Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It Can Happen Anywhere

It was 5:42pm on a Monday night. I pulled into the parking lot where my doctor's office was. All the spots just in front of the building were taken so I drove about ten yards away and parked in front of the other building, with a white sedan parked to the left of me. I put my car in park, unplugged my phone from the A/V jack, and started to get my belongings together. 

In my peripheral vision, I noticed something near the white car next to me. It was a man walking between our cars. I figured he was getting ready to get into the passenger seat of that car so I waited a second until he got in before I opened my door.

Well, he never got into the car.

Instead, he taps on the window of my car.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Shocked, I whip my head around to look at him and he motions for me to roll down the window.

This man appeared to be in his upper 70's if I had to guess. His hair was white. He was wearing a camel brown, long-sleeved button down. He wasn't the cleanest shaven man I've ever seen but certainly didn't look homeless.

After he told me to put the window down, I shook my head, "no!"
He started mumbling something and seemed as though he was asking for money.
Again, I shook my head, "no" and motioned for him to leave.

I grabbed my phone in a panic, trying to figure out what I was going to do.
Should I move my car? Should I get out now and run? Where did he go? I waited until I saw another car driving through the lot. I figured if he was going to do something, he wouldn't do it while another person could see. So, I quickly grabbed my belongings, and cut diagonally through the parking lot, walking very briskly. As I passed the edge of the first building, I noticed a figure emerge from around the corner.

It was him!

"Miss! Miss!" he yelled, quickly moving toward me.
I started to run to my building.
As I ran, he picked up his pace and started to chase after me.

In those last flashes, I remember trying to get to the door of my building as quickly as I could and being sure to shut the door and keep it closed behind me.

The man did not follow me into the building.

Right away, I reported what had just happened to the receptionists and doctor. One of the ladies went outside in the direction he had gone and flagged down a driver of an SUV. The man had tapped on her window as well, wanting money. He proceeded to approach ladies going into and out of the gym in the shopping center.

The police were notified.

I tell you this story because this stuff happens. In broad daylight. In the shopping center ten minutes from your house that you've been going to since you were a kid.

Did the man hurt me? No. Did he scare the living daylights out of me? Yes. Did he have a gun? I don't know. Did he really just want money? I don't know.

What if I had rolled down my window? What if I did reach into my purse? What if I hadn't run when I saw him again?

What could have happened?

My mom always taught me to be aware of my surroundings. To have my car keys in my hand when I walked out to my car. To look over my shoulder. To drive away as soon as I got into my car instead of texting someone or messing with my radio.

Things happen in split seconds, when you least expect them.
I'm grateful that she continued to re-iterate those things to me for twenty-six years because if it weren't for her, maybe I would have rolled down my window. Maybe I wouldn't have run.

I worked with a girl who left dance practice one afternoon and her car was found at the bottom of a lake and her body found soon after. I don't take these situations lightly.
Be careful. Watch your back. Have someone walk you to your car [luckily, one of the doctors insisted on walking me out.]
And if a situation doesn't feel right, it isn't.


Lauran {The Real Young Housewife of Southern VA} said...

Oh my goodness!!! I am glad you arent hurt!! But you are so right! It is extremely important to be aware of your surroundings! My mom taught me those same things!!! I have no doubt it scared the daylights out of you!! Be safe sweet girl! xoxo!

julia rose said...

Oh wow, how absolutely TERRIFYING!!! I am so glad you stuck with your gut instinct to run and not open your door or window for him. Your Mother was obviously looking down on you last night! So glad you are okay and you don't take situations lightly!

Samantha said...

how incredibly scary! so glad you are okay. thanks for the reminder to not be naive in situations like that!

Hilary said...

Wow! Glad it worked out like it did. It's good to keep these things in mind!!

Lindsey said...

ugh. My biggest fear in life. I am a PSYCHO patch about this. I wouldn't say I live in fear, but I am VERY aware of my surroundings. Trust no one. I've been in situations like this before. IT is THE worst feeling ever. Your stomach gets sick, your heart starts beating a mile a minute, you start shaking. The adrenaline is crazy. I don't care what people think of me or if I'm "rude", if someone makes me feel uncomfortable, I'm trusting my gut. Because we get in trouble when we ignore our inner voice. A lot of people live their lives thinking it will never happen to them. I'm the complete opposite. I always think it could happen to me, so I'm very cautious. I am so glad you posted this because more women need to be aware. It's a FREAK-Filled world out there. So glad you are OK!

Shayna said...

It's scary to think "it could happen to you" but, unfortunately, it can. Working for a police department I'm much more aware of these things than I was 5 years ago. I'm so glad that you are ok & nothing serious happened! That had to be terrifying!

Beth said...

sorry this happened to you and other girls at the shopping center, but such a good lesson to be learned. glad everyone is okay. while reading the story, i just had flashes of a dateline story in my mind.

Carolyn said...

OH MY GOODNESS! I'm so glad that it ended up ok... that's scary!!! :(

Katie said...

So glad you're okay! I'd definitely classify myself as "paranoid." I'm always surveying my surroundings, and I freak out at the smallest thing. If someone sneaks up behind me, I'm practically jump out of my skin. I never answer the door when I'm home alone, I usually don't even do it when my husband is home. You JUST NEVER KNOW. There are so many horrible people out there who will do horrible things to innocent people, and you don't want it to be you. Your mom gave you great advice. I've actually learned a lot of those lessons from e-mail chains, so at least there are some decent ones out there. ;-)

Preppy Girl Meets World said...

That is so scary. Glad you're ok. I had a similar bad episode with a stranger last week.

Ashley Jones said...

I think everyone needs to experience living in a true downtown city at least once in their life. Although these episodes might seem scary, living downtown makes you more confident and makes you realize there are a TON of poor people everyone, and 99% of the time they just want money or food, etc. and certainly aren't out to harm you (as pesky as they might be sometimes). Living downtown, I am confronted and approached by homeless (or homeless posing) people alllll the time, I mean multiple times a day. The only time I can be a bit tense about it is when it's a younger male at night. I think it's more unusual to see it in the suburbs, especially someone so old like that, but always remember to breathe and stay calm. When you overreact, they will as well.

Miss Chelsea said...

Sad that you can't even feel safe walking 10 feet anymore. Scary world out there!

Katie said...

Oh my goshhh!! Terrifying. I have had a similar situation happen to me as I was leaving a Wal-Mart. I haven't been back since alone. I know it can happen anywhere at anytime but I can't help but freak out just thinking about it. My incident was a dirty looking man wanting to give me his "business card" for future updates around the house. I quickly got in my car and he ran after me as I slammed my door he tried to reach in after me. I floored it out of there and cried all the way home. Absolutely terrifying.

Im glad you are ok and you were smart about it instead of fearing of hurting someone's feelings.

Mrs. Jones said...

So glad you trusted your feelings. That's crazy and scary, all in one.

Holly said...

I'm so glad you're OK, friend! How scary! I was scared for you and I was anxious the whole time reading that to make sure nothing bad happened! You're right, it can happen anywhere. It's sad that you can't trust people anymore :(

Amber said...

How scary! I always get nervous about stuff like this happening to me. I sure am glad you're OK and nothing bad ended up happening!

Chelsea said...

First of all, I am so glad you are OK! How scary! Thank you for sharing this because it reminded me that sometimes I am WAY too trusting of people. I probably would have rolled down the window. :( THANK YOU.

So, so, so glad you were smart and are safe!!!!!!!!

katie michelle said...

oh my gosh, what a scary situation to be in! i'm so glad you're okay, and that you were SMART and knew exactly what to do (and what not to do!) thank you for writing this!!! it is SO important for all women to know these things!

Amanda C. said...

That is scary. I read somewhere that women are attacked a lot getting in and out of their cars because they sit there and txt or do other stuff after they park. You definitely have to be aware.

Raquel said...

Omg how scary! I've had a few scary incidents happen to me too, mostly on the metro. Ugh

Caley-Jade Rosenberg said...

So glad you are ok...
I had a similar incident last week too - I stopped at a traffic light and a man approached my car, asking me to wind down my window because there was something wrong with my tyre and he kept at it but I refused to open my window!! When I got home and checked my tyre, it was perfectly fine... Scary thing is, i had my little baby int he car with me and if they had stolen my car, my baba would be gone too :(

Sarah said...

So scary! Glad you're ok. Just goes to show that you never know what can happen. At least for us females (and even most people) it's so dangerous anymore to stop and help someone.. we can get killed doing it. I've always been that trusting person that thinks the best of people. You're lucky your mom taught you to have such good instincts and to act smartly in those situations. When I went to college my mom bought me keychain mase and I thought she was overreacting.. guess I should pull that baby back out!

Abbey said...

That is ridiculously scary, but I'm so glad you knew what to do and were okay! I would've panicked. And you're totally right...it could happen to anyone, anywhere. That's wonderful that the doctor walked you out as well. Thanks for sharing!

Kristen said...

i'm so happy you're ok! that is so freaking scary! people care about being polite instead of their own safety and bad things can happen in a split second, just like you said. i'm a nutso when it comes to safety, i won't park by suvs, i'll get in my car through the passenger side if one is parked by me, i'll have mall security drive me to my car if it's late, and i walk w my keys inbetween my fingers to use as a weapon. you can never be too safe, and my mom and cop uncle taught me well!

Whitney @ Everything Happens For a Reason said...


One time I was driving to a client's house for work, and I had to circle back around to their street, so I could park. (This was a bad neighborhood). This guy comes walking up to my door and lifting on the handle and trying to get in! I stare at him and he asks if I am looking for so-and-so. I was like, uh no! He seemed to get startled and walked off in an hurry. Based on the neighborhood and his actions/reactions, I'm sure he was the middle man for a drug dealer!

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