I’ve debated about whether to post this description of a rather embarrassing event that I shouldn’t have allowed to happen. A while back, I was told, “Everything you need to know is in this story.” Maybe you’ll learn something from it too. I’m reminded of the lessons every day by the scars on my leg where it was torn by the wire of that chain-link fence.
On May 3, feeling exhausted but in need of exercise, I decided to try to do something good for myself and take a nice walk down by the river at the Rio Grande Nature Center park. It was an unusually warm day, and between trying to finish laundry and chores and wanting to miss the hottest hours, I went late. I knew that they closed the parking lot at 5 pm, but I never park there, not being interested in paying unnecessarily nor in having my car locked in, so I wasn’t worried about it. In previous years, it had always been possible to get in and out of the park on foot at any hour.
I went in through the front gate at about 4:50. An APD cop was cruising through the parking lot. He didn’t tell me that I ought to get out of there, which reinforced my sense that it was fine to be there– another great moment for our dysfunctional APD. Perhaps, since I was striding purposefully, he thought I belonged there. Another woman was also walking in the park, but in the opposite direction. I assume she got out before 5.
Well, you guessed it– the entire park is now enclosed with chain-link fence. It’s no longer possible to get in or out after 5. They don’t make any announcement when they close. They don’t walk through and check. They just lock the gates and leave. I was trapped.
I felt sure that there must be a way out. I walked all around the perimeter of the park itself, including the education building and the animal rescue center. It seemed like surely there must be a human being left in the place, but there was no one. There is a large expanse of open space next to the park, and I thought there ought to be a place to slip through somewhere. There wasn’t. They have tamed the whole thing.
I found a gate near the road that looked a little bit lower and more accessible. To get to that, I had to clamber over a low wire fence in some tall weeds. I started trying to haul myself up over the gate. It proved to be impossible. I just wasn’t strong enough. Analyzing the geometry of the situation in retrospect, I can see that even with considerable upper body strength, it would have been unlikely that I could have made it over. I was trying to fold the top of the wire mesh over a bit, but that wouldn’t have been enough. I couldn’t get my toes into the openings between the wires, and even if I could have gotten over the top, I would have been injured because of the wire ends sticking up.
Which caught in one of the openings in my shoe as I tried to get my left leg over. (What I would have done had my leg gotten all the way there, I’m not quite sure.) So then I was ridiculously hanging there with my right foot on a support in the middle of the gate and my left stuck on the top. I think that was when I got the most hurt. Eventually I was able to get my foot unstuck and land on the ground without a total disaster.
An older couple was biking along the road in my direction. I flagged them down and asked if they had any idea of a way out. They said I was probably doing the best possible thing already. The woman tried to encourage me when I said I wasn’t strong enough to get over; she said, “Of course you’re strong enough, if you get enough adrenaline going.” No, I wasn’t. I felt hopelessly weak, and more drained than ever. And stupid, of course very stupid. And in pain from the cuts and bruises I had managed to sustain. I never did figure out exactly how I’d gotten cuts all over my arms and legs.
I had my phone in my pocket, but I didn’t want to try to call the cops for a rescue because I figured they’d cite me with something. There was only one other thing I could think of– maybe the opening under the front gate was tall enough for me to get under. As soon as I took a good look at it, I could see that it was. I slipped underneath and out, reasonably gracefully and with no more damage except for the dirt, which added to my feeling of ignominy.
I could have gotten out at any time.