20200601 FoGO – The Fear of Going Out.

Monday, 1 June, 2020 – 06:18

It’s a thing. And you are not alone.

Several years ago, I was walking down a main road near my flat. It was a walk I made perhaps three or four times each week. At the other end of it were most of my favourite restaurants and bars (not the seedy “bar street” the end of which I would pass) banks and shopping. It was a bright and sunny day and I was having a lovely stroll.

The local authority had taken action to prevent motorcyclists grabbing bags from pedestrians by installing both hedges and fences. That didn’t stop a two-bike team (one to snatch, one to ride interference in the event of a chase) from grabbing my handbag (yes, I’m a man and I have long carried a handbag. Get over it) from my right hand. D*m* I thought later, if only I’d carried the bag with my lunch in that hand. They had waited until I crossed a side road, unprotected by the hedge and fence and swooped. I, of course, had paid no attention to the motorcycle engine behind me – I was in the middle of the road: why wouldn’t there be a motorcycle behind me?

I was entirely unhurt. I didn’t even get a bent finger as the bag, not much bigger than my hand and, obviously irresponsibly, was dangling from my fingers.

But, as the next few days wore on, I became more and more nervous about going out. The reason was simple: this very, very, very minor event, both physically and financially (although sorting out the documentary aftermath was a pain in the bum), had happened in a place where I had until then been completely and utterly safe. It was familiar. If that three times each week estimate is right (it’s probably low, now I come to think about it) and I’d been doing it for more than a decade, then I’d walked up and down that road some 1,150 times, morning, noon, evening and very late night and never felt even a hint of a threat of anything more than tripping over a raised paving slab, etc.

And yet, I found my self reluctant to go out on foot. It was utterly irrational. My sensible brain told my emotional bits to bloody well grow up.

The emotional bits didn’t listen. I found myself taking different routes to the same places, or not going unless I needed to.

And yet, everywhere else I went, I was fine. Absolutely no concerns at all. And believe me, I’ve been to some very dodgy places around the world – and even now will happily wander into districts that people tell me aren’t safe, much to the surprise of whichever organisation is hosting me to tell them about risk.

So, why this story?