It’s not something you think about on a sunny afternoon in Seattle, especially with your kids in tow. But I learned Saturday that I might need to teach my young children: the danger of needles.
It seems somewhat ironic that a person who works on a website that has featured stories about Seattle’s heroin crisis wouldn’t be hyper-aware of the results. But there it was, on the sidewalk along Thomas Street.
We had just returned to our car after visiting the EMP’s Hello Kitty exhibit. My back was turned for three seconds as I threw my bag and the kids’ coats in the back seat.
That’s when my 3-year-old daughter said to me, “Mom, look!”
I turned and there she was with a syringe in her hand, not three inches from her curious face.
“Drop it!” I yelled at her.
Tears, of course, followed. She thought she was in trouble.
The mom guilt immediately followed my fear. My thoughts: “Why was I not holding her hand? What was I thinking? Who cares if my purse was stolen … this is worse.”
I was shaking all the way down Denny, and then in traffic on I-5. I had to decide what to tell a 3- and 5-year-old.
“It’s a needle, like a shot. Just don’t pick those up,” I told them.
Even just speaking about needles and shots is generally enough to scare a kid their age. I let them take their shoes and socks off and stick their feet out the window. They were distracted and happy.
But I was angry.
My daughter is OK. But I’m not. That moment has changed the perception I have of a city I used to want to be in. Now I have kids who likely won’t experience Seattle like I did.
The littered syringes have become so common that Seattle neighborhoods have begun holding classes on how to properly dispose of dirty needles they find on the sidewalk, in their yard, or elsewhere in the city. I’ve seen them on the street, but seeing one in my child’s hand wasn’t an experience I was prepared for.
Writing about it doesn’t seem like a good enough response, but if it makes one mom or dad hold their child’s hand a little tighter then it’s worth it.