It’s kind of a rough time in the world of Southern California these days, as it is in the world at large. Less than a week and a half back, we were escaping from rapidly-spreading wildfires in San Diego. This morning we’re waking up to news of a mass shooting in Santa Barbara.
But…we have sun! Come see it! We have beaches! Come see them!
I was an evacuee of the fires, but not a victim of the shooting. The same day as the evacuation, however, I was threatened by a coworker. I have gone from a tough manager in Oakland three years ago to a threatened coworker with her hands tied until something is done. All of the proper people have been notified. I work for a place where open minds are kept in the same bin with safety, so precautions are being taken on the part of the bully and on my behalf. I am in full agreement that this is only fair–I have no desire to cost anyone their job or getting even, and mentioning particulars would provide too much detail–but there is still the overwhelming intuition that I will wake up one morning, go into work, and not come out at the end of the day.
“He was a loner. He seemed quiet.”
In San Francisco I worked with two different guys, at two different jobs, both who had a hobby of sharpening knives on their lunch/work breaks. At one of the jobs that practice made sense–the company was one that manufactured cutlery–and at the other job the guy just liked knives and guns as collector’s items. (Two things should be noted here: he never brought the guns to work, and shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords is also still a gun collector, peaceably, even after she was nearly killed by one. Knives and guns aren’t just psychopath tools.) I never felt one moment of fear with either one of those gentlemen. I’m not sure if this recent bully possesses any weapons, but I am more afraid of him for a very simple reason: he’s fearless. The cutlery proprietor was accountable to owning his business and the knife-sharpener was accountable to his two jobs when he was preparing to get married, and he was looking for a promotion. Accountability in some measure is usually the first factor of prevention.
I’m not sure how much accountability bullies and mass shooters possess walking into doing what they do.
The last time I was bullied, prior to this incident, was from the first roommate that I had in San Francisco back in 2006. She was…detail-oriented, you might say. If the tea kettle wasn’t in the proper position on the stove when you left the kitchen, the punishments would begin. I lived with her only a year, but lost a beloved pet in the process of her behavior, an absence that she didn’t even acknowledge until I was getting ready to move out.
It has always taken me walking away from bullies to get them to stop their bullying, a lesson first learned in grade school, then fresh out of high school, and then with friendships in college and in new places of location. I have only fought my bullies twice; and both were women (and both strangers mistaking me for someone else). Sadly, I’ve been bullied by women most of my life–with the exception of a history professor and the most recent addition. These days, the utmost caution on my part to retain my safety is practiced: I don’t take stairs because elevators possess cameras, I don’t take morning and afternoon breaks outside alone (if I take them at all), and when I do go to lunch I make sure to strike up as many brief but engaging conversations with coworkers as possible. I want people around me–partly to treasure them in case something happens to me before the end of the day, and partly to protect me. The road I chose that unfortunately led me to Southern California, and the one I’m taking to try to get home, is long and lonely and kind people spell me a breather.
I don’t hate people. I don’t hate women. I don’t hate men. And I don’t even hate the bullies of my past and present. I have intuition, that’s all. Consider this writing, and any writing between now and the end of my days (hopefully a long way off from natural causes), my love letter to a world despite its increasing population of bullies and those mentally unstable with weapons. Consider these love letters in case one of the bullies or shooters bring about my end.
“Don’t engage them.”
I didn’t, but that might not be enough advice anymore.