I went for a walk in a neighborhood near my house a few weekends ago. It was sunny and warm, surprising for a December in Colorado. This is the neighborhood that I used to walk around as a punk ass teen because it's where my junior high is located. I had a bunch of friends who lived in this particular area. It's not a bad neighborhood because the majority of the people living here are retirees and young families. There are some "rough" people but nothing illegal.
When I go for my neighborhood walk, I don't carry much with me. I just have my phone and my AirPods. I like to listen to podcasts when I walk in the neighborhood because I don't have to be in a high alert status. I feel safe in my neighborhood and I can focus on what is happening in the podcast. However, when I run on trails or hike by myself, I put one AirPod in so that I can hear other things around me like cyclists and wildlife.
I was walking for awhile when I passed the elementary school my sister attended. A car that was coming toward me started to slow down. The driver had his window down and stared at me. He was staring hard. I looked right back at him and just kept walking. The next thing I knew, he pulled up beside me. I didn't see the U-turn that he made as I walked away. He slowed down and stopped right next to me. He leaned over and said "Oh, I thought you were Theresa's friend."
This guy scared me. My response was to yell. I yelled "What?!?" at him and I swear my voice dropped to a low bass. It sounded deep and round. It scared me even more because I didn't know I could sound like that. (It reminded me of my mom when she would yell at my sister and I.) I told him that he didn't need to be staring at people while they were walking and then pulling his car beside them. I didn't swear at him but he really scared me and I felt so vulnerable. I think I told him to leave me alone and then he drove away. He made another U-turn. His windows were still open and he yelled, "You don't need to talk to people like that." I yelled back, "Drive on!"
I was so angry that this man interrupted my walk. I was in such a foul mood for a long time after the incident. I walked angry for quite a ways and I was so deep in my thoughts that I had to restart the podcast I had on. I don't even think I paid attention to it after all this. As I walked, I started to feel a little bad for yelling at him. Maybe I didn't need to talk to him that way because maybe it was just an honest mistake. That thought really pissed me off. I was angry that I was feeling bad. Why the hell should I feel bad when this strange man stared at me and pulled up right next to me? I stopped feeling like this because he should not have stared the way he did and he sure as hell should not have pulled his car next to me.
There are a few of things I learned from this incident:
One, that I will now have to carry some sort of protection every time I go for a walk, no matter where I go. I will always have to be on high alert when I am somewhere by myself. I actually purchased a Go Guarded hand-held pepper spray. (I put the link at the end of this article. I guess I should say that I do not receive any compensation from them. I just really like that the company was created by a woman and I like what they stand for.) It has a small dagger-like point at the end so not only can I spray the person, I can jab them as well. A running friend of mine always carried pepper spray with her on her runs and she recommended that I do the same. For all the years I have gone running or hiking by myself, I have never felt concern for my safety and well-being. I never needed to carry protection, that is, until now.
Two, that I am conditioned to second-guess my feelings and question my reactions to anything that happens to me. I need to stop doing that because I am justified for how I responded to all of this. I should not feel bad that I made some man feel uncomfortable. I should not feel bad for chastising a man for what he did to me. He made me uncomfortable and I reacted in accordance to how I felt. I am sure he does not question his actions or even thinks about this incident. If he does talk about this, I imagine that he says that I was just a stupid bitch who yelled at him for no reason.
Three, I sound like my mom when I yell at people. I got this deep and loud voice that I swear came from my belly when I started yelling at this man. I think maybe fear had something to do with it. It's like when people say to make yourself appear bigger when dangerous wildlife approaches you. Maybe the deepening of my voice was done with that thought in mind. Like having a deeper voice would mean I have "bigger balls," figuratively speaking. Not to downplay this incident, but I think yelling and sounding like mom is the hardest pill to swallow.