Monday, July 07, 2008

Talking to Strangers: An Inordinately Long Post (Worth It; Very Entertaining)

I have a stalker.

Ok. I use that term loosely. He’s not one hundred percent bona fide stalker, but he’s around and he’s undesirable and I don’t know how to get rid of him. No, I’m not talking sarcastically about Stoker. Stoker is still one hundred percent desirable and as it stands now, he’s not around near enough.

The stalker doesn’t seem to follow me, per se. And that’s why I use the term loosely. But suddenly, I can’t go anywhere outside my office without running into him. It’s annoying.

Here’s the story. In riding my bike home from work, I was waved over to a parking lot by a guy who was in workout clothes. I thought he was going for an after work run. Or maybe they were playing a pickup game of basketball. I stopped. The dude assured me that all he wanted to know was bike stuff and then he asked me a bunch of questions about my bike. I answered his questions while still being cautious, under the impression that I was speaking with a working professional, which somehow at that time meant to me that he wasn’t creepy. Not one hundred percent creepy, anyway. When the questions got uncomfortable, I started to want to leave, like when he asked if I go for group rides or what. I thought to myself that I didn’t want him knowing whether or not I rode alone. He wanted to know where I rode, I didn’t tell him. I told him I ride with my husband, which is true.

After a few minutes, a woman appeared on the front steps of his office building. She was shouting and waving for him. “His wife,” I thought, even though that didn’t really make sense. He said he had to go and left. So I left too.

Oh, and initially, he mentioned that he was glad I had stopped. He said he had seen me riding my bike by before and he was so glad he caught me. One of the other things he said was that he wanted to get a bike and that at one point he had done triathlons. Which is cool, great for him. Apparently he had been out of the scene for a while. Fine, awesome. Go to it, man.

A few days later, I was out walking on my lunch. I went about a half mile to find a place to eat. As I was returning to my office, I stopped on a street corner while I waited for the light to change. There was a dude in the bike lane and he looked at me. I ignored him. Then he asked, “Are you the bike girl?” And what did I do?

I said yes, because I’m an idiot. Why the hell would I say yes? First of all, why the hell would I talk to a stranger? In the very first place, why would I do that? Why would I not heed my mother’s advice and the advice of the public education system and the advice of all the television commercials during Saturday morning cartoons? Why?

Because I’m an idiot. I am. There’s no way around it. My stupidness surprises even me. So I say yes to the dude’s question, “Are you the bike girl?” I say yes and nod, dumbly, because I’m a little surprised and confused and I respond too quickly, automatically. When I’m taken by surprise I tend to become a deer in the headlights, I’m very shocked that there’s a car, I can’t believe there’s a car, why would there be a car here, why is it speeding into my face? That’s what I do. I get confused. That’s what happens right before you die.*

And the dude thinks it’s divine intervention or something. He’s like, “Wow, I can’t believe it, I can’t believe I’m running into you again. My friends said that you rode by one day when I wasn’t there and there were all, ‘______, she came by again, the Bike Girl. She came by when you weren’t here.’ And now here you are.” And then he showed off the bike he got for $400 off of He was so thrilled about the bike and I pretended to be impressed because I didn’t give a shit. All I was thinking about was how the hell** to get out of this.

The light changes and the dude rides his bike across the street. I wait for the cars and begin crossing the road. The dude gets to the other side and what does he do? He WAITS for me.

There’s no where for me to go. He’s on a bike and I’m walking and my work is half a mile away. He begins riding his bike real slow next to me and he begins gabbing. He chatters on and on about the bike and how he’s getting a fresh start and how he’s been out of the scene for four years and he just got to Nashville and he’s real excited about everything, to get a fresh start. I’ve got my hand in my bag and I’m texting Stoker to “CALL ME RIGHT NOW.” And I’m not listening real close, but I catch the thing about being gone for four years. So I ask him where he’s been for four years, feeling my blood turning cold.

“Prison. I was locked up for four years. But I’m rehabilitated now and I’ve got a fresh start. I don’t want to freak you out or scare you, I’ve got two sons and everything.”

I play it cool. And what the hell? PRISON? I’m not going to tell you my life story, but what is it with me and ex-cons? I’m not kidding. Somehow I seem to attract them and it’s not like I’m hanging out in bars. They find me in the oddest places. The climbing gym, college, the street. Ok, the street is a weird one. But that’s the first weird one.

At this point, I’m really concerned about how to deter to this guy. Stoker hasn’t called me and I’m getting annoyed about that. I ask the dude why he was in prison, but he pretends not to hear. He tries to tell me his life story, his name, where he’s from, that he has some kids, etc. It turns out that that office is not an office, but is rather a HALFWAY HOUSE. It turns out that that halfway house looks out on my parking lot (he was puzzling over why he keeps running into me in such a fortuitous way). It turns out that there have been a bunch of ex-whatevers oogling me as I ride by on my bicycle.

This stirs a ton of unpleasant realizations in me, as I walk along, thinking of how to get rid of him without being offensive.

And why on earth shouldn’t I be offensive? Why on earth is there a strange man riding beside me, trying to be my friend or something when I’ve already mentioned that I have a husband? Obviously there’s something wrong with him. Something anti-social about him. I hate to be an ass, but sometimes a person needs to get a brain. By person I mean this man, who clearly doesn’t have enough mental power to get out of his own experience and recognize that I’m a girl walking by myself and whether or not he’s harmless, his actions might appear otherwise.

What kills me is that I actually feel like I should try to preserve this guy’s feelings. Why is that? Why should I care? He’s clearly crossing all sorts of lines of decorum. I’m not his friend. Usually I don’t talk to strangers, and there are a lot of seedy guys hanging around Nashville, if you’ve never been here. They love to try to rope girls into conversation. Typically I mutter something unintelligible to them and hurry on. But one time I didn’t do that and it turns out that that one time just happened to introduce me to a guy who has been in PRISON.

I wrap the conversation up with that guy after he asks me my name and where I work and what I do. I tell him something along these lines, “I’m sorry, I have nothing against you, but you’re a stranger and because I hardly know you, I’m not going to tell you my name. I don’t feel comfortable telling you anything about me. But good luck with the bike, bye.”

And he rode off. Since then I have seen him several times. Each time I wish I hadn’t seen him and I worry about my safety. Has he marked me? He’s obviously being monitored to some degree, but what the hell was he in prison for? I have no idea and I didn’t listen well enough to do a search for him and find out what he did. I don’t buy that he’s rehabilitated. I’m the person who thinks that prisons don’t turn prisoners around, they make them worse. Today he rode his bike past me and waved and said in a real aggressive-sounding way, “Hey there!”

I saw him last week and ignored him so I guess that’s why today’s hello sounded like this, “Yeah, I know you’re trying to ignore me. But I don’t care. I’m going to acknowledge the hell out of you.” Which bothers me. What kind of a-hole doesn’t get it?

Oh yeah, and the world? Full of a-holes. Sometimes, and I hate to be a big whiner and complain, but sometimes it really gets me that a large portion of my thinking powers are put to trying to protect myself from men. It bugs me that forever and ever, men will always have the upper hand. I guess someone will always have the upper hand because life really is one big competition, whether or not pacificists and all those people who say to me “it’s not a competition” want to admit it. NEWS FLASH: It is too. Everything is a competition and I’m determined as hell to win it. And if it means carrying pepper spray all the time, I’ll do it. And if it means carrying a concealable bazooka, I’ll do it. I can field strip a bazooka in two minutes and forty-nine seconds. Beat that, a-hole.

*Word to the wise, don’t get confused and you’ll stay alive.
**I swear a lot when I feel like my life is threatened. Just be glad I’m not dropping F-bombs like 99% the bloggers out there.

Some really good men read my blog. Thanks for being good men. I’d make a list of your names, but it would be too long, as my entire fan base is composed almost entirely of men.


JodieKash said...

First, you story-told it like nobodies business. Nicely done.

Two, you handled it well and in a calm, reasonable and wholly polite manner.

C., "LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE, FUCKITY!" is also perfectly acceptable. Embrace the bomb. It's a word, a wonderful word like all the others we love, with a time and a place.

Last, I'm no man, baby,

Jodi said...

You have every right to be concerned.

A good man would not be offended. He'd probably be unhappy he came across creepy. He'd have mothers, sisters, spouses, etc and he would want them to be careful around strangers as well.

Aries327 said...

Jodie -- Thanks for the compliments and reassurance.

I'm not saying I don't appreciate a well-timed well-placed use of the f-word. I don't write it because, well, you know, written words are sort of forever. My family reads the ol' blog and while I admit to using it from time to time (in the car, in traffic), I prefer to regularly use other euphemisms. :) I would totally use your suggestion if/when the situation called for it.

Ah, you're nice. My OTHER fan base is composed of men. No, but you're right, I'll have to change a word, since I must make an exception for my female fans (I thought I only had one, my mom).

Jodi -- You're totally right. And that's why I assume this guy must have some anti-social tendencies. He assures me that he has sons and that he's harmless, but what sort of guy doesn't recognize and respect the barriers between a woman he passes on the street and himself? I mean, we don't live in a village where everyone knows your name, for heaven's sake. On the one hand, I'm glad I found out I had some creepy guys watching me so I could change my bike route. On the other hand, I hate to feel like I have to adjust my life because of potentially dangerous jerks. Guess that's the way it goes.

jenny said...

super creepy. i don't blame you for being nervous about that whole situation. i think you handled it well though and i would start carrying pepper spray. there are some weirdos out there.

BagLady said...

not entertaining...effing scary.

Aries327 said...

Jenny and Baglady -- Yeah, I've been thinking, ever since Dani suggested it, about calling the halfway house to find out if there's anything I can find out about him. I mean, if he was in prison for abuse or anything, shouldn't someone tell on him that he's being creepy to a random woman (me)?

jenny said...

yes nikki. i would totally call. still think it is super creepy.

Aries327 said...

Thanks Jen. I still haven't called. I keep forgetting. I haven't seen him in a few days, though. Maybe that's good?