By Fritzy Dean
I don’t know why he scared me so much. He was not disheveled or dirty. He seemed friendly, giving me big smile as he approached, asking, “ Are you okay, sweetheart?”
I knew I did not know him so I objected to being called “sweetheart.” I was about to step off the sidewalk to walk to my car, when I realized my car was not there.
My face must have shown confusion because he then said, “Is your car lost?”
Spotting it in the other direction I said, “No, not lost. Just temporarily misplaced.”
At that point, he walked right up to me and placed his hand on my elbow! I felt a cold fist squeeze around my heart. Who is this guy? What is he doing? Is he a “Good Samaritan?” Or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
I kept my body stiff and rigid in the few steps it took to get to my car door. I stopped and stood still, waiting for him to step away before I opened the car door. Finally he did, with another twinkly smile, which somehow did not reach his eyes.
I stepped inside and immediately locked all the doors. As he walked into the store I had just exited, I noticed my breath was shaky and my heart was pounding. Clearly my body was reacting to something I could not identify. My body KNEW I had survived a perilous encounter.
A good number of years ago I read a book called, The Gift of Fear by a man named Gavin de Becker. Mr. de Becker (born October 26, 1954) is an American author and security specialist, primarily for governments, large corporations and public figures. He is the founder and chairman of Gavin de Becker and Associates. In the book, he describes many first hand accounts of folks who discounted their fear and came to regret it.
One story I remember very well was about a young woman who dropped her bag of groceries while trying to open the security door to her apartment house. A “nice guy” came along just then, picked up the onions and oranges and cans of food. He insisted he would escort her up to her apartment, since her hands were full.
He chatted in a friendly way as they climbed the stair. But when she tried to turn away at the door to her unit, he took her keys and pushed her inside. For many hours he tortured and assaulted her.
When he went to the kitchen to get a knife, she was able to slip out, naked and trembling. She tiptoed to her neighbor's door where her prayers were answered. Her elderly neighbors were home and admitted her seconds before her door opened and her assailant stormed out looking for her.
They watched through the peep hole as he pounded on all the doors on that floor. Finally he left. She was traumatized, but alive. She admitted to the police to having a “bad feeling” about the man, but didn’t want to seem unfriendly since he was being so helpful.
I cannot truly say I remembered any of this that day on the sidewalk where the “nice guy” wanted to help me. I just knew he did not have my best interests at heart.
That night on the local news I saw a video of a guy chasing down an 81-year-old lady, knocking her to the sidewalk and taking of with her purse. The woman could have been me.
I realize we live in a violent world but my default position has always been to trust. Trust, until I have reason to believed the person is untrustworthy. That day on the sidewalk, my instinct, my self preservation instinct was alert and paying attention.
When the stranger stepped up and invaded my personal space, something inside me knew. That primitive reptilian part of my brain, the part always on watch for predators - it knew.
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