I got my safe, secure, little world rocked to its core this week. I stopped at a local gas station to get an iced tea and a bag of peanuts on my way to work. I had been working at home all morning while a handyman installed our new storm door and had rushed out afterward forgetting lunch.
As I entered the store, I heard a loud gentleman, with a pronounced Southern accent, talking to some people on the other side of the store. The only reason I noticed was because of the strong accent, not that they were yelling or fighting or anything. I got my iced tea and nuts and proceeded to the front of the store. The man with the accent was now alone. He grabbed my arm and asked me if there were any restaurants around here within walking distance. I pointed out a few, while trying to gently extricate my arm. He tightened his grip and said that they were too far away for him to walk, and that he wasn't from around here, and that I would be driving him. Still trying to be reasonable and half thinking that this must be some kind of a practical joke, I asked him to please let go of me and tried to tug my arm away.
At this point his face turned red and he let go of my arm only to put HIS arm all the way around my shoulders like a cage. Whenever I have envisioned being grabbed, I always saw myself kicking, screaming, biting and yelling my way to freedom. I had grand visions of not letting the perpetrator go without lodging a size-six Adidas firmly into his nethers. This guys was 6'7"+ tall and weighted 300+ pounds. I totally froze. All scenario rehearsals in my head and in the defense classes I'd taken over the years were nowhere to be found. As he's talking loudly and hauling me toward the door saying that I'm taking him to a restaurant, I finally found my voice and loudly told him to LET GO OF ME.
The two clerks working were (thankfully) good-sized guys and they came right over and hauled the guy off of me. All the while he's yelling that I said I'd drive him to a restaurant. The clerks are trying to talk him down and asking me if I wanted to call the police. I said, 'No, I'm fine' and even kind of laughed as I launched myself out the door and into my car.
I started the car and my first thought was 'That was weird' and chuckled. The closer I got to work, the more upset I got and by the time I parked I was shaking like a leaf and on the verge of tears. I went to get out of the car and realized that I had driven the entire way with the peanuts clenched in a death grip in my right hand and that I hadn't paid for them or the iced tea! Grand theft snack food on top of the mayhem!
As soon as I got to the safety of the building, I kind of lost it. My coworker took me in the back room and we talked it out. I felt so stupid because I was fine, nothing 'happened' to me aside from a few fingertip-sized bruises on my arm. My mind was going a thousand miles a minute though. How could this happen at noon in a well-lit, busy gas station? What if I had been somewhere more secluded? What if the clerks had been woman and not able to tackle the man? What if? What if? What if?
I shut down the what-ifs pretty quickly because that can drive you nuts (and I already had the nuts which I'd pilfered from the gas station). I pulled it together and worked the rest of the day. I thought I was fine until I tried to go to bed. Awake does not begin to describe my state. The what-ifs were back in full force and they'd brought their friends, the 'I'm never going anywhere alone again-s' and 'the world is never going to be safe again-s' with them. I read and Zentangled all night long.
Blearily, I went to work the next day and purposely stopped at the same gas station to pay for my ill-gotten gains from the day before, and learned that the man was a trailer truck driver from down south with an extensive record for assault and battery-I got very, Very,VERY lucky. The clerks asked if I wanted to contact the police and I said no. I didn't want this man to know my name or where I live or ANY information about me. They already know he's bad news, they can deal with him without my input.
I know it doesn't seem like much of an' incident', but in terms of shattering my security, it did the trick quite nicely, thank you. I had been in a safe place in the middle of the day and something had still 'happened'. Given an couple of day's distance, I am actually glad it happened. I wasn't hurt and I realized that I had grown complacent and had been taking chances by nonchalantly putting myself in harms way when walking and hiking in more isolated places; simply not thinking about the potential dangers, not being 'afraid' of anything, and 'knowing' I could handle any incident that might arise. I had stopped being vigilant. On the one hand, that's a sad state to have to live in-looking for evil everywhere, but today, it's a survival skill and a necessity and I won't be caught unawares again.
I hope if you are reading this, that it reminds you to be aware too. The majority of people are good, but there are bad people out there too, and things can happen in the blink of an eye-especially if you're overly self-confident and oblivious to the world around you. Put down your cell phones and burst out of that bubble of self-absorption and pay attention to your environment. You don't have to be scared of the world, just be vigilant! I do these experiments so you don't have to!