I adore walking outside in the gorgeous summer months. During my daily outdoor endeavors I often pass runners and cyclists, parents with children, humans with pups. I smile at each of these beings, and continue on my merry way.
Occasionally, though, I cross paths with a driver who is speeding along too quickly for our neighborhood streets, or a menacing animal, or some other danger. Usually the “threat” is short-lived, and only briefly unsettling. Annoying, certainly, but otherwise uneventful.
However, this afternoon my route intersected with someone who just didn’t fit the surroundings. The man I encountered had an air about him that my gut instinctively knew wasn’t ‘right’. While I am a trusting soul, I also know when to listen to my inner inklings and modify my behavior accordingly. And while I am a smallish woman, I also know how to stand tall and project a powerful sense of courage (and awareness). I looked the man in the face (acknowledging his presence and letting him know that *I* knew he was nearby), then casually crossed to the other side of the street.
The man followed me.
Fine. I started walking towards a more heavily traveled street, confident that the consistent stream of traffic along that route would keep me safe. But three blocks stood between where I currently was and where I felt I needed to be. While I wasn’t scared, I did feel unsettled. Uneasy.
Apparently my feelings were not unfounded; as I walked confidently-but-briskly towards the more heavily traveled road, a fellow citizen happened to drive past the man and I. The driver’s gut must have sent him some sort of indicator as well, because upon seeing the two of us, he slowed his vehicle. The driver arrived at the intersection that I was aiming for before I did; but even though his path was clear, he stopped his vehicle at the “T” in the road. Instead of turning right (as his car’s blinker indicated was his intention), he waited until I arrived at that same fork in the road. When I made my turn onto the busy street, the driver continued watching me and the man who was following me. The man on foot saw that the driver was now watching him, and decided he had better change his plans. The man on foot turned 180 degrees, and started walking away me and the driver, heading back in the direction he had originally come.
Once the driver saw that 1) the man on foot changed his course, and 2) I was now among lots of other people, he smiled gently at me, then completed his right turn and drove away.
Now, I can’t say whether anything would have happened had the driver not shown up on the scene when he did. The area I was walking in is a residential neighborhood with many houses lining the road; I imagine that on the off-chance something had actually occurred, a good scream or two would have called at least a few neighbors outside to investigate. And I wasn’t actually scared at all during the entire situation – just uneasy. Still, I’m very grateful that a Good Samaritan chose to acknowledge his sense of something feeling “off”, and decided to take a small-yet-powerful action to help a fellow citizen (instead of rationalizing the scene and turning his back on a stranger). To the unknown, unnamed commuter who took a few extra minutes at the end of a long work day to help ensure the safety of some random woman on a walk: thank you.