A good laugh

Friday, May 20, 2011

Despite what I considered to be a serious situation last week, many of you -- some of you claiming to be my friends -- thought my encounter with a bare-breasted woman during my early morning walk was downright funny.

I know they think it was funny, because they have taken every occasion during this past week to rib me about it.

This is my column, so I intend to have the last laugh.

As you will recall, on Tuesday of last week, at 5:30-ish in the morning and while it was still dark, a woman on a scooter confronted me on North Henderson Avenue and exposed her breasts to me and invited me to feel them.

I declined. I feared the worst, thinking a man with a gun or knife or baseball bat was waiting in the shadows to clobber me. I walked away. The woman on the scooter left.

I used this incident as a personal example of how we are being exposed to crime in neighborhoods long considered safe. This kind of crime, we have long reasoned, happens, to be sure. But it happens "there," not "here."

At this week's study session, the city council discussed a proposed ordinance that a neighborhood group of residents near Southeast Missouri State University, one that has been meeting for a couple of years, presented quite some time ago. The proposed ordinance would give police more tools to crack down on the growing problem of neighborhood nuisances.

This week I was told of another alarming situation: an 85-year-old woman who is being terrorized by her college-student neighbors who become frighteningly abusive during their alcohol-infused parties. The woman is now a prisoner in her own home, afraid to go out lest she encounter some of her tormentors.

That's just not right.

I'm glad the city appears to be taking a few cautious steps toward action. But much more is needed. Now.

So what I've heard for the past week is not concern about pervasive neighborhood crime. Instead, I've been the butt of good-natured joking.

For example: Several men have asked exactly where I was walking and what time. And I was told there were a couple of dozen men walking along Henderson Avenue last week -- apparently hoping a woman on a scooter would come along.

Ha, ha.

As it turns out, I was not this scooter woman's only target that morning. I received a call from a university employee who was accosted a few minutes after the prostitute and I parted company. By that time it was light enough for the second victim to see the color of the scooter and other details. I hope he shared that information with university or city police.

I understand the humor of my situation. It was classic fodder for good-natured joshing. I took my lumps. I smiled at the better pokes of fun.

Now I'll add my own one-liner. I told my wife about the incident after my walk. "Technically," I said, "I'm obviously still a babe magnet."

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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