Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Shadow of Fear

It's official. I'm a dork. Of course, this was never really a question. In so many ways I am the definition of a dork. I got great grades in school. The only sport I played was softball. Fast pitch, but softball nonetheless. I lettered in Drama. I used to write poetry. Now I'm a lawyer. I decorate cakes for fun. I cross stitch, also for fun, but for relaxation. I cry, without fail, at any sad or touching books, movies, songs - even tv commercials, for crying out loud - regardless of how often I've read/seen/heard them. I'm a M.A.S.H. fanatic, to the point I want to buy a M.A.S.H. t-shirt and dog tags, (and would wear them in public!) I collect miniature tea sets, Christmas Bears, quotes and useless facts. I get overly excited - and defensive - about cute shoes. Not to mention my numerous quirks. But last night, on my way to my car after work, the fact that I am actually a dork became solidified, without a doubt, in my mind.

First, you'll need a little background here. Unfortunately, while this incident is humorous, I'm afraid it arises out of a situation that is extremely serious, sobering and frightening. About a week and a half ago there was a rape that occurred in the middle of the day, in broad daylight, in a parking lot directly across the street from my office building downtown. I never heard of the incident until Friday morning, after which I forwarded the linked article from the Trib to all of my co-workers and everyone I know in the area to warn them to be safe. A co-worker of mine is married to a police officer. She immediately contacted him to ask questions about obtaining pepper spray for anyone in the office who was interested. Preparations were made, and a group order placed. We received our order today.

You'll also notice that the linked article contains safety tips. Two that have stuck in my mind are: always be aware of your surroundings and what is going on around you, and never talk on your cell phone or listen to your Ipod while walking to your vehicle. I have worked downtown for the last 5 1/2 years. I have always been cautious, since downtown is not the safest place in the valley, especially after dark. I always try to be aware of my surroundings, and the people and happenings within those surroundings. I even try to practice my "witness" skills, making sure I can describe people around me, having had nothing more than a glance at them. I am never distracted (or try very hard not to be). But I have never been afraid. Until now.

Since last week, I have heightened my awareness. But, quite often, I listen to my Ipod while walking to or from my car. It has previously occurred to me that this is not safe. I still do it. I love my music. I love my Ipod. I know I should probably change the habit. I haven't yet. Last night I worked late to make up a couple of missed hours. I was the last one to leave the office, and though it wasn't that late, it was after dark. As I waited for the elevator, I had all of these recent occurrences and safety thoughts swirling through my head. I even considered how I might use the empty Rubbermaid tote I was carrying as a weapon. "Here Mr. Rapist, catch!" or "Didn't anyone tell you to duck?" Or, if nothing else, to use it as an object to put between me and an attacker. Right, like any of those ideas would work! But, the most foolish thought I had was one of pure defiance. I am listening to my music because I am not going to let some psycho control my life and therefore take away any of my enjoyment. Yes, I am perfectly aware that this is a STUPID thought to have, composed of nothing more than absolute stubbornness. We are talking about safety, for goodness sake. And that's certainly more important than my music.

That's how I view it now. Then, I just stuck the ear buds in my ears and headed for the car. Despite the holiday, the building had quite a few people in it. There is a Distance Education college that holds a few classes in the building, and has offices there. Their classroom was full, there were people in the office, and there were a couple of students outside the doors on a smoke break. I continued on past them, still practicing my awareness skills, and despite my Ipod blaring away in my ears, I knew there was no one behind me. Once I got into the parking garage, though, there was suddenly no one around. At all. There weren't even cars coming and going from the other levels, like there usually are. It was a bit creepy. To top it off, it's a parking garage, which means not exactly the best lighting in the world. Even in the daytime, this garage is pretty dark. The florescent lights cast pink and yellow shadows all over the cement walls, pillars and ground. I started to get nervous.

I continued on around the corner, since my parking spot is on the opposite side of a wall directly across from the door, and headed cautiously to my car, bending down just a bit to peek under and make sure the rapist dude wasn't hiding under it waiting to grab my ankles. Reassuring myself that no one was there, I stopped at the passenger side door, opened it, and deposited the tote and my purse on the passenger seat. As I shut the door, I glanced slightly over my left shoulder. I caught something move out of the corner of my eye, and realized a dark figure was standing against the wall my spot butts up against. My heart leaped into my throat, my stomach dropped, and I whirled around to face my would-be attacker. Already my mind was mapping out which way I could run to get away. Should the person move just a little to the left, they would be blocking one way out, the way I had just entered by. I would have to run down, further into the garage, to try to reach the second exit door at the other end. My right hand still held my keys. Somehow I had reacted, drawing on a safety article I had once read about using your keys as a make-shift weapon, and slipped several of the keys between my fingers, narrow ends out, to be used a bit like you would use brass knuckles. My left hand went to my pocket, where my cell phone was. To my credit, I did not scream. So there I stood, ready to defend myself against, or run away shadow.

Go ahead. Finish your laugh. I'll wait...

That's right, folks. I gave new meaning to being afraid of my own shadow. Once I realized that the dark figure was me, I just dropped my hands, rolled my eyes, practically ran to the car and leaped into the driver's seat. I shut the door and locked it....then I began to laugh. Only after I was safe, theoretically from myself, inside my locked car, did I actually laugh at myself. I laughed most of the way home. Along the way I called my sister and my friend to regale them with the tale of my silliness. My friend thanked me for the much needed laugh. My sister reminded me that it was a similar situation that caused her to slip on the ice and consequently break her ankle. And when I started to tell her about my foolish thought of defiance, I said "and I thought 'I'm not going to not listen to my music just so -' " She broke in with "so I don't get raped?" And then started to laugh. Ha ha. Ok, so, I know it was dumb. But you can bet it won't happen again.

Geez, I'm a dork.

1 comment:

Karla said...

WOW!!! I am sure glad that story had a humorous ending to it. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it!!!!