This past week my family and I had a wonderful time in Chicago, IL. We stayed downtown and used public transpertation or walked everywhere we went. At no time did we feel in danger or scared. The local news stations were all talking about the "Flash Mobs" that had taken over the city. There had been a couple isolated incidents where a group of teenagers would jump someone and take their iPod or iPhone or whatever. The News was making these incidents out to be a bigger deal than they were. Did a crime happen and was it unfortunate? Yes. Does that justify creating fear to a large television audience? No. Dispite the threat of a "Flash Mob", my family and I had a great time in many parts of the city. We took a train back to Saint Louis. At no time did we have to use a car, waste gas or worry about parking. It was great. On the train we met another family from England who were moving to Saint Louis. They had two kids alittle younger than ours but everyone got along great, espcially the two boys. The first thing the couple asked my wife and I was about the violence in Saint Louis. Of course they had heard Saint Louis was the most dangerous city in the United States, or something like that. I couldn't help but think of the news coverage in Chicago of the "Flash Mobs". We told the couple the violence is blown out of proportion in the media and while there are certain areas of town that are more prone to violence, for the most part the city is fine and a great place to live.
When we arrived at the train station downtown it was about 3:30 or 4pm and we began our walk home. We live very close to downtown and take the train/MetroLink alot and we always walk. That's something I noticed in Chicago, people walking all over the downtown area. In Saint Louis rarely do people walk to or in downtown. I guess people would rather drive their cars, spend money on gas and have to worry about paying to park. We encourage our children to walk when they can and make many walking trips to the train station, baseball games and downtown in general. So walking home from the train station isn't a big deal, we've done it many times. Across the street from the train station is a Sheraton Hotel and we have to walk past it to get to the 14th street bridge that takes us across the trainyard. My daughter is leading the way and we're well on the bridge. We hear a faint "Sir!, Sir!" being yelled at us and look behind us. A young man was yelling and walking quickly towards us. We all stop walking and say "What?". He finally gets close enough to speak to us and says "Do you know where you're going?". At first I was confused, then I realize he thinks we're tourist and are aimlessly wandering around. We tell him we do know where we're going and thank you and continue on our way. Walking across the bridge I begin thinking what if we didn't know where we were going, what was he going to say, "Don't go that way because..."? The whole thing kind of bothered me, is this how we welcome people to Saint Louis? I was a little shocked, especially after being in Chicago where everyone was walking, everyone had a bag or lugguage with them and no one batted an eye at anyone else. But by the time I was across the bridge I had forgotten about it.
At the end of the bridge is my favorite take out Chinese restaurant, Park Chop Suey, and my wife knew I was itching for some duck fried rice. She said to go ahead and order some food and she'll continue the 2 1/2 blocks with the kids to our house. I go in, order, and wait in the lobby area. I'm standing there looking out the window and I see a Mercedes pull into the parking lot. I think to myself, oh that's cool they're going to get some take out. The car had an older white couple in it and the lady got out of the car and hurried into the lobby area. She looked at me and said "Where are your kids?" and I was like "What?". At no time did she identify herself, tell me what she wanted or anything, just "Where are your kids?". She says, "Are you the one with the kids?". By this time I've very confused and the woman working the counter is looking at me very strangely. I tell the lady, "Yes, I have kids, why?". She says "We saw you walking and thought you had just gotten off the train and didn't know where you were going and you brought your kids here to eat." When she said "here" she looked around the place like it was some kind of drug den whorehouse, she said this in front of the employees and another man waiting for his food. After she said that I was shocked and blurted out, "I eat here all the time". I tried to wrap my head around what this lady was trying to do, she was obviously concerned, but was so fearful and scared that she didn't know exactly how to go about it. I told her we lived in the neighborhood and the kids are on their way home. She said again she thought we were lost and blah blah blah, walked out the door, said something to the guy in the car who I assumed was her husband and they quickly left the parking lot. The woman at the counter just gave me a confused looked and I shrugged my shoulders.
What is going on here? Is a white family walking home from the train station so out of place in downtown Saint Louis that two seperate people feel the need to make sure they're OK?
While I can appreciate their concern, what does this say about our community? Should a sign be posted at the train station for people arriving that says "Don't Walk That Way!".
This whole thing has really shaken my faith in the citizens of the city and surrounding area. As long as people live in fear, the city will never be great again.