As a blogger, I usually love when someone “follows” me.
In the real world? Not so much.
On Wednesday I had an experience that unnerved me so much that I felt real fear for the first time in ages. I’m normally a very cautious person. I’m the kind of girl who always checks the back seat whenever I get into my car at night, who locks the door to my home when I’m by myself, and who looks both ways before crossing the street. I love, love, love criminal-ish TV shows and I take a lot of the tips and advice given for women in those shows to heart. (well, the good parts anyway.)
A girl can never be too cautious, you know.
That being said, I think I’m also incredibly naive. I always look for the good in people, and I have this habit of thinking that bad things don’t happen where I live. Unless someone is in a hooded, black sweatshirt with dark sunglasses I’d never assume someone to be a danger to me.
I finished work fairly early on Wednesday afternoon, so I decided run a few errands on my way home. I live close enough to be able to walk to work, as well as to a grocery store, coffee shop and pharmacy. I decided to stop at the pharmacy first (they had some faaaabulous sales) and took my time perusing through the store. It was roughly 1:35pm when I left.
I then made my way over to the grocery store, which was just a stone’s throw across the street from the pharmacy. I’m a total day dreamer, so as I walked I was hopelessly lost in my thoughts–planning out the rest of my week and weekend as well as making a list of what I needed in my head. As I walked through the parking lot toward the store I became aware that a car was trailing behind me. Thinking that maybe it needed to pass by I move aside and continued walking.
For another second the car stayed behind me, then it honked twice and pulled up beside me. Thinking it might be someone I knew, I looked over to see three big guys inside (whom I had never seen before in my life). The one in the passenger seat whistled at me and I half-smiled and nodded without looking back. The car then pulled up closer to where I was and he leaned out:
Guy: “Hey beautiful. We just saw you walking and you looked so beautiful we had to stop.”
Me: *awkward laugh* “Uhh.. thanks!?”
Guy: “You busy? Wanna come hang out for a bit?”
**Sidenote: In hindsight, I probably could have told them off at this point and done something to turn them off completely, but at this point I was only mildly creeped out and didn’t think much of the situation. I’ve been honked at and hit on before, so I handled the situation how I normally do–kindly, but firmly.
Me: “No thanks. I’m just going to buy groceries.”
Guy: “What about after? I’ll wait.”
Me: *slowly becoming more creeped out* “Sorry, I have an appointment at 2. Gotta run.”
(Yes, I fibbed. But I thought it was for the greater good.)
Thankfully I had arrived at the doors to the store and slipped inside before any further conversation could be made. I should add that all of this transpired while one guy hung out the window of his buddy’s “ride”–TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’, anyone? Ha.
Thinking that was all done with (all previous pick up attempts by other guys would have ended by that point) I grabbed the things I needed and began walking toward the front of the store. As I exited one aisle I saw all three of them walking down the length of the store looking in every single aisle without going into any of them. I started feeling a sinking feeling in my stomach, but then I thought to myself, “Well, they were in a grocery store parking lot, maybe they just need groceries too”. I tried to duck into another aisle to hide but was spotted.
I suddenly made myself very interested in reading the backs of cereal boxes.
Guy: “Hey beautiful, we found you!”
Me: “Uhh, yup, you did.”
Guy: *pointing to my pharmacy bag* “Is that where you work?”
He then began firing all these personal questions at me, wanting to know my name, how old I was, where I worked, if I lived around there, etc. The worst part was how he looked at me–words cannot express how uncomfortable it felt. I did my best to dodge all of his questions and began walking to the checkout.
Guy: “So, can we hang out after your appointment? Why don’t you let us drive you there?”
Me: “No thanks. It’s in this plaza, and actually I’m married.”
Here’s the kicker.
Guy: “That’s okay, we can hang out anyway.”
Yeaaah. I knew I had to get out of there immediately. I said no again, and quickly made my way to the checkout. As soon as I got into my line I brightly engaged in a conversation with an elderly gentleman in front of me to keep myself occupied and prevent any further communication with the creepers. Thankfully they got into another line that finished before mine did and they left the store.
I breathed a sigh of relief and took my time bagging my groceries just to be sure they had gone.
As I walked toward the doors the sinking feeling I had felt in my gut earlier came back in full force. One of the guys was standing right outside the door watching me, like he had been waiting for me to come out. I gripped my bags and pushed forward.
Guy #2: “Hey beautiful. Find everything you need?”
I half smile and continue walking out.
Guy #2: “Come on, why don’t you let us drive you to your appointment. We can hang out after.”
Me (firmly): “No. I’m fine, I don’t need a ride.”
I begin walking in the direction of my apartment, which is away from the store and the plaza I was in.
Guy #2 (suspiciously): “I thought you said your appointment was in this plaza.”
Me: “It is.”
By this point I was walking as fast as my legs could carry me toward the first destination I saw, a coffee shop, which is roughly halfway between the store and my apartment. I felt like I was being watched the entire time. I took my time inside, bought a muffin and waited a few minutes before exiting through a different door to make sure I wouldn’t be seen.
I felt mildly victorious that I had successfully dodged such an aggressive pick-up as I stood on the street corner waiting to cross the street and enter my cute little apartment. My safe, happy place.
Then I saw the car.
And I saw the expression that said, “Found you!” as the car turned the corner and honked at me before (unknowingly) parking just outside the front door to my apartment.
The sinking feeling turned into full-blown panic. I knew I couldn’t go home as a) I’d have to go right past them, and b) they’d know where I lived, so I crossed the street and began walking in the opposite direction. The closest place I could think to hide was the rental office of my apartment complex so as soon as I was out of their line of sight I began running toward the office. I ducked inside and realized that I was shaking as I watched out the window of the door. I waited a few minutes before moving to the other side of the building to see if I could see them. I went back and forth for about 10 minutes, trying to decide what to do.
I hemmed and hawed over calling the police but eventually talked myself out of it because I thought that maybe I was overreacting. After all, I do watch a lot of criminal-ish shows and besides being overly aggressive and persistent with the pick-up attempt, I hadn’t been hurt in any way and I thought they they could play it off as us just being in the same place at the same time having a “friendly conversation” or something.
See how good I am at talking myself out of things? I realize now that I should have called.
After 10 – 15 minutes of hiding / waiting I decided to make a run for it. There are two ways to get back to my apartment from the rental office–an alleyway and a path that runs through the complex. I decided that the path was probably safer as parts of it are visible from the road and the entire pathway is visible from several apartments. I ducked my head out and looked around, and after being sure I couldn’t see anyone I crept out of the office and walked toward my apartment. When I got within 100 feet of my front door I saw a car that looked like theirs, but it was empty so I ran across the street and bolted inside.
I was still shaking a bit when I made it in, so (after bolting the door) I sat on my futon for a few minutes while I processed what had just happened. I stayed away from my front windows (which face the street) but I soon realized that I needed to distract myself, so I watched 10 – 15 minutes of a TV show to take my mind of things. As more time passed I began to relax, and after 20 minutes of being at home I figured that things were fine now. I turned off the TV and made my way to the kitchen to grab something to eat. As I was walking past my front windows I saw two of the three guys coming off the path that I had taken to get back to my house.
I dropped to the floor to avoid being seen and peered over my window sill as my heart raced through my chest. I looked at the clock and realized that there was a good possibility that they had been looking for me for twenty minutes after watching me disappear in the direction of the rental office. I couldn’t see their license plate from where I was, and I was afraid to stand up to get a better view for fear of being seen. I sat on the floor for a few minutes until I was sure they were gone before creeping back to my futon where I sat until the Hubster got home from work a few minutes later.
I instantly felt at ease when he walked through the door, and as I recounted the events of my afternoon he rushed to the window to see if they were still there and reiterated over and over that I should have called the police.
I know that nothing really happened and that in reality things could have been a lot worse, but I just feel so… violated. I’m supposed to feel safe in my neighbourhood, and most especially in my home… and I just feel like in a moment’s time they took that from me. Just knowing that they parked their car and got out to look for me, twice, is so unsettling. I’m now uneasy going to my grocery store and don’t even feel comfortable walking out my front door. I feel like I am looking over my shoulder all the time in case I see them again.
I just don’t like feeling anxious… and that’s how I feel whenever I go out.
Moral of the story? The next time someone hits on me I’ll just kick them in the shins and run.
Or call the police. You know.