041:336 Fear

I can guarantee that you, as a human, have at one time in your life felt fear. However, up for discussion today is not the fear that induces paralysis or even quaking. Today’s tale is about that flavor of fear that is barely a whisper. It’s that type of fear that embarrasses you for even feeling it, but nonetheless that fear is in your ear.

This is my story.

It is 2012 and I am living in Lima, Peru. At this moment, I am in our house and I need to run an errand. My destination – a supermarket – is far enough way that I need to drive, but our lone mode of transportation is currently being used by my lovely wife.

So sans car, my Plan B is to call a taxi. This is not the first time I have ever called a taxi from our house and it is not the first time I have called a taxi to take me to this particular supermarket. I dial the number and, in my halting Spanish, I request a cab.

Twenty minutes later (just as the dispatcher said), my ride arrived. No, as I said before, I driven to this supermarket before and I have had a taxi take me to this supermarket before, so I knew the route really well.

I settled in to the back seat of the taxi and began thinking about what I needed to buy. Yes, I had a list with me but my mind wandered to the bathroom closet to mentally see if we had run out of toiler paper or deodorant. So, my attention was a tad preoccupied.

I snapped to when my driver suddenly announced in English (for my benefit), “Short cut.” He modified my usual route and made a left-hand turn into a neighborhood that was no longer composed of the stately homes where I lived and the brand-name stores (i.e., Burger King, Starbucks) where I shopped. I was now in a section of town where the homes had tin roofs and the stores did not have front doors – just gates that were pulled down at night.

I am loath to admit that I began to feel trepidation solely because I was now in a neighborhood that scored low on the affluence scale.

So sue me.

In our first weeks in Peru, we had been given a security briefing by folks at the United States Embassy that gave us common sense tips on how to avoid being a victim of crime. Some of that helpful advice included not wearing flashy and expensive jewelry and also to keep purses tight against one’s body. I also took their advice and moved my wallet from my pants back pocket to my front to make me a harder target for pickpockets. We had also been given a phone number to call in case we ever found ourselves in trouble.

As my driver took me deeper and deeper into this section of town, I took out me cell phone and dialed the first sequence of digits of this emergency phone number. I was planning to hit the last number whenever my driver decided to make his quick turn into a waiting garage so that I could be held for ransom (because that’s how my imagination works).

Of course, nothing of the sort happened. The driver continued his route through this less-off portion of Lima and came out the other side closer to my destination than if we had gone my normal way.

It truly was the short cut he had advertised.

The gentleman dropped me off at the supermarket and, to assuage the huge blob of guilt hanging over my head, I gave him a really good tip.

That’s not the only short cut I discovered that day. I also found out for me how short the drive between safety and fear can be.

That’s my story.

P.S. Near our neighborhood in Lima was a roundabout called “The Circle of Death”. The tale of my first time around that fiendish traffic circle is a story for another day.

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