Do you take unnecessary chances?
January 23, 2018

Darrell’s keeping the car warm while I dash into a grocery store for popcorn. I pay for a couple of bags, then take a seat on a little bench just around the corner from the checkouts. My back is to the few people coming and going.

I’m transferring the popcorn from its packaging to the plastic bag I got at the checkout. It’s much easier to eat that way. We don’t get our sleeves greasy from the (healthy!) oil, and when we’re driving we can easily grab another handful without taking our eyes off the road.

Someone comes out of the men’s bathroom and I look that way just long enough to see he’s dressed entirely in black. Appropriately. Because it starts. “Popcorn!” he says in a booming voice. “I hope you have some for me.” I smile the half-smile I give any other complete stranger who wants to engage when I don’t. That’s enough to send ninety-nine percent of people on their way. Not this guy. I’m not surprised. There’s something menacing in his voice.

“I said,” the man bellers, “‘I hope you have some for me!’” This isn’t an invitation to chat, I realize. It’s an order, which makes me even less inclined to oblige. I pretend I’m finished, and gather up my things. The guy keeps yelling at me, keeps insisting we talk. I pretend not to notice as I duck into the women’s room.

I take a deep breath, transfer the rest of the popcorn, check to make sure I left the place at least as clean as I found it -- yep -- and head to the car. I’m looking over my shoulder the entire time, though. This doesn’t feel like early evening in a grocery store parking lot. It feels like a dark alley in a bad neighborhood in Chicago.

“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way,” Darrell says after I give him the report. “But I don’t think you should’ve gone into the bathroom.” Pause. “Think of what you’re always telling Katie if she feels uncomfortable. Head to where the people are. The guy could’ve followed you into the bathroom, quietly done something really bad, and left you there. He would’ve been long gone before anyone knew to come looking for you.”

Wow. Good point. I was at once embarrassed that hadn’t occurred to me and relieved I’m still around to share the story.

Stay safe out there.