I don't mean safe in the physical-danger sort of way; Afrah is about the safest place you could possibly hang out. Besides the clientele, which is mostly couples and young families with children, the restaurant is right across the street from the Richardson police station. I'll bet they never get robbed. I mean safe in the I-don't-want-people-to-stare-at-me sort of way. I am sort of an outsider; I don't look terribly Middle Eastern, I don't wear a hijab and if you didn't know I could be counted on to be there, snarfing down baba ganouj, every Thursday from six to seven, you'd probably wonder what in the heck I was doing there.
Safety is an odd concept to someone who basically grew up without it. That I even know to look for it from time to time surprises me. I somehow missed all the lessons about the things a woman needs to do to stay safe; I don't understand that there are certain parts of town I should never venture into, for example, or that I shouldn't go out by myself at night. Don't know how I missed 'em, but I did. They must have been right after the lessons about how to put on pantyhose and how to combine a hair flip with giggle for maximum attractiveness to the male sex in an alcoholic watering hole, because I never got those either. This whole being female thing is a mystery to me.
Also, the things I expected to be safe never were. School, for example, was not safe. I know I'm not alone in that one; school wasn't safe for a lot of people. But all the Dick and Jane books sure led us to expect that school would be the one place where all our peers would be on our best behavior and nobody would get hurt and everybody would be friendly to everybody else. (Pause here for hysterical laughter.) Church wasn't a whole lot better; between the same kids I spent hours trying to avoid at school and some old white dude in the sky threatening to fry me alive with lightning bolts, it was actually worse in some ways. And home? Uh, forget home. Home is probably the most dangerous place on earth for a ridiculously high number of kids. You'll notice hardly any kid ever gets beaten up or sexually abused or kidnapped or locked in a closet by a complete stranger. No, it's usually mom and dad, and they usually get away with it unless, as sometimes happens, the kid dies.
So you'll forgive me for thinking this world we live in is maybe not terribly safe. I took karate lessons for about three years there, with this idea that at least I'd be prepared when whatever-it-is came at me. Unfortunately, karate wasn't terribly safe either, and I eventually had to quit because I was getting too close to brown belt and I didn't, uh, look the part. (Seriously, whoever heard of a fat karate instructor? That would be like Mr. Miyagi on steroids or something. Crazy.) I could probably still give whatever-it-is a run for its money, though. And stomp on it a few times.
Anyway. For the next thirty-ish days, I'll be having my Thursday night dinners at La Madeleine, where I'm currently munching on an overpriced shrimp salad (oh, excuse me, a salade) and wondering if there's somewhere besides La Madeleine and Hooters that has free wi-fi. Starbucks, maybe, but Starbucks is definitely not safe. They sell frosted scones at Starbucks. That's like the end of the world, worse than doughnuts.