Also, I tend to see no problem living in places one should probably avoid. Prime example: when the husband went out of town for six months I moved into a smaller place more suitable for a single person living alone. It was the size of a port-o-potty and was all sorts of broken-down – when the gas guy came by to approve the place and told me he couldn’t do it because the gas heater wasn’t up to code, the landlord just told me, “It’s fine, they always say that. Don’t worry about it.” So I just moved in and didn’t turn the heater on the whole winter. The place was pretty much made of cardboard. In fact, someone told me later about a friend of a friend whose house in Tucson was broken into after the burglar just kicked in the wall and walked in – and given the size of the hole I managed to put into the closet wall just by leaning a hand on it, I think my place fell into that same Laughably Easy burglarizing category.
But none of this really hammered home for me until I came home one day and realized I’d locked myself out. I was sitting there staring at the door, wondering what the hell I could do – when out of the corner of my eye I saw an angel, an actual angel rooting through the big dumpster in our alley. This homeless guy had with him a whole shopping cart of goodies he was diligently trying to augment – surely he’d have a screwdriver in there somewhere? I walked over and explained my plight. And sure enough he did have a screwdriver, and in under two minutes he and I had pried my window open and got me inside. And you know what he said, while we were breaking into my house? He told me, “This place isn’t safe. I have a sixteen-year-old daughter and I would never let her live in a place like this.”
That’s how I got schooled that my house was potentially not my finest choice of living situation.
I’m looking for apartments in Chicago right now and I’m trying to keep these and other reminders in mind as I look at all these adorable places and fail again and again to remind myself that they are cheap because I am probably going to get shot walking out the door. I’m not a good judge of these things. But my friend helped me develop a great litmus test for checking out neighborhoods I know nothing about: 1) Google the address, 2) Find the closest park, and 3) Google the park name. If you see news of a shooting, beheading, or bomb-planting in that park in the first five search hits, you are probably not about to settle into a nice neighborhood. Seriously, this works.
If anyone could help me out with this whole Chicago thing I’d be deeply obliged.