I posted on Facebook a run in I had this past weekend that I think is a good reminder to be aware of your surroundings. Many people have shared it, which I think is great and I have really enjoyed all the comments and personal stories people have added. One comment has stuck with me which is why I felt compelled to post this entry.
"Don't be so scared all the time."
It was around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday and I was starting my long day off with a trip to a local Kroger to fill up on gas. The sun was still working its way up so not fully light out and things were pretty calm and quiet. As I pulled up to the pump, I noticed one other car. The man fulling his vehicle gave me a look as I unscrewed my gas cap. No biggie.
As I waited while my tank filled he asked me if I was from around here. I said, "yes," assuming he was about to ask me for directions. But instead he asked me if I would be able to come over to his car to see if I could recognize the dog in it. He had almost hit it in the road.
Without really thinking about it, I said no. It wasn't that I didn't want to help, but there are thousands of local dogs and the likelihood that I would know whose dog was in his car was slim to none. But even as I said it, I looked in his car from my position to see the dog.
I couldn't see a dog but he quickly added that it had short little legs and had been running all over the road. He mentioned that it looked like he had broken his chain.
I think I just shrugged my shoulders in a "sorry, I can't help you," sort of way and he got in his car and drove off. I watched his car as he did, and I never did see any sign of a dog. I did make a mental note of his appearance and his car because the entire conversation seemed off. As I watched him go, I realized there was no one around. No other cars at the pumps. Not a single car drove by in the 1-2 minutes of our chat. I looked at the window box where a Kroger employee typically sits, but it seemed to be empty (in all fairness, I didn't walk up to it to double check).
I literally got back in my car and used my phone to post the encounter on Facebook as a warning to other women just in case this guy was up to something funny. Many people said I should notify the police, so within an hour or so, I did. They said no one else had reported anything similar but thanked me for calling it in. I honestly felt a little foolish since nothing really happened, but was glad I did.
My gut told me something was not right. Maybe it is women's intuition but we all know when a guy hits on you in a creepy way. That is precisely how this felt. My biggest concern is that at 37 married with 3 children that is not the attention I want but a 14-24 year old version of myself thought any attention was fun and I would probably not responded the same way.
I have spent a large majority of my career working downtown. I am ridiculously familiar with being asked for all kinds of things and heard more lines of crap than you can possibly imagine. I must have one of those "I'm a sucker, come talk to me," kind of faces because I have literally seen people cross the street to ask me for spare change when there were plenty of other people closer to them.
I make a practice of walking with a purpose, head up, looking around corners, parking in lit areas and being aware of my surroundings. All things women are supposed to do. In my college years I put myself at risk on 3 occasions that I can think of. Fortunately nothing bad happened but on one of those times a woman confronting me actually stopped and said, "I can't do this to you. You are just a kid." I have no idea what she intended but am grateful to this day she didn't proceed.
None of those events changed who I am and the idea that I am scared is laughable. I just hope people don't confuse educating yourself on potential dangers, being aware of your surroundings, and trusting your inner voice when it says something feels wrong, with being scared.