Stranger Danger

July 20th, 2020

My anxiety is like a light switch, but one of those switches that doesn’t click; meaning, it’s always on, but at varying degrees of intensity.

It’s always been that way. I vividly remember a hot day walking home from the library (which is just a few short blocks down the hill from my parents’ house). I was lugging home a plastic bag full of books I had probably checked out half a dozen times before, and I reached an intersection.

A car pulled up at the same time, and one of my worst childhood fears unfolded before my eyes: a man gestured for me to get into his vehicle.

I acted as my instincts instructed: I panicked and hollered and started running as fast as my Airwalks would allow me.

I ran and I ran and I ran until I burst through the front door of my house, scattered up the stairs into my room, collapsed onto my bed and let the tears stream down my face.

As the fear subsided, and my lungs started manufacturing standard breaths, I began to recall the situation. My cheeks felt hot as I took a moment to reassess what had happened. I was mortified.

The man had not gestured for me to get into his car at all; no, I was now fairly certain he was just waving me along to walk across the street safely.

And now I started to think about the story, but as he told his wife when he got home:

“I pulled up to the intersection, and I thought I would be nice and let a child cross the street. Fucking kid burst into tears, started screaming and running and I don’t even know where he went. I don’t even know if he knew where he was going. He was just running and screaming and crying. Craziest shit I seen this week.”

The only point I have to this story is to be kind.

That man didn’t know who I was or what I was going through. And who I am colored how I saw what was happening in that moment. It wasn’t until we both had time to reflect that we realized it was a misunderstanding.

Maybe he’s reading this, and if so, I’d like to take a minute to apologize, and thank him for his kindness. And if he’s not reading, but you’ve experienced a misunderstanding, possibly due to your own internal interpretations and processes:

May you always assume that the stranger is trying to safely get you across the street.


Published by dennisvogen

I'm me, of course. Or am I?

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