This might seem dumb, but I think I am far more wary than many of my female Provo counterparts. And sometimes, I think it may be unnecessary. I mean, this is PROVO, right? Nestled in the middle of Happy Valley! I have been more nervous than usual after that girl got attacked (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700039364/Brutal-rape-reported-in-Provo.html)on the trail Dahl and I like to go on walks on. I have always been cautious about where I go alone, and I have never been on that trail by myself. Dahl would not allow it, and even if he did or didn't know, I would be far too scared to do that. I have always been counseled to be cautious by my Daddy, and I always have tried to keep myself out of potentially dangerous situations, but sometimes I feel a little ridiculous. Especially because I have never had anything truly horrible happen to me. I have lead, up to this point, what my mom likes to call "a charmed life". I have always been very blessed with protection and safety. But, I still feel nervous when I find myself in a situation that could easily turn ugly.
So, before you read on, make sure you understand that this thought process might sound a little over the top, but that is kind of the point, and all of these thoughts are accurate. And I kind of wonder if other girls think this way, too. I bet they do.
This morning I got up around 9 so I could run and grab my laundry that was left in the laundry room overnight. I was by myself, and I wasn't worried until I heard a man come into the laundry room. If he were a college student, I would have just brushed it off as him getting his own laundry, but this was an older and larger man who I had never seen before. I vaguely remembered Dahl saying that the laundry room seemed like a sketchy place for a girl to be on her own, because a lot of times no one is there. I realized that I was the only other person in the laundry room, and my guard was instantly up. He didn't look mean or threatening, but I knew if he attacked me, I wouldn't stand much of a chance. I did take self defense last semester, but I'm pretty sure that would do little for me if I were actually in trouble. He started talking to me, which is a good sign, because then I would be able to remember a description if questioned BUT what if he wasn't going to leave me alive? I had a HUGE suitcase I brought to carry my laundry, and I could've easily fit inside (I had randomly had this thought as I walked into the laundry room and saw it sitting above the dryers). I tried to concentrate on what he was saying:
"How are the dryers working?"
"Good..." I said, looking at him warily, trying to keep my distance.
"Giving you any trouble?"
"No... well, last night that machine ate two of my quarters."
"Oh, well let me check my pockets, I bet I can pay you back now."
*He puts his hands in his pockets. I can hear jingling that sounds like coins, but there could totally be a knife in there, too*
"Here we are," he said, pulling out two quarters.
He asked me a few more questions about the dryer not working, and went on his way.
See? He was totally nice. There was nothing wrong with him, and he wasn't trying to threaten me at all. He undoubtedly works for my apartment complex. I wonder if he could even tell that I was nervously thinking of what to do if he attacked me. Probably not. But what if he was actually dangerous??
I remember another time, when I was probably about 18 or 19. I was walking in a dark, almost abandoned parking lot of maybe a Wal-mart? No one was around, and an awesome lightning storm was going on. I believe I was just about to go inside of the Wal-mart to wait for my mom to pick me up or something, the details are fuzzy. I was suddenly addressed by a guy who came out of nowhere. He looked like he was in clean clothes, and he was clean cut, so I don't think he was a homeless man, but he still worried me when he seemed to stumble a little bit as he almost pleadingly asked me if I had any money. I felt bad, but as a general rule I don't give out my money (I am a poor college student, and I am kind of selfish. I mean, I pay my tithing and that's the end of my charitable donations.) and I was instantly on alert in case he meant me any harm. I actually did have money, but I said, no, sorry, and left as quickly as I could. And I don't think that's such a bad thing. He could have been a law- abiding, contributing-to-society man who just lost his wallet and needed gas money to get home. BUT, he could have also been something more dangerous, and he was approaching me in an almost abandoned parking lot late at night. I don't think anyone should put themselves in a situation that seems like it could be sketchy, and especially not me.
One time, my mom told me a story about her friend from our first ward in Maryland, a lady who was about her age, who was driving on an empty country road in the middle of the night. She said this lady soon heard sirens behind her from a policeman who was trying to pull her over. She waved to him to acknowledge that she knew he was there, and continued driving until she got to a road that was more out in the open. When she did pull over, the policeman charged over to the car and angrily asked her why she had not stopped earlier. This lady was never one to mince her words, and I remember her even scaring me as a little girl, so what happened next didn't surprise me at all: She scathingly rebuked him, and told him that she was perfectly within her rights to wait till she got to a more open area before pulling over. She said, " I am a woman who is all by herself, driving on a secluded road. There is NO WAY I am pulling over for you until I get to somewhere more safe. I don't even know who you are! You could have been someone who stole a police car or a dirty cop. That situation makes me vulnerable, and I don't care if you are law enforcement, I will not put myself in a situation that is that dangerous." He sputtered an apology, and I have since learned that that is the accepted advice, to not pull over until you get to a more populated area, and if you are suspicious, to call and ask the police station if the person trying to pull you over is legit. Of course, this story has a happy ending, and the cop was not a threat, (except maybe to her insurance) but I have also heard similar stories where the man was a convicted rapist.
In all of these stories, things worked out just fine. No one was ever hurt or threatened, and I (or this sister from my ward) were relatively safe. But, the point is, it could have easily been reversed. They could have been horrible men who meant us harm, and who knows what could have happened?
So, I guess what I'm asking is, how cautious is too cautious? Should girls carry around pepper spray everywhere they go? Should they never walk alone? How much do these answers vary based on location and time of day? Should men follow this advice, too?
Just food for thought :)