An Ordinary Encounter

It was early. Earlier than I normally get to work. The time of day when few people venture on the streets near my office. Why would they? The area is pretty barren except for a few places of business. Morning activity usually stays farther down and across the road where there is a business that demands an early schedule. Foot traffic around my office does not begin until around noon when people make their way to the area to eat lunch at the restaurant across the street.

I am always cautious of my surrounding. As a woman walking alone in a lonely part of town, I have to be. People walking near to my building, when nobody usually does, causes me to think even more about my safety.

Even when I feel a bit apprehensive, I usually get out of my car anyway. Apprehensive, for me, does not equal unsafe. It simply means I must be even more cautious of my surroundings than normal.

What is my exit strategy? Where can I run? What weapons (besides my hands and feet) do I have available? How can I get help?

I drove down the street as the sun was still trying to wake the day. A man was walking on the sidewalk heading right for my destination. I assessed the situation and decided I could get out of the car and make it into the building before he got close.

I got out of the car and walked around to get my things. I travel light on a normal day, but not today. Today, I had a very heavy box to carry in. Pulling out the box, struggling under its weight, I set it on the curb. I couldn’t see the man from where I was, but thought I still had time. I locked the car and picked up the box (with my legs, not my back) and made my way around the corner to the sidewalk. Walking as fast as I could, I saw the man just ahead. I clearly misjudged my timing.

I hurried along the walk when I dropped something. I had no choice but to set the box down because I would never be able to squat under the weight. The man was right in front of my by this point. There wasn’t anything overtly scary about this man, he was just a man on the street with me and I was alone. That is enough.

He said, “Here, let me get that for you.”

Now, this could go one of two ways. He could legitimately be trying to help. Or, he may be using this opportunity to attack me. I hate that we have to second guess the intentions of every stranger we meet. I hate that I have to be so cautious of a random person on the street. I hate that I cannot just allow someone to help me.

Yet, I do. We all do to varying degrees. We have to. Especially when we’re alone.

The man bent down and picked up the item I dropped. He put it on top of my box and I said, “Thank you so much!” He continued his way, and I continued mine, feeling sad that I was apprehensive about his presence.

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