The Goddess Speaks

By Glenda Chung Hinchey

Tuesday, November 2, 1999

City strife is
simply relative

THE tall, neatly dressed man stepped out of the elevator, turned around and whipped out a gun. He stood on the threshold of the elevator, keeping the door open.

"Give it to me," he demanded, glaring at my boss.

"What?" my boss asked.

"The money!"

My boss brought out a wad of bills from his shirt pocket and tossed it into the air. "Here," he said, "You have what you want, now go!"

The mugger picked up the cash from the floor, then pointed the gun at me. I gave him my wallet, which contained $5 and a week's supply of subway tokens.

This happened on a pay day in New York. My boss had just cashed his paycheck and had been followed by the mugger from the bank to our Fifth Avenue building.

This was just one of the incidents in New York that made me think I was living in an evil empire. Earlier, my apartment had been burglarized by someone who pried the "double-proof" gates from my wall and stole my stereo, vacuum cleaner and winter coat.

I moved to another apartment in Manhattan's Upper West Side. Returning from work one afternoon, I noticed the lock had been broken. I pushed open the door. A cigarette butt had been placed in my ash tray and my record collection had been rearranged with Dionne Warwick's "The Look of Love" sitting on top. Although nothing had been stolen, I felt I had been violated.

BEING petite and single, I believed, made me an easy target for criminals in the big city. After returning to Hawaii, I realized life here could be just as hazardous.

One night I attended a concert on the University of Hawai'i campus that ended after 10 p.m. The buses had stopped running, so I started walking to my parents' home in Manoa Valley when I sensed someone following me. I turned around and saw a short, stocky man walking about 15 feet behind me.

He was carrying nothing. I sighed in relief. This man was harmless.

But as soon as I turned the corner to my street I heard running footsteps, then felt a hand on my mouth and an arm around my waist. I screamed. Startled, the man dropped his hands and raced away. I screamed again to make sure he kept on course. Strangely, none of the houses lit up and no one came to my aid.

I hurried to the nearest house and asked if I could call my father.

"Were you the one who screamed?," asked the man at the door.

When I called my father, I asked whether we should call the police. Dad said, "No, I don't want the police at my house." But when we got home, Dad, who was almost 70 years old, brought out a baseball bat and went to search for my attacker, thankfully, without success.

Perhaps to compensate for these events, I married a very tall, brawny man. My husband has never been a victim of a crime. He never looks over his shoulders while alone on the street.

I still don't feel safe, however, even when he is next to me. Outside, he is relaxed, while I am tense and alert. In Waikiki, I always hold my purse between us to prevent anyone from snatching it. I peer at people approaching us and I am always aware of those behind us.

Many women, who have never been victimized, don't share my feelings of paranoia and insecurity. My friend is one of them.

"None of that has ever happened to me," she says, "But if it's any consolation, I do worry at night that the centipedes will crawl into my bed and bite me."

Which is worse?

Glenda Chung Hinchey is a library assistant at Liliha Public Library.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
quirks and quandaries. If you have something to say, write it and
send it to: The Goddess Speaks, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O.
Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802, or send e-mail

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