For Not Killing Me
Roi J. Tamkin
This Thanksgiving dinner, I’ll be counting one major blessing in my life. I am thankful I have not been killed yet. I live in Atlanta. Do I need to justify how unsafe I feel? People call me paranoid. I call it a desire to survive.
The South and guns. Going together like tequila shots and lime. You learn to live with guns. You live knowing there is a good possibility that the guy next to you on the bus is packing heat. The theory is that crime will decrease if the populace is armed. But lately, there has been a spate of killings in the city that makes me think of the Old West. Police shootouts, random street killings, murders of entire families. The Atlanta shootings are not limited to the “bad” sections, either. A business executive was shot in the chest in trendy, prosperous Buckhead; also the site of nine more slayings at two day-trading businesses. To me, the scariest scenarios are the random shootings. One man was celebrating his birthday and went to the store to buy more cigarettes. Some teenagers robbed him at gunpoint and fired a bullet dead in his face. The had guy already handed over his wallet, why did he deserve to have his face separated from his head? There are no reasons. He was just shot. He just was. I leave my apartment every day wondering if I’m going to be next. How can you prepare for a random shooting?
While dodging bullets from disgruntled stock traders, I also have to keep alert for death-wish drivers in traffic. Fatalities on one of Atlanta’s major expressways are as common as a Buckhead shooting nowadays. I’ve always been fond of saying “people come from all over to be in one of our accidents.” A family from the Dominican Republic was recently wiped out when their car stopped suddenly on an exit ramp and a semi rolled right over their little compact. Head-on collisions, hit-and-runs, driving off the road or losing a game of chicken to an SUV are taking lives an incredible rate. But contrary to theory, it is not the stupid drivers that are being eliminated. In fact, incompetent drivers are increasing (I suspect some kind of poor-driver breeding farm in Central Florida is the reason behind this swell of numbers). With all the near-misses I’ve experienced, I know it’s just a matter of time before I’m hit. And it won’t be a simple fender-bender. I have visions at night of rear-ending a Pinto and half of Metro Atlanta goes up in an Ford fireball.
But my worst fear is being beaten senseless by some drunk punk or redneck. Although I am a very cautious driver, I do tend to speak my mind to complete strangers. Writing concert reviews for this newspaper, I usually run up against a burly, pock-face country boy or two. When they see me with pen and notepad in hand, they wish to share their opinions. With whiskey breath or Budweiser stagger they tell me things like “this band rocks” or “this band sucks.” Then they wait for me to quote them. Instead, I usually share my opinion of them. And I rarely say nice things. And where a smart man would shut up, I tend to keep on going. A smart man would stop his insults once a fist has connected with his jaw; but I heap on the sarcasm. I enjoy giving a good verbal jab. I can’t help it. I have a tongue. Of course, they have fists. But I have never been beaten senseless. I’ve never had a punch that required stitches or major mending. Never suffered internal bleeding due to a blow to my kidneys. Never had anything more than idle threats or dares to meet in the parking lot after a show.
For all this, I’m convinced I’m blessed. Yes, I truly am thankful. Thankful I’m alive.