins Court each night. Every single night.
It’s the little things like these that make me worry I grew up surrounded by psycho-paranoid adults with no concept of what true safety is. And because of that, I reckon, neither do I. When I decided to go to school in New Haven, of course the first thing my mom did was find a statistic labeling it “the most dangerous city in America.” Of course, I said, “That’s definitely not true and you just think that because we live in Irvine.” But upon arrival, I was made very aware that New Haven is not Irvine. Still, I was determined to prove the statistic’s untruth. I found the fact that campus is locked at night dumb and elitist; I refused to participate in discussions about being sketched out by the Green; I thought the existence of Yale Security was over the top and a little ridiculous. Honestly, the instance of the stolen wallet and computer doesn’t change these sentiments. These things happen, but they don’t mean that New Haven merits the title “most dangerous city in America.” Whether in Irvine or New Haven, there are certain precautions we all need to take in the real world — that’s what makes it real.