y daughter got a cute, purple keychain pepper spray for her 17th birthday Since her high school is in a rough neighborhood, it is a popular item for girls to carry, especially after late sports practices.
I’m all for self-defense sprays, but the story I want to tell her is “trust your instincts.”
Of course, she doesn’t want to listen to my old-fogey stories. Just as I didn’t want to listen to my mother’s “when I was your age” stories. I remember my mother telling me the most memorable day of her childhood was the day they replaced their ice box with a refrigerator. And the invention that made the biggest difference in her life was toothpaste - her parent’s generation all had rotten teeth and bad breath. As a teenager,
I found her stories unrelatable, now I find them fascinating. I hope by telling my story, maybe someday my daughter will read it and find it useful (fascinating is an unrealistic goal).
When I was 18 years old, I was walking back to my freshman dorm from the Spring Hill College Library and a large man jumped out from behind a tree, held a knife to my throat and said, “don’t move.”
He had panty hose pulled over his face which made it more terrifying and signaled to me that his intentions were premeditated. My fight-or-flight instincts took over and I screamed an unimaginable scream, so loud that friends in every dorm told me they heard it. My scream startled hi m for a split second and I took off running.
I ran the 100-meter hurdles for four years in high school, desperately training to make it to the state track meet. I never made it to state - third place in the district meet was the only ribbon I ever won. Maybe it was never my destiny to be a state champion. Maybe it was just practice to prepare for my fate -to outrun a man who held me at knifepoint.
Fast forward 40 years: I booked an Airbnb in a posh Jacksonville neighborhood to attend my sister’s retirement party. I don’t travel alone often, but my husband couldn’t go, and I really wanted to be there to surprise my sister.
As soon as I pulled up to my Airbnb, something didn’t feel right. It felt like I was in Creepsville, not Avondale. A property owner had taken a ranch house, chopped it up into four Airbnb rentals with rickety lock boxes, window A/C units dripping condensation onto the dirt and no driveways - cars were parked all up and down the street.
“Oh well,” I thought, “I’m only here for two nights, how bad can it be?”
I should have trusted my instincts.
The next day I walked outside to get something out of my car and when I returned, the front door was open slightly. “Hmmm, didn’t I close the door,” I thought as I walked in. SURPRISE, a large bearded man wearing a baseball cap was in my Airbnb with his hands in my purse!
I screamed at the top of my lungs. It was a blood curdling scream. The man looked shocked. I screamed again, “Get out!”
To be honest, my screams sounded like a crazed demon. I was terrified and didn’t know if he had a weapon. He pushed me aside and ran out the door.
The moral of this story is when something doesn’t feel right, respect that feeling. Don’t try to talk yourself out of feeling it
- our instincts help us survive. Don’t think you are invincible
- you’re vincible. Yes, carry pepper spray on your keychain that is somewhere in your backpack because your car has a push button ignition. But know that predators are looking for someone who is alone, vulnerable and not paying attention. An assault will most likely happen when you least expect it.
If your pepper spray is not handy, trust your instincts, scream as loud as you can and run.