Is it Irrational to Feel Safer In The City? Because I Do

published Feb 18, 2015
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(Image credit: Ivonne’s Gutsy Renovation House/flickr User Texas Fox)

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will never be able to make my partner understand how much safer I felt in the city than I do way out here in the country. “But there’s literally nobody here to hurt you!” Ah, yes— but there’s nobody here to save me, either…

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I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, moved to downtown Portland after graduating from college, lived for a while on the North Side of Chicago, and then spent 8 happy years in San Francisco. My partner grew up in the country— a ways away from a cool town, itself a ways away from a great small city— and has lived in the deep, remote country for years. The wilder and quieter and more secluded, the better. The wild aspect is fascinating to me, and I’m enjoying the quiet, but it’s the secluded that makes me uncomfortable.

I realize that violent crime happens in cities. In some places, it happens near-constantly. I know there are terrible people doing terrible things to other people who just happened to be walking down the street. But here’s the thing: if there’s one terrible person on a street, intent on committing a terrible act, there are also 10 or 20 or 100 decent, often heroic people on that street, too. People who can intervene, who can chase your attacker down or at least ID him, people who can call 911 and perform CPR until the ambulance arrives. There are people to hear your shouts and people to discourage violence simply by being around, witnesses-in-waiting. I love those other 10 and 20 and 100 people that I shared the street with, and I relied on them and hoped I could do right by them if and when they needed me. I relied on my sweet neighbors to look out for me, just as I was looking out for them. There are terrible people in cities, but they are vastly outnumbered by all of the wonderful ones.

And out here? Let’s first discuss distance. Our driveway alone is 0.2 miles. It’s another 0.25 miles to the nearest neighbor, and 1 mile further to the next. The closest (teeny) town is 15 miles, and the nearest town of size is about half an hour away. Shortly after we moved in, my partner informed me that if he was seriously injured or sick, I was not to call 911 because it would take the ambulance nearly 30 minutes to get here and another 30 to return to the hospital. I was to load him into the car and drive him myself, which is just one of the reasons I lift weights. There are much more secluded places in the world, but even here, there’s really nobody around to help. Our neighbors/colleagues are great, but how would they know I need help? They’re simply too far away.

As for how to deal with the fear I feel living way out here, I’m still working on it. I won’t ever become one of those people who says, “But nothing ever happens out here!” because 1) people are the same everywhere and 2) there was a recent random murder 10 miles away. I tell myself that the statistics are in my favor, that there really isn’t anyone around, and that living in fear never helped anything. But I am adamant about locking the doors at night, contrary to local policy. “Drifters and coyotes,” I explain, and no one dares argue.

Where have you lived where you felt the most safe- and the least safe? Was your fear because of local crime stats, or based on a vibe? How did you deal with your fears, or even work towards making things safer for everyone?