A Banana Peel
It must have been a Monday evening. I was on the phone with my sister, ranting over the most recent family drama, strategizing how we were going to respond. I was wearing my red London Fog raincoat, and a colorful printed hijab, cell phone in hand, pacing my 200 feet long cement driveway, emotions running high.
About 15 feet away from the end of my driveway, my back to the street, I hear a loud shout, most definitely directed at me. As I turn around, a white pickup truck is racing past me and something comes flying out of the car, meant to hit me.
It was a banana peel. A banana peel? A BANANA PEEL!
The truck flies by, I can’t catch the license plate, I’m screaming at it, and my sister on the other end of the phone is wondering what is going on! She’s advising me to go back into the safety of my house and lock the doors. But I see the truck coming to a slow at the stop sign a block away, and I wonder, “Can I get in my car and catch up to it?”
What the hell is wrong with me? In that brief moment did I go temporarily insane? In a flight or fight scenario, I’m normally a flight kinda gal. Toni taught me self defense and her rule was never to engage with crazy. She would be borderline disappointed in me!
I walked back to my garage, and hung up with my sister. And then I thought, what can I do? Call the Mayor.
Yup, my mayor is in my phonebook on my cell phone. I try calling him but he must be sending me into voicemail. Texts me back saying he’s in a city meeting. So, I text him back explaining to him what just happened to me. And then all of a sudden, I’m scared. I’m actually starting to shake. It dawns on me someone knows where I live. If this was a bigot, racially motivated, he knows who lives in this house. And at this very moment, I realize I’m home alone. My mayor just happens to be sitting next to the Deputy Chief of Police when we were texting. The DCP advises me to call 911. “Don’t hesitate. Don’t waste time!” I race upstairs to my bedroom, try calming down, but now feeling anxious and nervous on top of the fear. I dial 911, dispatcher asks me questions, I tell her what happened, and she says she’s going to send an officer right away.
I hang up and go perform wudu/ablution, wash up and pray Asr. I really need to pull myself together. Did I mention, I’m home alone? No husband or kids. So, I call my husband at work and tell him what’s up, adding I want security system and camera’ set up all around the house. I was already thinking about applying for a permit and buying a gun. All of a sudden there’s a loud knock on the front door. (Sidenote: useless RING didn’t even pick up motion, so the app didn’t alert me someone was at the door). I tell my husband to stay on the line.
An officer is standing there, asks me to tell him what happened, he’s writing down info in his little black pocketbook. He shares that he drove down from the north on this street and didn’t see any white pickups, surprised this happened because this is his beat and nothing has ever been reported like this before. (That doesn’t mean nothing has happened before!) So, he goes over checks out the banana peel and writes his report. I text back the mayor letting him know that I feel unsafe.
An in that moment I started to hate on the neighborhood. That I wish we never moved here. How I haven’t felt welcomed and no one cares!
And quickly stopped that line of thinking. My neighbors are great! They help out with our yard, share cookies during Ramadan, invite us over for house parties and National Night Out potlucks are the best! So, I believe that this trucker was transient, not from around my neighborhood.
Later that evening, I post the incident in the NextDoor app, alerting neighbors to be on the lookout. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support and empathy I received. Twenty-two neighbors posted messages of support, asking for more descriptions as if to launch their own criminal investigation, and wanting to know what they could do to keep our neighborhood safer.
The police patrolled a couple of times that night and days following. And that yellow banana peel eventually turned brown and got chopped up in the lawn mower, but I reflected on a couple of things from that incident.
Thank goodness I know my mayor, have his number, asked him for help
Never hesitate to call the police to report hate crimes (unless your black, totally different blog story)
No, we do not need a gun.
Our homes are supposed to be our sanctuaries, where we are safe, secure and happy. Yet, people are out there who don’t have those same privileges and will attack others because of it. But, when people know you and your stories, they start to connect with you, relate to your experiences, and can empathize.
I have been living in my city for over 16 years. It took 12 years before I started to get involved. Sure, I knew my neighbors, but I had recently moved and had to start over in getting to know my new neighbors. I didn’t know I could simply email or call city hall and ask to meet the mayor or my city council representatives. And once I started to share my experiences and my needs as a resident of the city, I had a deeper connection to the people I live around and the city became my home. When this incident occurred, it was the relationships I had built with my neighbors and mayor that made me feel safer, protected, and accepted.
My city is diverse and continues working on creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone. Personally, I have moved from feeling welcomed, to being included, to knowing that I belong.