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Quick reminder to stay safe 

Please pardon the interruption; the following is a message from the unofficial emergency broadcast system.

Considering the unsettling recent events involving a woman's sexual assault along the light rail in Uptown, I am turning my column into an after-school special entitled "Nightlife Safety."

Said woman was just walking a mere few blocks back to her car on a Tuesday night ... seems reasonable, right? Well, apparently not anymore. Raise your hand if you've ever walked home or back to your car alone at night. Now take your hand and smack yourself in the head with it. Lesson learned? Consider yourself lucky to have made it out alright because not everyone does.

Here are some things to keep in mind. First, be aware of where you're parking your car. A friend of mine once parked off the beaten path near Cedar Street Tavern; she was greeted not by a valet, but by a man pointing a gun at her head. Cason-Point: Park in a garage. And it doesn't matter how high up you have to park, always park close to the elevator.

Sometimes when we go out drinking, we tend to become less aware of our capabilities -- take singing and dancing, for example -- but in some instances that includes babysitting ourselves. Alcohol sheds inhibitions, but don't let it shed your guard -- always keep that up and be aware of stranger danger! The only stranger you should accept a drink from is the bartender.

Ladies, you don't need to be on someone's arm to look good, but it would be helpful when out walking at night. But please, don't use this as an excuse to rationalize a one-night stand -- that requires a whole other degree of safety measures. Going home with some guy you've just met and entering into a new environment without back-up is so much more serious than just risking your self-respect.

If you find yourself walking alone, utilize your peripheral vision. And don't wander away from the tour. I can honestly say that I felt safer living in N.Y.C. than I do living in Charlotte. Because there are fewer people on the streets, there are more opportunities for human predators to prey on you. Just be careful, I caution you.

Back to your regularly scheduled program ...

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