In 2006 I moved into a dingy small apartment in a low income neighborhood. It was the only place that I could afford back then. I had a full-time job, and I was in graduate school. I needed money to pay my tuition, and I wanted to be on my own. Something had to give.
So I lived in this low-income apartment building that I called “the ghetto” for one year.
My friends refused to come and visit me. My parents visited me there once. After their visit, my mother insisted I moved back in with her and her husband right away. However, I stood my ground.
Most of the time we think about the ghetto as a desperate place, filled with junkies and gang bangers. That’s not always the case.
Still, my place was not too safe, and there were a few scary moments. For example, when my next door neighbor was robbed twice in one week by his “friends” because he owed them money for dope.
Other than that, I was able to live in my ghetto apartment with no problems.
From day one I slowly started to learn what was appropriate and what was not in my “hood”. Over time I acquired a set of certain survival skills that came in handy for a single girl who found herself living alone in a ghetto apartment. Today I’ll share them with you:
Lesson 1: Do Not Make Eye Contact (for too long)
If you see something or someone that piques your interest, curiosity or simply scares you. DO NOT STARE, and try not to make eye contact.
This way, you can pass by without being addressed or being pulled into a conversation you really do not want to be a part of.
And don’t ever EVER follow someone if they say stuff like, “Hey come over here.” Just walk away. Seriously.
If you’d feel more confident carrying around some sort of security device, you can actually get pepper spray for pretty cheap these days. It doesn’t hurt to carry it around with you.
Lesson 2: Use the Peephole and Door Chain
Never ever open your door until you know who’s on the other side. Even if you’re just leaving your apartment.
I knew that my next door neighbor was a junkie. I tried to stay away from him, and I never exited my apartment if I could see him through the peephole in my front door. There were a few other questionable neighbors whom I tried to avoid by all means.
That’s how I learned to use the peephole on a regular basis.
If people come up to your door, you might have to crack the door open to turn them away or entertain them. You can use a cheap door chain (if your landlord allows it). But I’d rather not risk someone being able to kick it open. So I went for this heavy duty swing lock instead.
Lesson 3: Do Not Show Fear, Smile Instead
People can sense your fear of them.
If you let them see it, they will try to capitalize on it, and intimidate you even more.
So what do you do? I say you smile. I used to smile at people I was afraid of and say, “Hello.”
Most of the time they would respond back: sometimes with a “Hello,” sometimes just with a nod.
However, I was never followed or intimidated.
I recommend this great book on body language by an ex-FBI agent: What Every Body is Saying. It’ll give you some ideas on how to appear more confident, and you’ll also be able to sense if something is amiss (some people call it “street smarts”.)
Lesson 4: The Less You Have, the Less Can Be Stolen
It was a low-income neighborhood. People could not afford a lot of things. Some of them were not even working most of the time.
Luckily, I was driving a very old and beat up car. It blended in perfectly in our small parking lot outside of the apartment building.
Here’s a tip: don’t leave any thing that may even seem like it’s valuable in your car. You might forget to remove your GPS from the windshield, or leave a case for your sunglasses on the seat. 9 times out of 10, you’ll come back to find your windows smashed.
Here’s an even more important tip: don’t lock your car door! Sounds crazy, but trust me: it’ll let potential burglars search your car and find nothing of value in it. Even having an unlocked car in itself is a signal. Of course, lock your steering wheel with one of these so people can’t hot wire your care and drive it away.
If you get a some electronic gadget (like a new smartphone) do not just leave the packaging outside your home or where ever. Package it up or take it to a public bin. Leaving boxes like that around is like giving clues to the entire ghetto that you’ve got something worth stealing.
I lived by the rule: the less you have, the less can be stolen. So I didn’t get myself nice accessories or new gadgets for a while.
Lesson 5: Befriend the Maintenance Staff
This is essential if you live in “a ghetto apartment”. Things break down all the time. Cockroaches run around like they own the home.
If you ever want your kitchen sink fixed, your hallway lights bright (believe me you want these lights working!), and your air conditioner functioning, follow this tip.
Make sure to be very friendly with the maintenance staff!
Do it even if their looks scare the living hell out of you.
My maintenance guy looked like he was either high or drunk every time I saw him. Most of the time looks are deceiving. He was a good man, who worked hard and appreciated people who were friendly with him. In return, I never had a household problem that was not resolved promptly.
By the way, if your maintenance guy won’t fix your cockroach issue, this little thing is nastily effective at killing them.
Have you ever lived in “a ghetto apartment”? Share your experience and tips with me in the comments below!