Thursday, July 31, 2014

Don't go there

Moving to a new city involves a period of learning where not to go. In DC that meant trying to check out a clock tower at night which led to being mistaken for a male prostitute, being offered drugs, walking a homeless woman to a bus stop who I used to avoid stopping for a very threatening thug. Driving in Baltimore, it threatened to draw me into my own personal version of Grand Theft Auto as I contemplated trying to rescue a prostitute on her first night out. Well, this new game on my phone has gotten me into inadvisable areas on not one, but two occasions recently.

The game is called Ingress. It's been going on for about two years. You have a map of the world and markers indicating the locations of energy portals. You pick a team and then go try to capture portals for your team. But to do this you must go to the real world location in which the portal is located.

My neighborhood has five portals within easy walking distance. As of now, I own three of them, my team owns the fourth, and the fifth is at the train station near my house, but is too powerful for me to mess with. But to get points and continue to level up I must find more. This was easier when I was fighting someone else for the local portals. So I had to travel a bit to access some others in the Cherry Hill neighborhood.

I walked along the water for a long ways and encountered four portals. The first was out of phone range, so I couldn't claim it. The second and third I claimed in the name of England. The fourth was too powerful to take, but I could gather the energy around it to power some of my other portals. Then I went deeper into the neighborhood toward a cluster of four portals. The road I was on was U shaped and would drop me off back near the beginning of my route. The first half was a bit run down and ghetto looking, but reasonably safe. I passed my accountant, talked to some random people, and generally had a nice walk. But beyond the cluster of portals things changed. The neighborhood looked much better, but felt much less safe. Two guys in their teens started following me. One of them was singing a tune that went something like "Yo, nigger, yo, nigger, yo, nigger, yo, nigger..." and on like that. And they were closing the distance between us. As they got close I stepped into a driveway, got a good look at them, and let them pass. They moved on and put some distance between us. About a block and a half later someone came across the street and attacked the both of them. And I mean he laid them out with a couple of punches. They got back up and ran off while the assailant went on his way. I would have dearly loved at taxi at that point.

The rest of the walk was pretty quiet. I found and ate some blackberries. I walked along quickly decaying sidewalk and around some ill placed trees, and went home. If I go back to those portals it will be with my car.

I mentioned gathering energy around enemy portals. I do that frequently to the portal at the train station. One time I tried it at 1:15 in the morning. In my pajamas. It had just stopped raining. I thought I was safe. Instead, three guys tried to corner me and make me pay a toll. I was supposed to be scared. I was more annoyed than anything.

First, two of them stayed back and the third came over to ask me for money. I told him I left my wallet at home and looked down at what I was wearing. He left. A minute later he came back and asked to borrow my phone. "Nope." This wasn't the answer he was expecting. He explained he wanted to call his mom in prison. "Can't." "Why not?" "Security reasons. It's a government phone. I'm not allowed to let anyone else use it. Spies and what not. You know." And I smiled at him. He just looked at me. I put the phone in my pocket and walked past him towards the two others. Yeah, I was surrounded at that point. Or, could be easily. As I approached the two others I had I different trick in mind. I kept smiling. And what's creepier at 1:20 AM? Three teenaged wanna-be thugs who can't stop giggling or one white guy in his pajamas walking among them with a grin? The two started telling me that if I wanted to come out here I had to cop to them. So I asked them to repeat that a couple of times. Then I asked "I have to ... cop? Comp?" They repeat it a few more times. "I'm not sure what that word is." And then. "Well, I gotta get on home. I'll talk to you later." as I got past them. One of them made a move like he was gonna hit me in my peripheral vision. I was supposed to jump. I didn't. I stopped. I turned and looked over my shoulder with more teeth showing than before and gleam in my eye. He stopped giggling and ran to catch up with his friends.

So that's another thing I won't be doing again.

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