I found myself in a strange part of Baltimore a few weeks ago. To get home I asked the GPS for the shortest route, not the fastest. I ended up driving through some really sketchy neighborhoods at 11:00 at night. Windows were cracked, radio was off, and I was paying very close attention to everything going on around me.
I drove down one block that was straight out of a Kubrick film. It was about as long as three or four normal length blocks. It was really surreal. No front porches, paint, or other dividing features. Just three or more blocks of a uniform brick wall with windows, doors, and steps. And the street in front of them was something like 6 lanes wide. In one open doorway was a woman leaning on the door frame. She set off my Hooker Identification System. Further up the street was some typical chinese/chicken/pizza/burgers/fish takeout place on the corner. Standing outside the door a few feet was a woman illuminated mostly by the light from the shop. She was thin, long hair that was a bit wavy, hands clasped in front of her, wearing a fairly conservative dress with some frills on it. It was a pretty dress instead of a sexy dress. Something you might expect to see at prom or on a bridesmaid. Totally out of character. But she was standing by herself, on a street corner, clearly on display. She lifted one of her hands a bit and gave me a bit of a wave. A lady of negotiable affection. I thought this had to be her first night on the job.
She managed to successfully trigger all my Lancelot instincts and I knew it. I wanted to scream "I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you!" or "Come with me if you want to live!" I wanted to get her in the car and run like hell until she was safe. But I also knew what kind of area I was in. And if this wasn't her first night on the job then I was being had. She could have been going for a particular type of client. She could have a kid that we'd have to come back for. She could have family her pimp would be keeping hostage if she vanished. I could have just cleared the training levels for Grand Theft Auto: Baltimore and was starting in on the more dangerous missions. I'm not well armed enough for that.
Still, I left a woman who probably needed help on a street corner, alone, at night and I feel guilty about this.