I know this might make me horribly unpopular but it's the truth. Perhaps my paranoia stems from my new surroundings. I am in a huge and unfamiliar city, mostly alone, and know pretty much no one. I look over my shoulder often.
The only playground within walking distance from my home is off-limits to my family because it's teeming with transients, men sitting in cars with heavily tinted windows, and possible prostitute activity.
The first time I visited the park there was a mountain of trash. Garbage overflowed from the bins and covered nearly every patch of grass. It was disgusting. Several parked cars with dark tinted windows loomed menacingly in the distance. I watched. What were they doing? The only children at the playground were my own.
Freaked me out.
My husband and I drove past the park last weekend. The garbage was gone and a mother was playing with her son on the merry-go-round. I thought maybe my last visit was a fluke. I gave it another shot.
We visited yesterday. The garbage was gone but the seedy element was not. A man emerged from the woods and passed through the park several times before returning. A van was parked in the lot. A man was inside with his seat reclined. He watched me. I watched him. In the passenger seat there was a woman fixing her hair. They stayed there for over a half hour. I half heartedly pushed my daughter in the swing and my son on the merry-go-round. I couldn't take my eyes off these people.
I asked for Twitter's opinion everyone agrees that it was a shady situation. Some suggested I call the police.
No. Freaking. Way.
After the way that man was looking at me the last thing I needed was to be outed as a snitch.
I walked home and then called the police.
Dispatch - "Sorry ma'am but it's not against the law for people to be at the playground without kids".
Ya no shizz but perhaps you'd like to investigate what looks like obvious illegal activity.
"Ma'am I can send an officer out there next time you visit if you'd like".
Awesome! I can be the obviously new and alone mom in the neighborhood AND a visible snitch. Sounds great.
"You don't have to go to that playground".
No, I don't. Let's leave the only playground in the neighborhood to the prostitutes, drug dealers, and weirdos. Yes. I am the problem. You're totally right. Thanks for nothing.
Indianapolis is a massive city and I know the police have more important things to tend to than weirdos on the playground. I'm from an "urban" area myself. I know how it is. Trust me. It doesn't ease my disappointment.
It seems the world is becoming a hostile place for children. Tacky restaurants putting up signs banning kids. People harassing nursing mothers. I'm not going to deal with it and I've resorted to profiling.
Lone man in a van with tinted windows who won't take his eyes off me? Maybe he pulled over to safely send a text message? Probably not. It's been a half hour. What the hell is he looking at?
Woman fixing her hair and mouth in another van with a man. Perhaps freshening up after a long road trip? Probably not. I assume there's sex work afoot which is totally fine but not near children.
Man emerging from the woods looking confused and covered in filth. Probably a perfectly nice homeless person who could use my compassion. Maybe. I don't know. I've worked with the homeless population in a long-term volunteer capacity and I know the statistics. Many are sex offenders. Do I offer him a meal or assume the worst and make a run for it with my children? Jesus wouldn't run. Am I an awful person?
I'm almost ashamed to admit the things that run through my mind. "Will this man assume I'm taking pictures of him and his lady friend? Am I going to be murdered in front of my kids and rolled into that canal? Will my husband find my body? Why didn't I bring a knife? Could I really kill someone in front of my kids?" On and on.
I'm not saying that I haven't watched too many Chris Hansen specials. The problem might be me. I am doing my best to protect my children in an unfamiliar place.
What other options do I have?
I don't want childless people banned from public spaces or parks. Not at all. I was once childless too. I know the world doesn't revolve around me because I am now a mother. I am talking about an area where there is nothing but a playground. What business do adults have there? There is a parking area, basketball court, and park area less than a block from this playground.
Why aren't these people conducting their business right.over.there?
I wish playgrounds (and only playgrounds) could be the safe domain of families and children. There are parks, parking lots, museums, coffee shops, seedy $20 a night hotels, and a million other public places adults can visit freely.
Why lurk around a playground?