Will you be taking a gun?
This is the one question I’ve had about my trip across the USA that’s taken me a little by surprise. It’s not that I haven’t thought about my personal safety – believe me, I think about it a lot and get lectured regularly when people hear I’m doing this trip solo. But for some reason, my mind doesn’t leap straight to ‘I know, I’ll take a gun’.
Self-defense course? Yes, I may take that. A little street-fighter finger-to-the-eyes training. But a gun? I’m not the kind of person who should have a gun. I’d shoot my own shadow for looking at me funny.
I don’t hate people who own guns, by the way. Being a farm gal, I grew up around them, have handled them, and been heavily schooled in the safe locking away of said weapons. But I have no lust for them. I’m just not very gunny.
I don’t want to get into a gun debate either, I really don’t. But the fact that someone thinks I need a gun on this trip does dovetail nicely into something I talk about a lot lately. It’s a line of reasoning I keep throwing back at my friends and family who keep pressing their personal panic buttons in an effort to talk me out of going on such a foolhardy adventure. I know they love me and I love them for it, but let’s just examine this a little more closely.
We’re scared of everything.
To our detriment. I’m not naive enough to think that bad things don’t happen – it can be a shitty world for sure. But I also happen to believe that we’re slowly being paralyzed by false fears. Overblown, beaten-into-a-screaming-frenzy fears.
I would like to blame the media, but really they’re just a part of it. The blame lies pretty squarely with us. People. Skin tubes.
For the love of crank arms, think for yourself, people! Be rational. Use good judgement. And don’t let fear be the executive producer of your life. Someone who can stroll onto the set at any moment and order you to “shut it down!”
Those who know me know that I’m afraid of most things. Irrational things, like answering the phone, going to the doctor, or having a pickle touch my sandwich in an overly familiar way. I can be uncomfortably shy and positively monosyllabic if I’m in a mood. And I always have that horrible niggling part of me that’s afraid there’ll be no-one being around to tell me what to do next. But here’s the thing:
I refuse to let it stop me from doing stuff that I really want to do.
If I listened to fear, I would never have left the farm and the comfort of small town, know-everyone-when-you-walk-down-the-street living.
If I listened to fear, you can bet your arse I would never have moved to a country where I knew no-one, had no job, and where some dickheads less than two years earlier had flown planes into buildings, causing all of us to be afraid of anyone on the subway with a slightly oversized backpack.
If I listened to fear, when my friend told me he could not come with me on this trip I would have shut it down right there. The end. Stupid dream anyway. What were you even thinking?
But I didn’t. It’s still there, of course. The fear. And you can bet it will grow more as the date of departure draws near (T-minus 90 days and counting!). But I will use fear in the most useful way possible: as an indicator of situations that need close attention, or complete avoidance. I’m even going to give it a new raison d’etre
Fuel for common sense and quadriceps.
Bad things happen in big towns and small towns. To good people and jerks. And I have no doubt that there will be some moments of extreme wariness as I cycle my way across this country. But you can count on this: I’m going into this thing with my wits about me. I’m taking precautions where warranted, and setting things in motion that will give the people who need to know some peace of mind along the way.
Remember what ol’ FDR said:
“…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1933
And so I advance, by bicycle. With confidence and alertness, and a belief that I’d rather be living my life than watching someone else’s on TV.
I still haven’t decided on the HALT! issue. The few dog encounters I’ve had have on my bike have been thwarted by an incredibly authoritative yell, or squirt in the face with water. But I just keep reading about these aggressive dogs in Kentucky. Not incredibly confident in my ability to outride a dog on an uphill. There’s always the risk of HALT! catching the wind and being blown back into my face. I can be quite the whiz at doing stuff like that.