Tuesday, March 22, 2011

License to Dial

A large group of addicts and dealers had gathered on the lawn in front of the bank, openly selling and buying, ignoring their audience unless someone strayed too close. Then they would harass and cajole until the hapless pedestrian backed away in fear. They were drunk, and therefore oblivious their locale, which happens to be one of the busiest corners in North Seattle.

It was before 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday and the bank was still open. I could see the manager and a couple of tellers pressed up against the windows with their cell phones to their ears. I had mine ready just in case, with my trusty but uselessly small canine as back-up.

When the squad car appeared the bank employees hung up in unison, and we watched the loiterers scatter. One guy was cornered by an officer and began to make excuses for his very existence at the top of his lungs. An escapee exaggerated his relief by exclaiming, "Phew! Close one. Phew!" and ducked into the pub, while I showed my relief by high-tailing it home.


"Wish you could hear what I'm thinking, bitch." She and I had just passed each other in the alley, and she hadn't returned my smile--given her stumbling condition, a sign of trouble. I had a pretty good idea what she was thinking. She probably wanted me out of her territory, as would any angry, hungry, terrified dog. "Speaking of bitches..." I wanted to say, but I don't have a death wish.

Now 10 feet behind me, I could feel her glare. Instinctively, I didn't turn around to see if she was still there until I was nearing the street. Then she was gone. I'd won! I felt tough, invincible and large in charge except for the fact that my hand was in my purse, sweatily gripping my cell phone like a loaded gun.


"911, what are you reporting?"

"Yeah, there's a fight in progress. Again." I tried not to sound too apathetic as I watched the man and woman hit each other and throw things at each other while their falling down drunk friends tried to intervene. I dutifully answered questions and provided descriptions using the photo I'd taken. "Looks like a bunch of packages of something white in their trunk. Probably drugs, knowing what goes on around here." *sigh*

"Mmm hmm. Could be. Are you safe?"

"Yes. I'm on the fourth floor of a condo. Some of my neighbors are calling, too. They're safe."

"I can see the other calls coming in. We're dispatching a car, now."

"Thanks." *sigh*

While I'd been on the phone, my neighbor two floors down had had the same conversation with another operator. Her boyfriend had joined her out on the deck, phone in hand. Above and to the left of me, another neighbor on another call, and there were other phones being dialed up and down the street.

By the time the police arrived, we'd watched as the antagonists had driven away with their trunk still open. Officers interviewed inebriated witnesses, quelled tempers and began inspecting the baggies. I went back to the couch.

Later that evening I found a stash of similar baggies behind a bush. They contained tiny white gym socks, breast pumps and bibs. Probably not worth a call to 911, but you just never know around here.


  1. These dispatches from your neighborhood leave me shaken and fearful for your safety. It's as if you were reporting from a war zone in the middle east somewhere, but the reader does not have the comfort of thinking it can't happen here. I really like your cool in the face of certain danger, what Hemingway called grace under pressure. You make the reader celebrate your small victories while at the same time fearing for your life, not easy to bring off convincingly without sounding melodramatic, which you don't. On the contrary, you sound cool, collected, almost in charge, which we clearly see you aren't. Still, I'd rather have you in my foxhole than most of the blow hards I seen up close in dangerous situations, who weren't worth a goddamn when things got nasty.

  2. You hit every nail on the head. My exterior might have a glazed-over appearance, but inside I want to run like hell. My panic button is broken from overuse. Usually nothing comes of these situations--growling and snapping and that's that. Those of us not directly involved in the nonsense have recently been instructed to call, call, call. Otherwise the police can't track the activity properly and work on putting an end to it. Completely opposite to what they were telling us a year ago. That's how fast a neighborhood can lose its way.

    Thank you for your wonderful reviews. Hey, other readers (all five of you)! Check out his poetry blog on my 'other worthy reads' list.