Are You Aging Successfully?
Do Not Go Gentle...

A TGB READER STORY: Too Close for Comfort

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.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]

Comments

So often we ignore out intuition...so glad you were aware of yours warning you not to trust this man who invaded your space.

When I was in Jr. High I had left school b/c I didn't feel well...at the bus stop a man kept driving up to ask if I wanted a ride home...I said no....but he even parked the car and walked up to me to "talk me into it". I took off and ran back to school and was in tears by the time I talked to the vice principal...she drove me home, and notified the police. I think my mother had warned me and my sisters not to trust strange men. This was in Burbank in about 1953.

No other comments yet? it is a scary world and on my morning walks sometimes I encounter some people that I can feel I need to distance myself from, it's a beach town, and I have my dog with me, and do have friends who have had close encounters of these kinds.
When I was about 10 a man called me over to his car to ask directions, he was exposing himself, and it has made me feel that if I hadn't gotten back on the bike and escaped he might have grabbed me. Close encounters... even after all these years, glad I confided in my Dad, and kept my distance. Thanks Fritzy for the reminder.

Always remember the panic button on your key fob is your friend. Now that I’m older and more prone to be preyed
on my finger is always on it when I’m alone.

Shelter in Place Prayer during Covid 19 August 2020

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at risk
May we who have no risk factors remember those who are vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no place to go.
May we who are losing their margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for quarantine at home remember those who have no home.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our family, friends and neighbors.
Amen

From a rabbi in Washington state as pandemic began, read by Richard Address today... August...2020.

Trust your gut, that's what my Grandma used to tell me.

You did the right thing, Fritzy. But you will probably never know if the helpful stranger was a pastor, social worker or store manager whose experience has taught them how to quickly notice a person in distress and how to respond in an unthreatening way. The unrelaxed eyes may have been a continued concern for your safety. Please continue to be vigilant, but don’t overlook the possibility that you might have made a new friend.

Dear Fritzy, Ronni and Friends, sad thing is, many parents haven't troubled themselves to lovingly but firmly warn their kids about the various predators out there. And many parents...i guess they're too wrapped up in their tee-vee fanta$ies to take the time and teach their kids how to maintain healthy, sturdy boundaries.
Really sad to say, where the rubber meets the road, waay too many parents (over generations) evidence the rotten fruit of, in reality, not giving a hoot about their kids.

When I was in my late twenties, living in a friendly mid-size town and raising my toddlers, there was a super-polite and helpful pre-teen kid, who used to stop by our house and ask if he could walk our dog for us, because he loved dogs but wasn't allowed to have one of his own. He would also leap in to help if he saw me bringing in the groceries from the car. He was unfailingly well-mannered and good-humored, to the point that I marveled at how how "well brought-up" he seemed to be.

This went on for a few years, as he grew into a teenager and rapidly shot up in height. One day, when he was still a young adolescent, he was standing in our kitchen chatting with me, when suddenly a chill went through me and a voice in my head said: "You're all alone in the house with him and he's bigger than you. Get out". The other part of my brain argued that this was ridiculous. I knew this kid! He was a good kid! But the chill persisted, so I made an excuse that I needed to see what my children were up to outside. I headed to the door. He left for home. After that I made sure to avoid close contact with him, even though I felt like an idiot.

Coincidentally, we moved away from that friendly little town a few months later. Shortly after we moved, I got a phone call from my next door neighbor. She told me that my friendly helper-kid had just been arrested and charged with the brutal rape and murder of a woman about my age, as he visited with her in her home.

So yes, I agree with you, Fritzy. Trust that chill when it hits you.

Fritzy, this was so beautifully written that I simply had to post a brief comment and say "thank you" for posting.

Many of us have had similar experiences (as witness the other postings), and yes, it is also important to "trust, but verify".

The rabbi's prayer was especially poignant. I'm going to print it and share it with many.

Thank you, ALL!

Thanks Fritzy for that reminder to BE ALERT! - and you will be safe.

Whew, I'm glad your gut and mind worked so well in tandem! As we age, it's harder to "walk tall, look tough," so we can easily look like prey. No way! If our instincts are still in tact, that is. And let's let our voices loose too! I once went to a session to learn to say(and yell) things like,"Get away from me NOW!" It was so liberating! We were all brought up to be so NICE, and "not to talk to strangers", which if you think about it, doesn't compute. It's a rotten thing that women have to spend their lives being so wary and defensive in public places when alone, but there you have it.

I think Fritzy’s scary experience is even more relevant today, given the times. Last night I saw a piece on the number of assaults, robberies & murder climbing in cities like New York & Chicago since the pandemic began. And now, given that the extra unemployment payments have ended and evictions have begun... who knows what some will resort to, if they’re desperate enough.

I admit I feel safer given that I’m a man, but at the same time, I’m not a young man either. For the forseeable future, I’m not going out after dark.

Well written piece! Can relate.

My sis and I were walking back from a mall- pre school startup September.

Chatting and laughing our way home.

A car slowed down, driver leaned over leering - asked directions- a weird look on his face.

He wanted us to get in the car.

I grabbed my sister's hand and we ran toward a house.

As the weirdo drove away, I grabbed my new pen and wrote his license plate number on the back of my new notebook.

We arrived home, I told my take no prisoners dad what happened. He called the cops, gave the license number. Cops called my dad saying they caught the weirdo trying to pick up another teen.

Busted.

"Always trust the hairs on the back of your neck," says my favorite taxi driver.

Thank you for this post and the comments. My husband--a law enforcement officer in another life--calls it "situational awareness". Now that I'm old, I try to practice it whenever I'm out, which is almost never in these days of COVID-19.

I'm very appreciative that I do not "need" to be out in the world right now but still find it disconcerting that I'm taking my life (and possibly that of my 90 Y/O husband) in my hands going to the grocery store, gas station or pet food store. I've been using curbside pickup and delivery most of the time, but sometimes you just cannot get the items you need/want. Even with conscientious mask use, social distancing and handwashing, the risk is sill there.

Well written, Fritzy. Sometimes we forget how vulnerable we are, even in the daytime. Thanks for the reminder.

The yin and yang of life presents itself in so many beautiful and ugly, uplifting and soul-searing, joyful and horrific ways, and this story and comments reminds me again of that sad fact and leaves me questioning, again, the very meaning of life. All these reminders of the need to be vigilant and trust but verify give me chills. Stranger danger is bad enough, but the fact is that most rapes and sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, trusts and often even loves. It's unfortunate that we have to keep our wits about us and our guard up everywhere almost all the time. Great job of generating discussion on this important topic Fritzy!

Thank you, to everyone who took the time to comment. It makes me glad to get such provocative stories from others.
I love the Rabbii's prayer, too.Thank you, Martha.
Special thanks to Margo—every writer wants to hear they did well on the page.
And to Doug, for knowing that it IS different for ladies,,especially old ladies.
Katie, thank you, for sharing your own scary moments when the "shivers" talked to you.
I am so grateful for this site, for Ronni, and for the community of readers.

Thank you for helping me withstand the isolation.

Walking home from the high school bus stop, I stepped right up to a car, thinking nothing of it, since we often had people asking for directions in our neighborhood . Until the guy pointed a gun at me. I bolted in front of the car for my back gate, just across the street. Another girl way across town had a worse experience than I did, which led to announcements and warnings at school the next day. Apparently the guy followed school buses.

But if you do get that sense that something is wrong, I say heed it!

BYW Fritzy, I’d love to hear of the origin of your name! Thank you for your piece, which obviously struck a chord!

I approach everyone with trust - and I tend to dismiss my feelings of warning or danger. Fortunately, I am always walking outside with a dog. Currently I have a wonderful rescue dog from Tennessee. It is true of my previous dogs as well - they KNOW when someone's intention is not good! This has been my observation, and I feel somewhat safer that my sweet canines signal danger.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)