Still at the gas station being approached by a creepy looking guy who starts talking to me out of nowhere. I was right, no time to get in the car to lock the doors. The pump is still pumping gas as I head towards the driver’s seat, but the guy gets there first. I glance towards the other guy still in the truck, he doesn’t meet my eyes. What to do? The guy with the scary smile is now blocking my car door on the driver’s side. I’m terrified of the possibility of him jumping in my car, leaving with my baby…
This actually happened for real to one of my colleagues. I was working with underprivileged kids going to these schools to counsel them and talk strategies with their teachers on how to keep the kids from acting out and how to keep them safe in school as well as at home etc. I also talked to parents and helped them deal with troubled behavior as well as more severe mental health issues. This was not the best part of town (I was told once to move my car because I parked outside of a “drug lord’s” house, yup! True story). Anyways, my colleague had a meeting to see this little six year old who needed to switch foster families. Unfortunately her own two year old woke up sick and she couldn’t find anyone to watch him last minute. It was a really crucial meeting and I would have covered for her but I had my own important meeting at the same time across town. She talked to the school who told her it was no problem to bring her son, he could play at the school while she had her meeting. I know she hesitated but the school was a good one and it wasn’t like she would leave him with strangers. She parked across the street (near where I parked that one time) and as she got out of her car with her notes and her briefcase, someone yanked her keys, jumped in her car and drove away. With her 2 year old IN THE BACKSEAT!
Every time I hear this story it breaks my heart. I can actually imagine some of this Mom’s anguish as this was happening. I didn’t know her well but I saw her weekly and knew her love for her son. Can you imagine? Can any parent? The sheer terror. Someone takes off with your kid. You have no idea where they are going or what they are capable of. Naturally she was hysterical. What would you have done? Luckily this story had a happy ending. Hours later the little boy was found. The toddler and his car seat had been ditched at a gas station. He was sitting there singing to himself when the cops came! But those hours, she must have been beyond terrified.
Was I next? Did this guy want my car? I can’t help thinking of that poor mom. How helpless she must have felt. At least I have the keys, thank goodness I didn’t just leave them on the driver’s seat. Besides I’m sure this guy is harmless, he doesn’t look tough and muscly at all, mostly skinny and dorky. I’m a psychologist after all, I should be able to talk to him… He tells me he is lonely and just looking for someone to talk to (lucky me). Oh well okay then. He tells me he wants to talk about something real other than the weather “none of that BS chit chat”. I’m not sure what to talk about to make him happy. He yells at me to not come closer to the car and to stop looking so scared. But I am, he is actually really scaring me right now. I need to find a way to let him let me drive away in my vehicle.
I try to mimic his movement and body language by casually leaning against the car as close to him and my driver’s seat as he’ll let me. I force the fear out of my voice, almost succeeding with just some stubborn shakiness left at the end of the sentence, “That is okay, what do you want to talk about?” He apparently wants to talk about how fake people are and “isn’t anybody just real anymore?”. I carefully agree and keep the conversation going for a few minutes. He seems to relax and I keep thinking he is probably not that “dangerous” after all, he certainly wouldn’t steal my car right? With my little girl inside. With that in mind I inch my way closer and he lets me. He saying he likes me closer and that I don’t seem fake, maybe he can take me out some time? Has he not seen my weeding bling (that’s right) and my sleeping baby? Why, oh why don’t I have my phone? I can see it just laying around on the front seat through the window. But what would I do if I had it? Every little thing is making this guy upset. Calling 911 certainly wouldn’t fly. I glanced at his friend and he yelled at me. I got closer, holding on to my car door and he shoved me back. I feel jumpy and afraid again. I think I’m probably in the middle of a very bad situation. Please don’t let it get worse. Please, let us escape this.
I try everything I can to calm him down, to let him know that I am friendly and “real” and that I have time to talk to him. He seems to relax again telling me he had been to see a doctor. I carefully ask him what for and he answers that he has seen an urologist. (way to early for a doctor’s appointment). Do I know what kind of doctor that is? Tread lightly here! When I answer gently that “I think so” and that I hope he is okay he starts laughing frantically. Again I glance towards the other guy in the truck, I can’t help it…please take him with you and leave I silently try to convince him.
The guy now casually sits in the driver’s seat, drumming his fingers on my steering wheel, (inches from my cell phone). He says that I probably think he has a “penile problem” but there is nothing wrong with that body part, do I want to take it for a test drive? I suddenly get extremely mad, I can feel it in my entire body. Listen mister, I have just spent the night at the hospital with my very sick little baby, we just want to go home and join the rest of our family.
Did these people have to pull up to the same gas station? I swallow and just let him know the truth (scared out of my mind that he won’t leave us alone after my little speech.) I tell him I’m totally a “real person” a “real” tired mom who spent the entire night in the hospital and just wants to go home and feed her baby and catch up on some sleep. Now it’s his turn to glance towards his friends, he shrugs. Do I sound hysterical? Maybe…probably. But like a miracle, it works. His friend says “come on man, let’s bail” (so maybe he was the one saving us, not my little speech). And they do, leave, he takes one more look at me (crazy momma, why bother), shakes his head and they both drive off.
I’m frozen for a few seconds until I rush to my car, jump in and lock the doors. I don’t think I dare to breathe until they are long gone. I put my head on my folded arms on the steering wheel and breathe (in out…smelling roses, blowing out candles). Wow that was a close one!