Some events occurred recently in our subdivision on Florida’s west coast that resulted in my wife and I carrying more passionately. We’re north of Tampa, but off the highway. It isn’t easy to find. When we moved from New Mexico, we had the good fortune to find an older place on a lake. It needed a lot of work but was surrounded by woods and semi-jungle, which gives us a level of privacy.
Barefoot in the Park
Twice, young women have appeared in the middle of our neighborhood, carrying luggage. The first time, a woman was stacking luggage from a car onto a culvert, not at a home or even in a driveway. Because I want to know who’s roaming around (and am properly nosy), I stopped to see what was happening. The spot was just so absolutely random.
The young woman said she was “waiting on her boyfriend.” I asked if she needed a ride to the bus station or a McDonald’s. Wouldn’t it be more comfortable waiting there with her luggage? At that point, she got angry and began calling me names. I backed away. It’s a public street.
The second time, a young woman carrying a large pack printed with cartoon characters walked into our cul-de-sac. She was barefoot, carrying sandals. We happened to be at the mailbox when she appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and asked directions “to the highway.” We gave her directions to a main road — there’s no highway, exactly — but the onslaught of turns must have been confusing. She wandered off down the street.
The appearance of these women in a place obviously not their environment was odd. We put up a message on our hometown Facebook page, suggesting that people should be aware of random appearances by young women in their neighborhoods. My wife, who is a psychiatric nurse and deals with drug addicts and other social misfits, suggested drugs, prostitution or even slavery. As a professional, she has seen all of the above.
Social Media Responds
Social media response was immediate and incredibly, horribly negative. Dozens of posts excoriated us in vile language. We were invited to go die or to live elsewhere and take our “Southern redneck Christian values” with us. People suggested that just walking the streets of our town, shopping in the stores and breathing their air was offensive. There were well more than a hundred posts, some folks feeling so angry that they called us names a second and third time.
Unused to such abuse, my wife fell apart in tears. She deleted the post and dropped off the site. I, on the other hand, reposted on the Facebook site, suggesting that a certain variety of citizens adopt these wandering women. I got the same responses, generally from the same people. But the name-calling was even worse. The next day I also deleted the post and dropped off the site.
It wouldn’t be hard for a computer-literate half-wit to find our photographs and address to sneak through the woods and vandalize or ambush us. The next day, we pre-positioned additional defensive firearms, discussed supplemental fencing, security lighting and home-defense teamwork. Though we have a barking dog and have talked through emergency situations, we are now more careful than ever in public places. Several of the most vile and threatening comments came from people who had gone to our Facebook page to learn about us and thus make their commentary more menacing.
And so now we carry — not always — but passionately.
About Rick Sapp
Rick Sapp earned his Ph.D. in social anthropology after his time in the U.S. Army working for the 66th Military Intelligence Group, USAREUR, during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Following his time in Paris, France, he worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before turning to journalism and freelance writing. Along with being published in several newspapers and magazines, Rick has authored more than 50 books for a variety of publishers.