I have always enjoyed interviewing people and getting to know strangers. I'm pretty social by nature as long as I have my solitude after work is over. People don't scare me, though anyone who knows me in real life will confirm that I am a crazy person magnet. Whatever, it makes life interesting. However, as the following story shows, sometimes it makes it a bit too interesting.
Last week, I was going for a walk. This is pretty normal for most people, but not for me. I abhor heat, and I'm not a huge fan of the sun. However, I've been sick for a while and I felt the need to get out and work up a sweat. Keep in mind the nature of my illness made breathing very difficult, and while I am mostly over it, my lungs are still only working at partial capacity. Which is a fancy way to say that ten minutes into my walk, I was huffing and puffing and having serious doubts about whether I could continue. But I did, because I have to start with baby steps and get back to some level of physical fitness. With the help of my trusty cell phone pedometer, I had figured out a route that was exactly two miles long. A few sources I read said running or jogging two miles burned the same number of calories, so I worried about distance but not how long it took me to get there. Because I like quirky names, I called my fitness project Project Pink Samurai, because I wanted to be more graceful, light on my feet, and able to look fabulous. And what, I ask you, could look more fabulous than a pink samurai?
I saw a strange looking fellow by some large shade trees. I wasn't worried, he wasn't making an effort to hide. However, I kept a wary eye on him because I've been attacked before when I was young. More than once, actually. As I closed in on him, I slowed down and caught my breath a little, so I wasn't super weak when I caught up to him. I put my cell phone in my pocket, and freed up my hands just in case. And it's a darned good thing I did. There is no point in recalling the encounter here, word for word. The bottom line is, this man approached me, and I was polite but cautious. However, he became belligerent and threatening, and when I wouldn't keep walking (so he could walk behind me) he became even more threatening. Realizing we were approaching the point of no return, I decided to throw a bluff. Honestly, as a pudgy broad who had zero strength left, it was my only gamble. It worked. He took off, and when I pulled my phone out and called my husband, he trotted off quickly (I assume he thought I was calling the police). To prove to myself that I did have control over things, I walked home under my own power, despite my husband's pleas to let him come pick me up. I felt shaky and awful and sick, and I was desperate to feel like I hadn't just been reduced to a puddle of fear. But I had. Don't let my bravado confuse you for even a second. I was terrified.
I told a coworker about my walking pattern and the way I had learned to protect myself. By choosing an open, flat course I didn't allow anyone the opportunity to sneak up on me. By cleverly pretending to be texting, I had my cell phone's "selfie cam" on and was actually peeking over my shoulder discreetly to make sure I knew who was around me. I do not like to offend people, but neither do I allow anyone to linger behind me. Whether it's a family of four or a lone male, I step aside and allow them to pass. After listening, my thoughtful and sweet coworker said, "Wow, I never thought about what a woman has to go through while walking." I wanted to hug him. If only more people could realize this. So, for your consideration, I offer a few things to think about.
- Do not be offended if a woman steps aside to let you pass. She's not being rude, she is doing what it takes to feel secure. In all the times this has happened, the decent guys have never said a word, and in fact made a show of staying a safe distance away so I did not feel crowded. It's not personal, don't make it personal. Ladies, don't be afraid to let someone pass. Many attackers will take advantage of a woman's tendency to fear being rude, and will use that to get in as close as possible.
- When getting into shape, while it may feel good to wear yourself out, keep in mind that also makes you weak in case of attack. If any kind of potentially dangerous situation is ahead, stop for a second. Pretend you're checking your pulse, pretend you are checking your texts, do whatever it takes to have that reserve of energy just in case you need it.
- Always carry something you can use to defend yourself, no matter how close to home you are. Even if it's just a dinky can of pepper spray, or in my case a plastic device that makes your punches hurt like hell, have something. And if you feel you need to take it out, don't do so with fear. Be angry, and never show fear regardless of how you actually feel. Chances are an attacker will consider moving on to an easier target. I could see my house for the majority of my walk. It wouldn't have done me a damned bit of good if he had decided to attack me.
- Don't let the attacker move on to an easier target. Call the police and report anything suspicious. By doing so you are helping save the next potential victim who will be coming along. They may not be as prepared as you are.