Friday, September 18, 2015

A walk in the dark

Last month, one of our city council members, Leirion Gaylor Baird, emailed me. One of her constituents had been hosting an event at a hotel in Lincoln's dynamic Haymarket area, and got involved in a discussion of one of the workers, a young woman. As they were chatting, she told him that she liked her job at the hotel, but was a little concerned because she had to walk quite a distance to her car at night, after her shift ended.

This citizen thought that perhaps a couple people he knew on the city council could come up with an idea that could help in this situation. Interestingly, I had heard the same concern voiced by two other employees of restaurants. Tonja and I are habitual eaters-of-appetizers-at-the-bar types, and tend to strike up conversations with our servers. Parking is a significant expense for downtown workers, and many restaurant employees have to snag their spot quite a distance away, to find an affordable option.

I didn't have any great ideas for the council member, other than to opine that it might be worthwhile for some businesses to offer a buddy system, allowing another employee to spend 15 minutes on the clock in order to accompany a lone employee going off duty after dark to a remote parking spot.

A couple of days ago, though, I spotted Companion, a smartphone application with exactly this problem in mind. Someone mentioned it on Twitter, and remarked how much her college-student daughter appreciated the app. Companion seems to be targeted towards college students, but the concept would work equally well for a shift-worker facing a jaunt of several blocks during the hours when a sense of discomfort may be present.

I have no personal experience with Companion, and I'm sure there are other apps with a similar function. In fact, one that I use everyday, Glympse, could be used for this purpose. I generally send a Glympse to Tonja when I'm heading home, and occasionally to someone I'm meeting when I am running late. I've even used Glympse to provide the family with an update on my travels when I am out of town. There are several things I especially like about Glympse.

Here's something men virtually never consider when searching for a parking spot: how safe will I feel when I come back to the car? We think about how close is it, how expensive in it, but I don't think men are ever thinking about their personal safety when they come back to the car after the game, the movie, or the class. A man would rarely pass up an otherwise prime parking spot because there isn't a streetlight nearby, or there's a sketchy alley to traverse. Yet, I think these are factors that women consider reflexively.

Juice up your battery, pick an app, and you needn't be entirely alone as you head home.


Anonymous said...

How about more cops per 1,000? Ever 'opine' that?

ARRRRG!!!! said...

There is safety in numbers.

Happy Holiday!

Tom Casady said...


You must be new. I count 18 posts concerning that topic on my blog--not to mention comments (which aren't as easily searched.)

Tom Casady said...


And a happy holiday to you, as well. Perhaps we should review, for the newcomers:

Nebraskim said...

Thank you for recognizing that men rarely have to think about safety when choosing parking spots or making decisions about places to go, etc. My spouse seems to think I'm over-reacting because I instinctively lock my car doors upon getting in, lock my house doors when I'm home (and away), look for the spot closest to the exit and near the lights, etc. I was single most of my life and my concerns about personal safety were new concepts to him when we met. He just had never had to think that way. I like to run at night or in the early morning, but always on well-lighted streets, often in the street away from bushes, etc., and never on the trails or paths even though I wear a headlamp and a flashing beacon. Personal safety and situational awareness is so second nature to me that I'm shocked when others do not heed.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

RE: The review.

I can't believe it's been that long. How time flies!

Adam said...

Have you heard of Smart911 or is Lincoln/Lancaster considering something like this? It seems like it could be very valuable and it links to a person's ICE app (In Case of Emergency). I'd be interested to hear from the professionals on the value of that as well.


Tom Casady said...


Yes I have, and yes we are. I'm waiting for a "killer app" that does not require the sponsoring agency to maintain a database, rather, relies on the user to simply load the app or subscribe to the feed. Some of these are already out there, but the other obstacle we have to overcome is the need to have someone who reliably initiates and recalls alerts, 24/7/365. Once you start an alerting system, there is no going back, and no part-time solution. When you might most need to put (or pull back) a proactive alert out is at the same time your existing staff are already up to their eyebrows in alligators.

We're working on it, though, and I expect it will be in our not-too-distant future.