Brandon Hernández 9 a.m., Sept. 16
- Community Blog
Welcome to El Cajon Boulevard
When I moved to City Heights a little over eight years ago from Serra Mesa, it was a real shock. I'm not talking about a culture shock even though I live in the heart of City Heights, four houses down from El Cajon Boulevard, among an ethnically diverse population of Latinos, Asians, and a large variety of other nationalities too numerous to mention. I know a little something about living in poor neighborhoods surrounded by immigrants from various other countries. I grew up in Linda Vista where the predominant nationality is Vietnamese. I enjoy learning about different culture full of diverse traditions. No, the shock I mention is more or less a shock to the sensibilities.
At the time that I made the move I worked at a company on Aero Drive and the bus commute went from a half an hour to over an hour. Since I had to arrive at work by seven in the morning this meant that I had to leave my house at four o’clock. Have you ever tried catching a bus at 4 o’clock in the morning on El Cajon Boulevard? Trust me, when you are a woman, even a woman in her late thirties, a bus trip in the early morning hours becomes an adventure.
The first time it happened, I just thought it was a rare occurrence. I was sitting on the bus bench, waiting, when a car drove by. The driver slowed down when he saw me sitting there, than he pulled over to the curb a little past the bus sign, and waited. I looked around trying to figure out why he was just sitting there. Deep down inside, though, I knew the truth. Eventually, he got out of the car and came up to stand near where I was sitting. He stood there for what seemed like a lifetime.
Finally, he asked, “Are you waiting for the bus.”
I responded with the affirmative in a clipped tone and didn’t say anything further. I did not want to encourage him to linger. I looked down at the clothes I had chosen to wear that morning and wondered if I had dressed too suggestively. I was on the phones all day and, it being Saturday, I was allowed to be very casual with my work attire so I left that morning in sweat clothes and no makeup. I couldn’t imagine that he had mistaken me for a prostitute.
The pervert waited for a few more minutes before asking, “Are you sure?”
This time I didn’t look up. I just mumbled “yes” and heard him walk away. Unfortunately, that wan not the last time I was approached by a man looking for a hook up when I was on my way to work and some of the time they were more direct.
After a few similar incidents and once or twice actually being asked, "how much?" I became concerned. I had to ask an objective party if there might be a possibility I was sending out hooker vibes; so I asked my mother. Do I dress or look in any way like a prostitute? Of course she said no. She’s my Mother, after all, what is she supposed to say? I asked her when we were on a bus going home from the store and told her about the propositions I had been getting since we moved to City Heights. A man on the bus overheard the conversation and agreed with my mother. He said that those guys who had propositioned me must not know what a hooker is supposed to look like if they were wasting their energies on me. That made me feel ten times better.
This became an everyday occurrence, at least on the days that I worked, for the duration of my time with that company. Shortly after I moved here, I found a job in Banker’s Hill. When I first began working in Banker’s Hill I had to be at work by seven again but, because it was closer and only one bus to work, I only needed to leave at a quarter to six. On most days, though, there were the usual single men, trolling for sex, who invariably stopped to make sure I wasn’t going to be able to provide it.
I thought that when I started working the evening shift I would not have to deal with the unwanted attention from the trolls and perverts but, alas, that was not to be. I started working from three to eleven in the evening. On the weekdays I was able to take the bus directly to my street but the weekends were a different matter altogether. In order to get home on the weekends, due to the fact that there is no bus going downtown from my work at that hour, I had to walk over a mile to Broadway and then take the 15 bus to Fairmount Avenue. From Fairmount I had to walk several blocks at midnight. Believe it or not, there is an entire different set of lunatics a woman walking alone at midnight runs into. My philosophy is “no self respecting man calls out to a woman walking alone at midnight unless he is up to no good”. I don’t even respond to answer questions. It’s not rude, it’s survival.