The most interesting and honest insights into any city come not from the big tourist spots or the lobbies of large hotels but instead from observing the day to day life of people on the streets. Now I’m the last person to plonk myself in front of the TV in a hotel room when I’m on a business trip but after my first evening in downtown Saint Louis I realized that discretion is the better part of valour and that it was better to not get mugged, molested, stabbed or shot at and live to work another day.
A week or so ago I had blogged about how bad I was when it came to signs. I will do my best to capture what happened when I finally landed in St Louis on a weekday evening after having spent close to 40 hours on multiple fights. I stepped out of the hotel by around 7 PM to find myself a mobile connection and to get a feel of the city which boasted of the quite magnificent Gateway arch that was visible from my hotel room. What I usually do is take time to explore the surrounding blocks on day one and then from day two onwards I keep exploring a few more blocks in each direction till I am quite familiar with the area. Initially I found a few people strolling around their hotels but within a few minutes I realised that streets were deserted. And by deserted I mean straight out of a zombie movie deserted.
Every few minutes or so the eerie silence would be broken by a passing car a couple of streets away but people were nowhere to be seen. I checked if any restaurants were open but most of them were shut by 8 PM which surprised me quite a bit as I just came from Bangalore where restaurants and pubs shut down at 11:30 much to our annoyance. The only few people I did spot looked to be the sorts that could and would leave me mugged, molested, stabbed or shot at and I was planning on returning to India with all my limbs intact.
Finally I made my way back to the hotel and spoke to relatives of mine who warned me that St Louis wasn’t the safest of places in the U.S of A. A quick internet search threw up the following numbers. Gulp!