Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pouring My Heart Out...Stupid Girl

The stranger's eyes darted in my direction as he placed his large hand on my leg.  An angry voice inside my head screamed, "Stupid girl!  How could you be so trusting?"

Like every other teenager at the tender age of 16, I yearned for more freedom and independence.  I had discovered it in the form of my very first car, which my father bought for me at an auction weeks earlier.  Now, I could come and go as I pleased, filled with excitement and wonder...and filled with a huge amount of stupidity.

Sure, my parents had given me "the talk".  Always lock your car doors.  Never give a ride to a stranger.  Don't roll your window down for anyone unless it's a police officer.  Yadda, yadda,  yadda.

I had rolled my eyes as they lectured me with their rules...because I knew how to keep myself safe.  After all, I was 16 years old.  I knew everything I needed to know in life.

Or at least, I thought I did.

My encounter with the stranger happened one day as I drove myself to work at a local fast food place. I was running late and with every passing minute, I grew even more concerned that my boss would be waiting for me in a fit of anger.  Patience was not one of his strong points.

I couldn't jeopardize losing this job, even though it sucked big time.  Now that I had a car, I was responsible for paying for my own gas and insurance.  There was no way I could afford to be without my freedom, especially after having just a small sampling of how liberating it was.

As I waited at a red light just a couple blocks away from where I worked, my car stalled and died.  I had no clue what had happened to it, being a new driver and not that well acquainted yet with the car.  Back then, there were no cell phones so I didn't have the luxury of simply calling my dad or my boyfriend and asking them for help.

I just sat there in my car, on the verge of tears...and when the light turned green, other drivers became annoyed and began to honk angrily.

Suddenly, a man appeared at my window and motioned for me to roll my window down....and I did.

"Looks like you need some help.  You're close enough to the sidewalk here so put your car in neutral and I'll push you off the street," he offered.

Taking a brief glance at him again, I noted that he was around my father's age...he looked kind and was obviously helpful.  Nothing in my gut, at this point, shouted out to me...there were no red flags, no warning signs.  And I desperately needed to get to work.

I shoved the gearshift into neutral as he had asked and allowed him to push my car forward onto the nearby sidewalk.

In a hurry, I grabbed my purse and bid him a polite thank you, along with a brief explanation that I really needed to get to work.

The stranger must have taken note of my uniform, as he said, "Hey, I can give you a ride.  Burger King is just a couple blocks from here...I'd be happy to drive you."

I looked at my watch and saw that it was 5:55 by shift was supposed to start at 5:30.  Tears began to fill my eyes...not only was my boss going to rip me a new one but I could imagine my dad yelling at me, "Well, you've only had the car for a few weeks and you've already managed to fuck it up."

My hands began to shake and tears filled my eyes.  I felt as if I were stuck between a rock and a hard place.  I knew better than to accept a ride from a total stranger but I also needed to get my ass to work and then deal with the car and its aftermath later.

The stranger smiled at me and put his arm around my back, ushering me back towards his car.  I detected the faint scent of aftershave on him and somehow felt more at ease.

"Come on," he said.  "I have a daughter around your age and I'd hate to think of her stranded all by herself.  Let me just get you to work and then I'll be on my way."

He's cool, I thought to myself.  He has a daughter my age...surely, someone who is a father himself is worthy of my trust.

I accepted his offer, "Okay, sure.  Thanks, I really appreciate all your help."

He got into the driver's seat and made his way back onto the road.

"Uh, I usually make a right on this next street.  It's kind of a shortcut," I stated.

I breathed a sigh of relief as he took the right turn and replied, "I know where Burger King is.  I grew up here and remember cruising the avenue back in the day.  Isn't that what you kids still do?"

Suddenly, I felt nervous.  Wouldn't he know if kids still cruised the avenue if, in fact, he had a daughter my age?  Trying not to be obvious, I moved my hand over to the passenger side's car door handle and gently grasped it.

This is when I could feel his eyes on me, as his hand manuevered its way over to my leg.  My gut trembled in fear and I prayed that he wouldn't be able to tell how scared I was.

"Stupid girl," I thought to myself.  "How could you be so trusting?!"

The fact that he was touching my leg made me extremely uncomfortable.  Beads of sweat began to form on my forehead and I could feel my heart racing in my chest.

"Oh hey, my name is Fred, by the way," he stated.

Fred?  Seriously?  When was the last time I had heard of a serial killer named Fred?  It was just too...well, normal of a name, I thought to myself.   Fred the Serial Killer.   Nah, it just didn't work.

Or maybe I was just trying to convince myself that he really was a nice guy, a good samaritan wanting to help someone in trouble.   Rather than a total freak who wanted to take advantage of an innocent and way too trusting teenage girl.

I brushed his hand off my leg and rambled, "I'm really late for work.  My boss was expecting me almost 30 minutes ago.  I'm sure he's already called my house and now my parents are probably worried so they've probably called my boyfriend to see if he knows where I am.  I really just want to get to work so I can let them all know I'm okay."

He quickly removed his hand from my leg and mumbled, "No problem."

Although it felt like time was moving as slowly as molasses, it must have only taken 2 minutes to arrive at Burger King.

"You are so so so STUPID," I silently chastised myself repeatedly.

He parked his car in the back of the lot and said, "Pleasure knowing you.  I hope you can figure out what's wrong with your car," as he reached across me and put his hand over mine on the passenger door handle..again, invading my personal space without my permission.

I pushed the door open and tried to jump out quickly...but unfortunately grace and balance weren't always my best qualities, as I tripped over the strap from my purse.

"You scared, little girl?" he asked, with one eyebrow raised and smiling in a way that sent shivers down my spine.

Without looking back, I ran through the side door of the restaurant, directly into the ladies' restroom, where I proceeded to break down in tears.  When I finally composed myself, I went into my boss' office and apologized profusely for being late.

Seeing that my eyes were red and puffy, he must have assumed that detailed questions were off limits and simply asked, "Are you okay to work today?"  I nodded my head.

Although I did tell my boyfriend what had happened, I never told my parents the truth, other than my car breaking down on the side of the road.

I lied, telling them I had walked to work because I feared the wrath of whatever punishment they would dole out, knowing I had accepted a ride from a stranger.  Probably the loss of my car, the loss of my job...the loss of my freedom and independence.

I'll never know what might have happened with that many unanswered questions continued to haunt me long after that day.  What if I hadn't told him I was running late to work and that people would be worried?  What if he had driven the opposite way, clearly not taking me to work?  Who was he?  Had he intended to do harm or was he merely trying to scare me?

It took awhile for me to trust my instincts again, after having felt betrayed and mislead by my own gut.  Even now, I tend to assume the worst about people before trusting them...a quality I despise about myself but just can't be helped.

And this is why I always tell my kids that not all strangers appear evil or dangerous looking.

The friendliest, most attractive strangers can be your worst nightmare.  Or maybe they aren't.

But it's certainly not something you want to find out once you're inside that stranger's car, ultimately entrusting him or her with your precious and valued life.

I am not that same stupid girl any longer. Registered & Protected


Charlene said...

Helene, you are such an amazing know just how to draw a person in and keep them captured in your story. I'm sure it was a super scary time and I'm glad you made it to work okay.

And when you are a big time author, I want dibs to be the first reviewer of your novel hehehe. Love ya girl!!

Shell said...

Oh, this gave me the chills!

I'm so glad that you managed to get away from him.

This is such a fear of mine... someone who looks "normal" and can trick one of my kids.

Samantha said...

Such a scary story! I'm so weary of everyone these days, you can't be too trusting. Sometimes I want to stop and help the person broke down on the side of the road, but how I do know they're not going to rob me, or beat me, rape me or kidnap me? You know? So glad you are safe.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you had to deal with such a despicable human being; but this is further evidence to sign my own daughter up for martial arts and to teach her to not trust someone until they've earned it.

That's a sad state of affairs, but it's reality.

nantuckettiechic said...

Helen, so glad you escaped. Heart-stopping story. I have a similar one about my boss from my first job. Which my parents will never know either. Makes me worry about my own teens...

Heather said...

Egad, Girl! I'm so glad you were safe! That sounds so scary.

Lisa said...

How scary. Seriously. ACK!

JDaniel4's Mom said...

I am so glad you were okay! He really sounds scary!

Christine Siracusa said...

How scary! The scariest part is I could see how that could happen to anyone and am not sure I would have done any differently. And I wouldn't have told my parents either!! All of which is making me really worried about my kids!

This parenting gig is intense.

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

Wow...I can only imagine how those details stayed with you after so many years (not to imply your know what I mean! :) ).

First, of course, I'm glad things turned out the way they did. And this is a great reminder to us all...and maybe it can be to your kids one day, as well, when they're of the right age.

In the meantime, it certainly makes me want to lock my girlies in their room. It's unfortunately a scary world in some ways.

Eva Gallant said...

Wow! That was really well written. What a scary memory!

Deputy's Wife said...

I'm so glad you're ok and nothing worse happened. I've been that "stupid girl" many times after a night at the bar. Only by the grace of God am I still alive. I'm scared out of my mind for my daughter. Hopefully, she will use her brain and not do dumb things like mom. :)

SherilinR said...

this gave me goosebumps. i've done so many foolish things myself when i was younger. scary to think how damn stupid i was, getting into numerous cars with strangers. yikes. i hope my own daughter will be smarter than me.

Tayarra said...

Wow! This had my heart racing. In fact it reminded me I had a horrible dream about my son last night. This is so terrifying! I'm glad you are here and OK.

Emmy said...

Oh I feel scared and sick just reading this!! So glad you made it to work. That guy totally was a creep! Wow.

Singedwingangel said...

And that is the danger in teaching kids to look for the freak or weirdo. Predators are fathers, lawyers, doctors, cops and can be as normal looking as anyone else. I am so glad you made it out okay hun..

Missy said...

I am now feeling sick to my stomach. Because so many of us were "stupid girls" as teenagers. It's part of being a teenager. Bad choices and all. And now we have to live through it with our own girls becoming teens one day in the not too distant future.

Shudder, nausea, shudder. How HAPPY I am that you got away unscathed.

MotherRunner said...

I had the chills while reading this - so glad it didn't end worse.

I just found your blog - so glad I did! I'm a mama of twins too - and I just have this feeling I'm going to have twins again. It's just the kind of funny thing that happens to me. :)

Sela Toki said...

That was a horrifying experience Helene. Glad you made it out ok. Some out there are not so fortunate and that's the sad part. Appearances can be so deceiving when it comes to strangers. Hope all our children can learn that.

Holly said...

Yikes, girl, I'm glad this story had a good ending!

Shelly - Tropical Mum said...

Great story-telling Helene. You had me on the edge of my seat. You made me realise that I haven't really had a good stranger danger talk with my boys. I've been a bit complacent and I've been reluctant to sully their world with thoughts of the big bad things out there, but I guess it is time. Thanks for the reminder.

Evonne said...

Thank goodness he took you to work and nothing else happened. So, so scary!

I always worry that my kids won't really understand that bad people can look so nice and normal.

And yes, Burger King is a crap job. But money is money, right?

Barbara said...

I'm glad it all worked out. I had chills reading this. I also remember thinking I knew it at all 16.

DysFUNctional Mom said...

I think I'm going to have a panic attack....
ugh, my heart is pounding and I have chills. I'm so glad you escaped a potentially horrible situation.
You weren't stupid though, that's the scary part. You were just a typical young girl.

Kmama said...

You are so lucky. My heart is just about pounding out of my chest. I'm so glad it ended up okay. (HUGS)

Brooke said...

scary stuff! yes always important for people to know that you would be missed if you go missing!!

Brooke said...

scary stuff! yes always important for people to know that you would be missed if you go missing!!

KSK said...

How creepy!!! I am so glad nothing worse happened!!

HoneyDame said...

OMG, that was really close. I am glad nothing worse happened....*shudder*

Jen said...

OMG Helene! I can't believe that happened to you! I want to come down there and give you a big hug! I am so glad you shared this story. I am going to have Lauren read it. She isn't driving yet, but she will be soon. Thank you for pouring out your heart! Hopefully you will keep someone else from making the same choice, or will give them ideas if they find them self in a similar situation!

Julia Hunter said...

This story left me with chills you are so lucky to have gotten away.

I came over from your comment on my blog (wine in mom).

irishtwinsmommababybook said...

You are a great writer! I am SOOO glad you were okay-- and sorry that it still haunts you. Lesson learned and your kids will benefit from it too. The world is so scary.

Deb said...

Wow, I had chills reading this. What a scary story.

Twins Squared said...

That is really a scary story. I had a VERY similar experience, only the guy really was just helpful. He didn't do anything creepy but I did virtually the same exact thing. And I was 24. I also took a cab by myself around midnight or so in Mexico from some cab driver as I explained I had no money. I was much more horrified in that cab than with the man who drove me to a gas station. I even think that about people I've opened the door for before. Usually I'm cautious, but sometimes I've gone with my head and my gut, but that is stupid. Sometimes I think it's a miracle we can live an entire life and not have something horrible happen.

Kimberly said...

That is too facken scary. So glad that you got away.
Chills woman...

Karen Peterson said...

It's so scary to think what might have happened. I'm glad it all turned out okay.

This reminded me of a time I was in 5th grade, walking home from the bus stop with my younger brother and a friend from my class. This guy pulled up in a big car and asked directions to the local junior high. Then he acted confused and started to ask us to get in the car and show him, but my friend cut him off and said, "Oh, there's an easier way!" gave him different directions and then we pretended we were going inside the house we'd been standing in front of.

Scary stuff.

tA'enk said...

scary! The scariest part is you could see how that could happen to anyone and you are not sure you would have done any differently.

Natalie said...

You had me on the edge of my seat...I'm so glad you were ok. At least nothing happened and you learned very quickly you can't trust anyone!

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

This post scared the crap out of me. Remember to show it to your kids when they get their first car...yikes! I might even show it to MINE!

When I think of all the stupid things I did when I was younger, it's a miracle I made it to adulthood.

I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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