It was about three o’ clock in the afternoon when I heard it.  The sounds of tires screeching on pavement accompanied by a blaring popping noise that sounded like an extremely loud car engine backfiring.  I crawled up to my bedroom window, peeked out through the curtains and saw a car doing an extremely dangerously U-turn with a passenger literally riding “shotgun.”  As the passenger held a shotgun in one hand and leaned out the passenger window, the car semi-lost control and rammed into the “Welcome to Santa Ana”  city sign.  Eventually, the car regain control and immediately sped off down the street.

I was about fourteen years-old, and it was at that moment that I realized that I’m living in a not-so-safe neighborhood.  Drive-by shootings were not exactly an oddity in the area,  but seeing it in person in the afternoon instead of hearing it at the wee hours during the night was definitely a game changer.

Within years, my family and I moved to a nicer neighborhood.  The crime rate was lower, the sounds of late-night drive-bys was almost non-existent, and the ironic thing was that the new house is only a five minute drive away from the old one.

Whenever I tell the above story to people, the reaction is either wide-eye horror mixed with jaws dropping or the responses will be something along the lines of “Oh yeah? Well this place I lived at…”

Throughout my life, I’ve always lived in middle-class neighborhoods.  The neighborhood mentioned above was lower-middle class.  It was far from being the slums, but it wasn’t exactly Beverly Hills either.   Despite the occasional drive-bys, we never did felt that our lives were in real danger.   You practice common sense, don’t attract attention to yourself at odd places, and you mind your own business when you’re suppose to.

Even now, I still don’t feel that the neighborhood was a complete crap-shack, but if someone was to ask me about the worst place I’ve lived in, then this neighborhood would definitely be on top of the list.

What’s the worst neighborhood you’ve lived in?  What circumstances, if any, put you and your family there?

photo credit: thechannelc